Dr. Evers: Common Core Blocks Exit and Voice   10 comments

Dr. Evers’ article is published here with permission from the author.  It was also published at Education Week this  month.



by Dr. Williamson M. Evers

“They forgot that the desire for a voice, the desire for political action, can become particularly intense when people are faced with the prospect of nowhere to exit to. They  forgot that hemming in parents and teachers would create a demand for alternatives and escape routes. Alternatives to the national common-core-aligned tests have arisen.”

One of the most influential books in social science in the last 50 years is economist Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.

In this pivotal 1970 book, Hirschman discusses how individuals react when services they rely on deteriorate. The basic responses available to us are “exit” and “voice,” Hirschman points out, where exit means turning to a different provider or leaving the area, and voice means political participation.

We tend to think of these responses as stark alternatives. Hirschman, as a social scientist, wanted us to consider the interplay between them.

Exit usually has lower costs than voice for the individual. With exit, you can avoid the long slog of politics and simply turn to someone else or move somewhere else.

But there is a limiting case: Exit can have high costs when individuals are loyal to institutions—thus the third component in Hirschman’s trio of exit, voice, and loyalty.

In the 1830s, when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States, he found Americans intensely loyal to their local schools. Americans saw schools as extensions of their families and neighborhoods. They viewed public schools as akin to voluntarily supported charities and as part of what social scientists today call civil society.

Tocqueville described township school committees that were deeply rooted in their local communities. State control of local public education took the form of an annual report sent by the township committee to the state capital. There was no national control.

Today, Americans retain much of the sentiment about local schools they had in Tocqueville’s day. But, increasingly, parents and taxpayers view the public schools as an unresponsive bureaucracy carrying out edicts from distant capitals. Today, we are dealing with a deteriorating situation in a declining institution, namely widespread ineffective instruction in the public schools.

The Common Core State Standards have come to the fore precisely at a time when civically active individuals care much more than they usually do about exit, voice, and loyalty. But the common core has denied voice and tried to block exit.

The common core’s designers have taken the existing bureaucracy and increased its centralization and uniformity. By creating the common-core content standards behind closed doors, the authors increased the alienation of the public from schools as institutions worthy of loyalty. The general public had no voice in creating or adopting the common core.

The other approach in times of a deteriorating public service is offering better exit options. But the common core’s proponents have created an almost inescapable national cartel.

There has long been a monopoly problem in public education, which was why economist Milton Friedman called for opportunity scholarships (also known as vouchers) to create a powerful exit option. But even in the absence of opportunity scholarships and charter schools, we had some exit options in the past because of competitive federalism, meaning horizontal competition among jurisdictions.

Economist Caroline Hoxby studied metropolitan areas with many school districts (like Boston) and metropolitan areas contained within one large district (like Miami or Los Angeles). She found that student performance is better in areas with competing multiple districts, where parents at the same income level can move to another locality, in search of a better education.

We have also seen competitive federalism work in education at the interstate level. Back in the 1950s, education in Mississippi and North Carolina performed at the same low level. North Carolina tried a number of educational experiments and moved ahead of Mississippi. Likewise, Massachusetts moved up over the years from mediocre to stellar.

The common core’s promoters are endeavoring to suppress competitive federalism. The common core’s rules and its curriculum guidance are the governing rules of a cartel. The common core’s promoters and their federal facilitators wanted a cartel that would override competitive federalism and shut down the curriculum alternatives that federalism would allow.

The new common-core-aligned tests, whose development was supported with federal funds, function to police the cartel. All long-lasting cartels must have a mechanism for policing and punishing those seen as shirkers and chiselers, or, in other words, those who want to escape the cartel’s strictures or who want increased flexibility so they can succeed.

The new leadership of the College Board by David Coleman, one of the common core’s chief architects, is being used to corral Catholic schools, other private schools, and home-schooling parents into the cartel. The proponents of the common core have now established a clearinghouse for authorized teaching materials to try to close off any remaining possible avenue of escaping the cartel.

What was the rationale for the common core? The name given to the Obama administration’s signature school reform effort, the Race to the Top program, promotes the idea that the federal government needs to step in and lead a race. Central to this rhetoric is the idea that state performance standards were already on a downward slide and that, without nationalization, standards would inexorably continue on a “race to the bottom.”

