Archive for the ‘Stop Common Core’ Tag
How will President Obama’s multiple initiatives increase federal control over American technology and data mining –and how will these initiatives affect children?
There are several new initiatives to consider.
I. NET NEUTRALITY
Yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Obama-approved definition of “Internet Neutrality.” Proponents made it sound as if “neutrality” meant openness and freedom for individuals, but the ruling increases federal power over the internet.
The notion that fairness and neutrality should be government-defined and government-enforced makes me roll my eyes. The term “net neutrality” sounds just like Harrison Bergeron, with the FCC playing the part of the Handicapper General to enforce equality by handicapping achievers and punishing success.
So now that the federal government has increased power to define and enforce its one definition of neutrality, how will this advance the goals of Obama’s ConnectED initiative? Will “neutrality” aim, like ConnectEd aims, to strap tax dollars and children’s destinies in education to Bill Gates’ philosophies and coffers? I ask this in light of Microsoft’s alignment with the FCC’s ruling, Microsoft’s celebrated discounting of common core-aligned ed tech products and Microsoft’s promotion of ConnectED. Add to that question this fact: Microsoft’s owner, Gates, funded the Role of Federal Policy report, which found (surprise, surprise) that the power of federal groups, to “research” children/education without restraint, should be increased using ESRA reauthorization. More on that below.
How does all of this work with the SETRA bill’s student data collection goals?
First, a quick ConnectEd review: Obama is bringing the now-neutralized internet to all schools while behaving very non-neutrally himself: he’s officially favoring and partnering with Microsoft/Bill Gates/Common Core so the uniform customer base (children) will only receive the One Correctly Aligned Education Product (and likely will thank Gates for what they see as kindness, deep discounts). Microsoft’s website explains: “Partnering with the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, we’re helping provide technology for education, at a fraction of the cost.” Pearson, Inc. is doing the same thing here and here and here to lay those near-irreversible foundations for the future.
What Microsoft, Pearson and ConnectEd are doing could be compared to offering free or discounted train tracks to your city. They’re fancy tracks, but customized to fit one sort of train only. By accepting the offer, you are automatically limited to using only the kinds of trains made to run on your new tracks.
States and schools ought to be saying “no, thanks” to Gates and Pearson if we want to have the freedom to later use education and ed technology that might be Common Core-free.
(As an important aside: one of the stated aims of Obama’s ConnectEd is to catch up to South Korea where “all schools are connected to the internet… all teachers are trained in digital learning, and printed textbooks will be phased out by 2016.” I’ll never join the chorus of “Let die traditional, print books”. But ConnectED has. )
The Internet has been, until now, unregulated by the federal government. It’s been free. The controllistas think of free as “unfair,” however.
“The main excuse for implementing the new invasions is the statists’ favorite complaint: Internet service providers ‘discriminate’ …[F]acilitators seeking to benefit from less competition, such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix, ought to be beige in color, have identical horsepower, the same number of doors, and get the same gas mileage no matter how far or fast they may be driven” (from Bob Adelman, New American Magazine).
In the FCC’s ruling, Bob Adelmann pointed out, there’s been dramatic change without transparent vetting. Adelmann wrote, three days ago: “On Thursday consumers will finally be able to see and read the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) planned new rules to regulate the Internet. Deliberately hidden from public view, the 332-page document … [was] demanded by President Obama… he told FCC … to adopt the “strongest possible rules” in regulating the Internet.”
Why was Obama bent on getting the “strongest possible rules” to control the Internet– and why did he confuse people by calling this move one toward openness and freedom? I don’t know why.
The “why” is not so important.
What matters most now is that Americans recognize that he is, in fact, aiming for ever increasing control at the expense of our freedoms, and that he’s partnered with private corporations who share his aims. History teaches that many people seek to control other people; whether for kindly intentioned or malicious intentioned reasons, they always have and always will. That’s why our Constitution is so sacred. It protects individuals from others’ controlling tendencies by decentralizing power.
