On Jan. 18, 2014, Frank Sutliff, principal of West Canada Valley Junior/ Senior High School in Newport, NY- a small town about 25 miles north east of Utica- delivered a powerful speech to a crowd of concerned citizens and educators at an education forum. His main issue and concern was APPR, the Common Core, and what he calls the corporate takeover of American public education. That issue is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on something that is of questionable benefit to children in any way, shape, or form. This hysteria over college and career readiness is a manufactured crisis based on data that compares apples to oranges, a crisis designed to enrich the coffers of publishing companies. The illusion that children in the United States are ill prepared and that they will never be competitive in a world market has manifested itself in many ways. His speech centered on three main issues- the corporate takeover of education, high stakes testing, and the questionable data gathering in New York State known as P-20. P-20 refers to the time period between pre-K and entry into the workforce. This data is linked with SUNY, CUNY and the National Student Clearinghouse and shares students' records as to the public school classes, teachers, grades and college transcripts. This is the data system New York State has bought into where students' confidential information is stored by private companies in the cloud. In fact, this data system is so concerning that some districts are returning Race to the Top funds in an attempt to not have their children's private data stored in this way. As education reformers push the power of data analysis, state officials say the new system will let researchers find the keys to student achievement and failure. What does a pre-K background say about the likelihood of success in high school Advanced Placement classes? How did college students who fail science do in middle school? What are the links between applying for unemployment benefits as an adult and one's educational history? Why should education officials build a student profiling system anyway?
What Frank Sutliff stated was the following: "what NYS Education Commissioner King does not understand and has not dealt with in his limited experience as a school administrator is the vehemence of parents when it comes to defending their children. Any administrator with experience understands this and this is when the top down and forced compliance of the APPR/common core debacle thankfully went off the track. When parents got involved because their children were treated as lab experiments and started to voice their opinions as well as contact their legislators, the revolt against this nonsense found its voice. Teaching is the core but making a difference in the life of a child should be more of the core. Learning and motivating children to develop their full potential is the core art of teaching. "
As the wasteful APPR system came into being with hundreds of millions foolishly allocated through Race to the Top, there was little public outcry against it. Any objections were mainly from educators and the public could have cared less due to the disdain spewed against teachers and administrators by our governor and others. When the Common Core came in with it, there was little outcry against it, as no one understood the implications- a few "shifts" here and there and a few billions for testing and publishing companies. Again, no one outside of education really cared as criticisms were viewed as just those of whiny teachers and self serving administrators.
During this time, various educational groups formed to fight back against these initiatives, particularly on Long Island and in Western New York. However, these were isolated pockets and the public took little or no interest, nor did the legislators. However, when students returned to school and began to have hours and hours of homework with the expectation that parents would help with things they did not know and when young elementary students started saying that they hated school, things began to change quickly. The final straw was when the test results were sent home; parents who had previously been told that their children were above average and doing well found out that their children were instead, barely achieving and in need of AIS. This is when the heat got turned up, resulting in common core forums where parents got involved and heatedly voiced their opinions.
Common Core, Race to The Top and P-20 must be stopped before it is too late and public education is destroyed by the finances of the wealthy and the minds of those who have no idea on how to run a school system and what is best for the students in the US.
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