I would disagree. While providers of public education certainly face the temptation to do what might look like taking the easy way out by letting academic standards decline, there is also countervailing pressure in the direction of higher standards.

If state policymakers and education officials let content standards slip, low standards will damage a state’s reputation for having a trained workforce. Such a drop in standards will even damage the policymakers’ own reputations.

In 2007, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looked empirically at state performance standards over time in a study called “The Proficiency Illusion.” The study showed that, while states had a variety of performance standards (as would be expected in a federal system), the supposed “race to the bottom” was not happening. The proponents of the common core are wrong in their claims that state performance standards were inevitably on a downward slide.

The common core, in fact, provided relief from competitive pressure from other states. Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia at the time that the common core was created (the initiative was launched in 2009, and the standards were released in 2010), did not like it when the low-performing students of his state were compared with students in other states with standards different from Georgia’s. He became the lead governor in bringing the National Governors Association into the national standards effort. Nationalizing standards and tests eliminated them as differentiated school reform instruments that could be used by states in competition over educational attainment among the states.

The common core undermines citizens’ exit option and competitive federalism. It was designed to do so. It likewise evades and negates the voice option. But the makers of this malign utopia have forgotten a few things.

They forgot that the desire for a voice, the desire for political action, can become particularly intense when people are faced with the prospect of nowhere to exit to. They forgot that hemming in parents and teachers would create a demand for alternatives and escape routes. Alternatives to the national common-core-aligned tests have arisen. States are dropping these national tests. States are also struggling to escape the common-core cartel itself. Parents are opting out of common-core testing.

By trying to block exit and voice, the designers and proponents of the Common Core State Standards have caused blowback: A large parent-, teacher-, and community-based movement has arisen to oppose the common core and its national tests.


10 responses to “Dr. Evers: Common Core Blocks Exit and Voice

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  1. We The People Of New York unites Teachers & Tea party to End Common Core.
    We The People Of New York, The Conservative Society For Action and New Yorkers United for Kids have joined with dozens of civic organization leaders from across the state, representing over one hundred thousand New Yorkers. Stand ready to join with any and all opposed to Common Core.

    STOP Common Core
    Statewide Kickoff
    Thursday, January 29 – 7-10PM
    Melville Marriott
    1350 Old Walt Whitman Road Melville, NY11747

    OVER 500 expected to attend

    Introducing NEW Legislation to halt Common Core: crafted by Assemblymen Ed Ra
    NEW Common Core 1s unconstitutional: Update by We The People of NY, Inc.
    NEW Statewide Campaign to convince every Legislator to pass the new legislation
    NEW Plan to Organize the Freedom-In-Education Movement into ONE VOICE

    Hosts We The People of New York, Inc.
    Speakers: Assemblymen Ed Ra & Dean Murray
    Student advocate Cathy Sapeta, New Yorkers United for Kids
    Teacher Union Presidents Tony Felicio & Beth Dimino trustees
    , Conservative Society For Action, Judy Pepenlla
    We The People Of New York, Bob Schulz

    To reach the event coordinator call Fred Gorman800-833-2250 email FredGorman@Verizon.ne
    To reach We the People of NY call Judith Whitmore 518-656-3578 email honoramerica@gmail.com To reach New To reach Yorkers United for Kids call Cathy Sapeta 914-364-6242 email mscath@optonline.net
    To reach Teacher Union Presidents call Tony Felicio 631-676-3061 ctatfelicio@optonline.net
    To reach Conservative Society For Action call Judy Pepenela 631-987-4581 judypepny@gmail.com

  2. Christel do you support this hegelian article’s views? You want charters? Vouchers? Property tax to regional oblivion? No elected school board no voice! After all your painstaking work you think this lamar alexander bill pushing article cleverly wrapped in de toqueville free choice is not more propaganda. Hoover institute. The whole Gov perdue story is beyond the pale. Seriously. Ed week is owned by Gates. Did you even read the article? Your readers did not just fall off the turnip truck Christel and it is hugely disappointing.