Government-imposed equality, or “neutrality,” is a theme Obama has promoted in many ways prior to yesterday’s “Net Neutrality” punch.
- Think of common “College and Career Ready Standards” –a.k.a Common Core, which his administration promoted to U.S. governors –and reported about to the U.N.– in 2009-10: “President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments,” said Secretary Duncan.
- Think of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) for all students and for every state database, data standards which his administration partnered in creating.
- Think of his administration’s funding and promotion of common SLDS state databases that now track and grade the nation’s schools, teachers and students using interoperable systems and common, national data models.
- Think of federally-promoted, aligned testing for all states and students. Same, same, same.
Match that to the speeches of Bill Gates about building the uniform customer base of students using Common Core.
In each of the Obama-promoted, standardizing measures, no one may soar. No one is allowed to meander into creative or superior or innovative paths because of that devoted mindset: no failure– not allowing anyone freedom, if that includes the freedom for some to fail. This commonizing of the masses under the banner of “fair and equal” once upon a time used to be called communism, but that’s not a politically correct term anymore. You can’t even call it socialism. Instead, the p.c. terms are “social justice” or “playing fair.” I call it theft. Legalized plunder.
And it’s never actually fair: There is nothing fair about elites centralizing power to take freedom from individuals. Also, for those who decide that they are above the law there are exceptions; the ruling elite still get to choose.
When I say, “elites centralize power to take freedom from individuals,” I don’t mean metaphorically or theoretically. It’s real. It’s no theory. The micromanagement of schools, children, teachers to minimize parental “interference” and parental “opportunity” is a large and extremely well oiled machine.
On its federal hand, there’s the Obama Administration’s “National Education Technology Plan“. On its private, corporate hand, there’s the Bill-Gates-led “Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research,” explained out a report written by Aspen Institute and funded by the Gates Foundation. It says, “there is a broad consensus that federal investment in education research, development, and dissemination is vital” and “the pending reauthorization of ESRA creates new opportunities to better harness the tremendous research capacity we have in America to turn broad consensus into broad benefit,” and even: “the Obama Administration has proposed to create a new unit of ED, called ARPA-ED, that would be analogous to the high-profile Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense. ”
III. SETRA – The Reauthorization of ESRA
We need to study the “pending reauthorization of ESRA” that hopes to “harness” students’ data. The SETRA bill now on-deck, bill S227, is the data collection bill that American Principles Project warned America about in a press release. SETRA is a direct answer to what the both the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research and the National Education Technology Plan had requested: more power to the federal government over student data.
The history of educational data collection by federal/private forces is very boring. I only bring this up because we need to see them for what they are: public-private-partnerships, with unclear dividing lines between federal and private controls. That means that we can’t easily un-elect them or influence the power that they wield. It’s data collection without representation. That’s not only unconstitutional; it’s also very creepy.
The boring but important history of these public-private-partnerships is detailed in the Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research report, as well as on websites from the REL/WestED groups. WestED, a now-nonprofit, explains: “The roots of WestEd go back to 1966, when Congress funded regional laboratories across the country to find practical ways to improve the education of our nation’s children. Charged with “bridging the gap between research and practice,” a number of the original Regional Educational Laboratories grew beyond their initial charge and developed into successful organizations. Two in particular—the Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory (SWRL) and the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (FWL)—evolved beyond their laboratory roots, eventually merging in 1995 to form WestEd.”
Why it matters? Ask yourself this: How does a parent protect his/her child from data leaks, privacy breaches and unwanted government intrusion or “guidance” when the data collection machines are not run by elected representatives, and they are paid to run well by the unstoppable force of taxes?
How does a parent protect his/her child when federal FERPA (Family Ed Rights and Privacy Act) has been altered so that it’s no longer protective of parental rights and student privacy?
How does a parent protect his/her child when the new SETRA bill allows power to go to regional commissioners, rather than residing in local schools, districts, or even states? Regions take precedence over states under SETRA.
But the public does not know this because proponents of SETRA reveal what they want to reveal in their “pro-SETRA” talking points.
I hate talking points! Give me truth in the form of direct quotes and page numbers from a bill next time, Congressman Boener.
Proponents fail to reveal the details of the bill that alarm opponents of SETRA. I’ll share a few.
For example, page 28, section 132 reveals that data to be collected on students may: “include research on social and emotional learning“. Social and emotional learning means psychological testing! This is promoting the same creepy biometric data mining methods that the Dept. of Education was pushing two years ago in its “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report of 2013 (see report pdf page 44).
This SETRA bill’s language empowers the government to create a profile on your child, psychologically (emotional learning) and politically (social learning).
I do not support allowing the government to keep psychological/political dossiers on children.
Reliance on a wet-noodle FERPA for privacy protection
But I have no power, they tell me, despite being a mom, a voter, and a taxpayer. Recall that there is no requirement under federal FERPA any longer to get parental consent over the gathering or sharing of student data.
Likewise, in Utah, there’s no protection for student data. The state longitudinal database system (SLDS) gathers data about each child from the moment he/she registers for kindergarten or preschool without parental consent.
The state has said that no Utah parent may opt an child out of SLDS and legislation to create protections for children’s privacy in Utah has not been successful.
Utah’s legislature and school board continues to allow the SLDS to run wild, unaccountable to parents or to anyone. Students’ data in Utah is unprotected by law. If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah. Then send it to me.
In fact, the Utah Data Alliance promotes the sharing of data between agencies such as schools, higher ed, workforce services, and other agencies. If the board or an administrator tells you differently, ask them to show you the law that provides protection in Utah. Then please send it to me.
Parental Rights Dismissed
Soon, if federal SETRA passes, student data will be even more unprotected. Zero parental rights over student academic data (thanks to shredded federal FERPA protections and wrongheaded Utah policies) will be joined by zero parental rights over student psychological data (thanks to power-hungry SETRA).
In section 208 (see page 107) the SETRA bill reauthorizes the federal government “to align statewide, longitudinal data systems [SLDS] from early education through postsecondary education (including pre-service preparation programs), and the workforce, consistent with privacy protections under section 183;’’
SLDS is the very set of databases that deny parents their rights to be the main authorities over their own children’s data. Do we want to reauthorize the federal government to use our tax dollars for that purpose, moms and dads?
“Privacy protections under section 183,” as we discussed above, equals no privacy at all. Why? There used to be confidentiality standards, such as those seen in the 2002 data privacy code. But all of that changed. Now, confidentiality and parental consent have been reduced to “best practice” status, and parental consent prior to sharing data is not required by federal FERPA.
REGIONAL EDUCATION LABS MAY SUPERCEDE STATE AGENCIES IN POWER
Under SETRA section 174, “REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL LABORATORIES FOR RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, DISSEMINATION, AND EVALUATION” the power of the regional educational laboratories is expanded. This whole section is worth reading, but it’s hard to read because of the many interruptions where the bill alters definitions and phrases from the original ESRA bill. Try it.
I have to say that in this section, the repeated use of the term “laboratories,” in the context of “regional educational laboratories” gives me the creeps. Am I the only one? Our children as guinea pigs in laboratories of educational and now psychological experimentation –organized by region and not by state? No, thank you.
When Regions Rule, States Lose Constitutional Strength
Another important thought: how can states’ rights over education ever be defended and protected when education is being restructured to function in regional, not by states, divisions? Is this why the regional laboratories of educational research are growing to become more powerful than state boards?)
On page 57 of the pdf the R.E.L. Commissioner is given a lot of power. “Each eligible applicant desiring a contract grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under this section shall submit an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner may reasonably require.” The Commissioner can deny funds, or give funds, to people who “shall seek input from State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the region that the award will serve”. Hmm. I see. People may seek input from state agencies, but the regional laboratory commissioner is The Man.
The Regions aim for that power.