  3. I have to agree with the comment above. As good as choice sounds, it will be the first step in losing representative goverment. The charter schools are still goverment schools with all the evils of Common Core. If private schools take vouchers they will have to conform. Where will your choice be then? When is America going to wake up. I may be a minority, but I do not believe in communitarianism or communism. I still beleve in individual rights. I hope your sight is not just another propaganda site. So disappointing.

  4. Maine’s Common Core was initiated in 1989. I have the original document. However, the title was a few years later changed to “Maine’s Learning Results” in order to deflect opposition and divert Mainers from opposing the original Communist Core Marxist standards.

    There are some encouraging comments in response to Dr. Evers’ comments. Evers does a lot of talking around the key issue: what the government funds the government controls. That is the school choice agenda being foisted on innocent Americans which will be far worse than the present situation. At least with the present public school system we can vote members off the board and we can vote to approve or disapprove school budgets. Just wait until the corporate fascists have their “chartered” system with your property taxes sent to the state level and redistributed by the state charter board to individual workforce training sites.

    This is called for in the Reauthorization of the ESEA. I hope your readers will contact their Congressmen and Senators with request Anita Hoge, the expert on all these issues, be called to testify against the reauthorization of the ESEA which is due to come before their respective education committees in March. For more information please go to my blog:

    If the Reauthorization passes, it’s curtains for the America we all know and love.

    We will have full blown womb-to-tomb education run by unelected councils. I leave it up to the reader to put a label on this system.

  5. Dr. Evan’s article is confusing me. So the Core is not good, and we’re told charters or vouchers are the answer. 60 Minutes (left) story with Leslie Stahl, and Greta Van Sustern (right) sing their praises. Yet, aren’t charters publicly funded too, just without the District and the organized teachers? They sound very good especially in downtown areas, but you do not want to lose local authority or access for parents.

    Too many small grade schools have been closed in the cities and in the burbs – despite the pleas of parents and students who loved them. Officials are always quoted in the news saying the older small schools can’t afford the upgrades required by law to comply with ADA. So the little ones get bused to big new freshly built way-out-of-the-neighborhood schools with the older kids (well there was a ton of money to build the bigger school!). This is happening all over and it all seems so sad. The left is blaming this on rightwing for profit companies, and yet the common core seems to be the brainchild of educators on the left? I remain confused. Is that the objective? Parents are the answer and anybody who pays taxes to their local schools. Talk to people in line at the market or store about this.

  6. Anita Hoge speaks thoroughly and with expertise on the issue in this interview I have linked to below. Choice or Vouchers are not making our schools or Nation stronger. Any person advocating Choice at this stage of the game who is well versed in CCSS and the machinations of data collection MUST know that Choice is tied to Title 1 and that this means that govt money which follows the child will also entail govt “standards” following the child WHEREVER they attend school. Choice if it is allowed in the new ESEA is the death knell for our constitutional republic. I expected more from this blog. http://caravantomidnight.com/show-archives/C2M-214-A-Hoge-1-21-15.mp3

  7. Here is a longer, scholarly version of this article by Bill Evers http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/06/no-exit-no-voice-the-design-of-common-core

  8. And just think Evers is being considered for Secretary of Education by Donald Trump. This has always been my argument. If you TRULY know the agenda with education there is no way you can be against Common Core but in support of Charters/Choice/Vouchers/ESAs. Prior to 1992 we never had standards in the US. We had education goals. When you set a standard for a child that says a child at 5 years of age MUST be able to do ?????? you are setting that child up for failure. What we need to do is return to pre-1965 education. It created the greatest minds in the world and because it truly created smart, free thinkers it had to be destroyed. Because they want slaves not free thinkers. While you still can I recommend getting your kids OUT of the federally controlled public school system and educate your kids at home. If we could get 25% of parents to home school the public system would collapse and maybe we would have a chance to put it right again but one thing Evers said is very true…..there is no escape from the current system!!!

    • Karen, Why can’t we escape the current system and return to pre-1965 education? If we have the right person for Secretary of Education that believes in returning to pre-1965 education, NOT Bill Evers. Who do you think would make a good Secretary of Education? We need to let President Trump Elect know how strongly we feel about this.

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