I’m not finished with my SETRA analysis. I’m just sick of it right now.
I’ll be back.
Last Friday, my children and I were on an educational field trip to see Governor Herbert address the state school board in Salt Lake City. We were learning how to use civic rights to free speech and expression. I had hoped to influence the establishment to not renew the federal waiver (NCLB/ESEA) and hoped to influence them to consider withdrawing from Common Core and all its data-and-teacher-control-tentacles. We also wanted to spread the good news: that Mia Love’s H.R. 524, if it passed, might help enforce states’ constitutional rights to control education locally.
There we stood holding signs outside the door of the state school board meeting, my children and I: “Vote No on NCLB Waiver” and “We Support Mia Love’s H.R. 524“ (the anti-common core bill).
We couldn’t go inside the meeting because 1) one of my children is very young and noisy, and 2) there was no room.
We had even been discouraged by USOE officials and by the governor’s bodyguard (!) from standing in that hall outside the board meeting; they said the handful of us posed a fire hazard.
Yet we were standing there when Governor Herbert made his exit alongside Tami Pyfer. The Governor read our signs and he said, “I support Mia Love’s H.R. 524.”
Explain that quote.
Governor Herbert –Vice Chair of the National Governors Association, which created and copyrighted Common Core — now supports the anti-common core bill?!
I immediately felt the same sick way I’d felt when President Obama came out with his student data review saying he was concerned about privacy, after his administration had done everything in its power to destroy student privacy: from decreasing privacy rights in federal FERPA, to paying each state to build matching, interoperable SLDS databases, to hosting “Datapalooza” and pushing inter-agency “data-mashing.”
Obama (and Herbert) get away with blatant hypocrisy because most of us are, sadly, low-information voters. People don’t know. And they don’t know who to trust.
I prefer it when everyone gives each other plates of warm cookies instead of headaches. I don’t like thinking of –or labeling– my country’s president or my state’s governor as hypocrites.
But I am not going to pretend that I don’t see what I clearly see: repressed real conversation under a pretense of reasoning things out, strict topic-control and topic-narrowing; no debate.
The governor has only asked Utah to comment about the standards, not the governance of them, and he never asked for comments about the data mining nor testing nor lack of parental and teacher freedom. Although months ago Governor Herbert said, “we will not cede that responsibility [of local education] to anyone else,” we know that Utah had already given that responsibility away years ago (control of tests, data sharing and of standards-amending). That power left when Utah adopted standards from private groups NGA/CCSSO who created and copyrighted Common Core, groups in which Governor Herbert holds top leadership positions. Governor Herbert’s words about standing up to federal encroachment are either feigned or very, very fractional.
We all heard the Governor quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in his speech to the board that day, “Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18) But there is no “reasoning together” happening! Where is the real discussion, the real debate? I see a top-down dispensing of “politically correct” marketing lines about Common Core, a one-sided “conversation”. Under the public radar– in emails and blogs and social media, discussion percolates, sans Governor.
We don’t see our Governor (nor Common Core financier Bill Gates nor Common Core architect David Coleman nor Common Core test grant-giver Arne Duncan) ever participating in debates on this subject. These top promoters/creators of Common Core are actively hiding, as is clear from Kathleen Jasper’s Conversation ED and countless others. They don’t want to thoroughly, honestly, honorably reason. They don’t have a leg to stand on. Common Core, when you scratch beneath the surface, is utterly indefensible and unconstitutional.
The Utah public is only allowed ten minutes (divided by five citizens, with two minutes each) per month at state school board meetings. Per month! Some reasoning together! Meanwhile, the state school board is appointed via a very biased, committee-to-the-governor selection process. And yet taxpayers fund this charade, these one sided flyers, mailers and the USOE website itself, all debate-free, marketing the Common Core product without intellectual discussion of any kind.
It’s maddening to those of us who are paying close attention.
Know these facts (and fact check me, so you really actually know it for yourself.)
1. Only NGA/CCSSO can amend the shared Common Core. And they will. (The “living document” will change, the Common Core declares on page 3.)
In Friday’s meeting, presentation after presentation pretended that Utah could amend the shared Common Core.
2. Common Core states like Utah can’t delete from the standards, and can only add 15% max.
In Friday’s meeting, no mention was made of the 15% limit that says no state may add much to the standards (to keep the tests all aligned nationally).
3. Speaking about standards-tweaking is a charade.
In Friday’s meeting, no mention was made of the fact that if Utah adds the permitted 15%, the addition will never be seen on the nationally aligned test questions. So what’s motivating the teachers to teach the addition? And it won’t be in the shared textbooks anyway.
4. Common Core ELA and math standards are under copyright.
In Friday’s meeting no mention was made of the Common Core copyright.
5. Common Core was rammed down Utah’s throats without proper discussion, and a parent and teacher led lawsuit is underway because of that fact.
In Friday’s meeting, no mention was made of the fact that no teachers or administrators were ever asked for input prior to the state adopting Common Core.
6. The Attorney General and the Governor are not correct in saying that we retain local control under the Common Core standards, tests and aligned data standards.
In Friday’s meeting, no mention was made of any rebuttals to the Attorney General’s blanket statement (that Common Core in no way harms Utah autonomy over education). It was just: “Tell us which particular standard did Utahns find troubling?”
The narrow, controlled “conversation” about Common Core in our state is light years away from the spirit of the scripture that the governor quoted, “Come and let us reason together.”
I am really, really tired of the hypocrisy.
I was invited to speak on the Rod Arquette show today about the results of a poll published by Utah Policy. I’ve decided to write here what I won’t have time to fully say there.
The poll’s questions narrowed the larger Common Core Agenda to a tiny fraction (just the academic standards, string free) so that it reaped the kinds of positive responses that it sought.
For example, it said: “Utah is currently participating in a coordinated effort with other states to set similar education standards in math and language. These standards outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade in K through 12 education.” This half-truth left out volumes that would have altered the poll-taker’s responses if the poll taker would have been more fully informed.
Focusing on the actual standards themselves is as foolish as focusing on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Good or bad, the standards, like deck chairs, will soon be in an uncontrollable, different place.
- If Utah Policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that the standards are not coordinated by Utah and other states but by private, unelected organizations in D.C. (NGA and CCSSO) which have copyrighted the standards, answers would have been different.
- If Utah Policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that the standards-creators, (NGA/CCSSO) are official partners with the federal government in creating Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) that are aligned to Common Core Academic Standards, so that CEDS can be used to track students in state (SLDS), federal (EdFacts) and corporate data banks, thanks to the recent federal alteration of FERPA, answers would have been different.
- If Utah Policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that the standards are unamendable by states and that there is, in fact, no amendment process by which any participating state could alter or influence future versions of “Common Core 2.0″ answers would have been different.
- If Utah Policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that the Utah Chamber of Commerce and the Governor’s Prosperity 2020 Initiative is promoting Common Core for financial gain and that special interests make millions from Utah’s education tax dollars, due to schools now being essentially forced to purchase the standardized books, test infrastructures, and technologies, answers would have been different.
- If Utah Policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that Common Core standards lack empirical evidence (meaning that they are unpiloted, unproven, and that they turn our children into unconsenting, unpaid guinea pigs for marketers, researchers and for the creators of Common Core) –answers would have been different.
- If Utah policy would have been fully honest, disclosing the fact that Common Core may raise some specific standards spottily in some grades and in some states, but it lowers them elsewhere, dumbing down some and rigor-izing others, but making everyone common, as if one size could fit all — answers would have been different.
The poll’s article said: “Utah’s Education IS NOT controlled by the federal government, Herbert has said time and time again.” True, Herbert has said that. So has the Utah Attorney General. Yet it is false. Fact check for yourself. Truth is truth whether we believe it or not.
The federal government micromanages the Common Core testing network. Evidence in Cooperative Agreement of SBAC (Utah’s company, AIR’s partner) here. The federal government offers a waiver from the much-hated No Child Left Behind (unconstitutional) law in exchange for adoption of Common Core (aka College and Career Ready Standards Adoption).
Education standards-alteration was the very first of the Obama Administration’s four assurances as listed stated in the ARRA grant money documents, in Secretary Duncan’s “Vision for Education Reform” speech, and on the White House website. College and career ready standards is a term that was specifically hijacked and redefined as the Common Core, as “standards common to a significant number of states” by the federal government.
In fact, in Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s 2010 “Vision” speech, he said:
“Traditionally the federal government has had a limited role in education policy… the Obama Administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role so that the Dept. is doing much more… creating a strong cradle-to-career continuum… In March 2009 Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.”
Both the Republican and the Democratic parties in various states –and even the Chicago Teacher’s Union — have written resolutions condemning Common Core. Not just because of the fuzzy math. Not just because of the lessening of classic literature. It’s all about Constitutional rights.
If you like socialist-styled, distant, top-down, big government, big-corporate control of tests, teachers and standards, Common Core may be your thing. But if you believe in local control, in free and independent academic thought, and if you want parental aims met –as opposed to big-government-big-corporate aims, then Common Core is not for you.
Shame on Utah Policy for its misleading poll.
Tomorrow morning, the Utah State School Board will vote on whether or not to renew the federal No Child Left Behind ESEA Flexibility Waiver.
Governor Herbert will address the board in person prior to this vote, at the USOE offices at 250 E 500 S in Salt Lake City.
It’s an open meeting. Many of us will be there, and you are wanted and needed there. If you can’t come, please write to the board. Here’s the board’s email address. Board@schools.utah.gov
Here’s my letter.
Please vote no on the ESEA/NCLB renewal of waiver tomorrow.
No Child Left Behind was bad; but the waiver from it (meaning that we consent to continue with Common Core) is far worse, because of the suffocating strings attached. A million tiny strings took Gulliver down.
I am referring to:
2- Teacher handcuffing via teacher grading related to Common Core testing.
Bottom line: we owe no accountability to the federal government Constitutionally and it returns very little money, percentage wise, of our education budget –of which Utah wastes much on bloated administrative salaries and on the common core tech ed sales cartel, not giving much to truly benefit children or teachers.
We have constitutional rights and we are shredding them, voluntarily, by tying our school system down under Common Core and Common Data.
Please vote NO on renewing NCLB.
Utah Credentialed Teacher
Utah’s Mia Love this week announced that she’s co-writing a bill with South Carolina’s Joe Wilson that will do what Lamar Alexander’s bill pretended
it would do: restore freedom to education.
Love said: “I’ve been working on a bill with Joe Wilson. Here’s a little information about it:
H.R. 524 – Local Control of Education Act
Introduced in the House on January 26, 2015
Mia Love, cosponsor
Summary: This legislation will restore local control of education by prohibiting the federal government from mandating that states adopt a specific curriculum or set of academic standards, such as Common Core. It will also prohibit the federal government from using grants or waivers to mandate or incentivize states into adopting Common Core, thus ensuring that local control is left to the states. For states that already adopted Common Core, it would ensure that any previous requirements for waivers would be void and the Secretary of Education would be prohibited from requiring states to agree to any new conditions in order to keep their existing waiver.
This legislation helps to counteract the unprecedented federal overreach of the last several years into instructional content, academic standards, and assessments.”
Thank you, Mia Love.
Let’s support the Love/Wilson bill!
(If anyone has not yet written or called our D.C. representatives asking them to vote no on Lamar Alexander’s bill entitled “Every Child College and Career Ready Act of 2015,” please do so immediately. Public comment on that Common Core-supporting bill ends tonight. That email is: FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov ).
Dr. Evers’ article is published here with permission from the author. It was also published at Education Week this month.
THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS’ UNDEMOCRATIC PUSH
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.