Education Standards: Government or Free Markets?

 

So yeah — there has been some chatter on Common Core around here and elsewhere. 

Let’s say that there is a widget that is the best in the world. It’s really, really good. It is a magical widget that makes life easy for everyone who possesses it. It is clearly the best widget in the world. It has great American tech support and comes in every color. You never have to wait for Europeans to come online to get issues with this widget fixed. I think the Ricochet community gets the value of this widget. Would making the widget mandatory for all humans be the right thing to do then?

It’s the same with Common Core, you see. It’s irrelevant what it is. Let’s not focus on the goods and bads of it — but the universality of it. Federal attempts at standards are just plain old bad, and all they are doing is trying to catch up with the demands of the free market.

So what works, you ask?  

How’s this, then:

Good lesson plans work and free markets pick it. No central planning committee can come up with it, or allow it to change as rapidly and be as dynamic as the free markets can.

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  1. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    On the widget analogy – I need to add that all other widgets are no longer allowed, unless they are variations on the magic widget (I am beginning to like this widget).

    • #1
  2. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Seems to me the issue here isn’t the “lesson plans” in themselves, or the variety in the methods of teaching. That’s all good, but isn’t the issue Common Core tries to address. 

    The real issue is…transaction costs. Say you are a university with applications from 5,000 different HSs in front of you. If each of these 5,000 HSs had its own independent, or somewhat different mean of evaluating students, each one would send a somewhat different “signal” to a particular university. How do you compare? It will cost a lot to compare each student against the other, since there is considerable information asymmetry between you and the individual HS (you can’t know all the 5,000 HSs accreditation systems!). Each “transaction” becomes too expensive. 

    This is why “standards” are good. The idea behind “markets” is not that they create greater variety. It’s that they pick the…best standard…from the variety. 

    Standards are “needed”, but is there a “market mechanism” for picking a “standard” when it comes to what are already government schools? I don’t see one. There are no “markets” in lower education at all, in fact. 

    So the question becomes, is the Common Core solution the best alternative given the current system? Probably, I think.

    • #2
  3. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Well, but here’s the thing.  The federal government hasn’t mandated the standards.  The states chose to sign up for Common Core and when we imply otherwise we undermine our argument.

    Now there was undue influence, through Race to the Top.  But you’ve got to specify that — if we just claim they were federally mandated its supporters have the response ready.

    I’d suggest that — apart from the mandate — if everyone is using the same standards we actually have a problem, whether they were mandated or not.  We have not suddenly arrived at the perfect scope and sequence of curriculum, where we can do away with debate and regional variations and experimentation.

    • #3
  4. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    On the standards needed thing – hence the title – Government or market driven.   Since the teachers Unions are losing control, CC is just a “new way” of gaining control on the almost non-existent free market in k12 education.

    The fact that for the last decade school choice is gaining popularity – IMHO, CC is just a preemptive strike.

    As for the Mandate, yeah, yeah – we can talk about the bribe a.k.a Race to the Top money – but it’s not like I in my school district even have a vote if the state has adopted a standard – and states, as you mention have been bought using Federal money.  Soft tyranny / hard tyranny – same result.

    If merely college application competency was the issue, then colleges could have entrance exams.  The market would bear out the need for colleges to filter as well as filter criteria, given an opportunity.

    • #4
  5. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Barkha Herman: If merely college application competency was the issue, then colleges could have entrance exams.  The market would bear out the need for colleges to filter as well as filter criteria, given an opportunity.

     The market does, through the creation of standards bodies like the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, accreditation etc. (all of which “conservatives” criticize to various degrees, for the wrong reasons I think). 

    Similar logic applies to lower levels as well: some standard for comparing apples and oranges. But while in Higher Ed there does exist a “market”, no such thing exists in “lower ed”. Hence how can there be a “market solution”, where there is no market? Selling lesson plans etc. doesn’t address this issue since it doesn’t address standards. 

    CC substituting for Union control may be an interesting hypothesis, but I’m not sure I follow how CC enhances the ability of teachers to get/maintain higher wages. 

    • #5
  6. The Mugwump Member
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    Common Core will fail for the same reason No Child Left Behind failed.  The federal government is attempting to impose a one size fits all solution on a tremendously complex problem.  A school is a direct reflection of the community it serves.  Just ponder for a moment the social and economic diversity inherent in thousands of communities spread across fifty different states and hundreds of school districts.  The problems faced by a particular school are best addressed at the local level by the people most intimately involved in school policy and administration.  Asking Washington for answers is just larding over the problem with an extra layer of fat.  The result will be another expensive failure.  At present the ratio of teachers to administrators (local, state, and federal) is almost exactly one-to-one.  Bureaucratic meddling in the system has reached a level that can only be described as absurd.  I am a successful classroom teacher with one request:  get the federal government off my back.  I feel professionally and morally accountable to my principal and the parents of my students.  That’s quite sufficient.   

    • #6
  7. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    I don’t think higher wages has anything to do with it; the control of education does.

    There is a reason why Texas has the influence it has on – say publishing text books.  They buy more, so, they get to have a say in printed texts. (link)

    Like I said before, can I, as a teacher in my district, choose what textbook I use to teach a subject?

    If choice became more prevalent, would it be?

    • #7
  8. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    All I have to say about the success / failure of CC is that the same teachers that failed to teaching the past (not you, mugwump) are going to be teaching the new stuff.  Same rates will apply.

    However, curriculum change does give a lot of people employment.

    • #8
  9. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Mugwump, given that there is diversity in demographics, why does this imply that each school/district/state should have different standards for success? Isn’t this similar to the arguments of Leftists that different requirements of success be imposed on the bases of race, gender and whatnot? I.e., so what if everyone is different? Passing 5th grade still means passing 5th grade. How you get different kids to pass 5th grade is a different question, but I don’t follow the argument for having different…standards…of what 5th grade means. 

    Burkha, ok so it’s not “wages” they are after, but “control”. How does CC increase the control of “teachers”? 

    I’d say the biggest argument against CC (and earlier the NCLB) is that it’s not…needed…given the increasing convergence in standards across states. I.e., there’s already a high degree of “copying” successful standards from more successful States, and CC would only have low marginal implications on most States. 

    More interesting is the “conservative” backlash based on specific classroom lessons. I.e., CC doesn’t specify what lesson you should use. Teachers chose them, and apparently some are doing a really bad job. Yet the argument here is that teachers ought to be given more freedom to pick the lessons, and that somehow this is a “market-driven” process. But there’s no “market” here to speak of.

    • #9
  10. The Mugwump Member
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    No, AIG, passing 5th grade does not mean passing 5th grade, and it shouldn’t.  If I’m teaching in Bethesda, Maryland, I want my kids to understand fractions by 5th grade.  If I’m teaching ESL (English as a second language) students on the banks of the Rio Grande, I want my kids to advance three grade levels in English proficiency in one year.  The question is where did you start and what did you achieve?  It’s not the same for every school because the base line is different for every school.  That’s just one problem with Common Core.  My students have very particular needs.  It’s useless to ask my kids to write an essay on American History when they don’t know the difference between a noun and a verb.  Maybe they’re supposed to by the 5th grade, but what if they don’t?  You work with what you have, toward whatever level you think is reasonable, and you hope that somehow your best efforts produce results.  Education is a very intimate business whereas bureaucracy is completely impersonal, utterly clueless, and ultimately self-defeating.

    • #10
  11. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    The Mugwump: It’s not the same for every school because the base line is different for every school. 

     Why is the baseline different? You can argue for a different standard in English proficiency for ESL vs. non-ESL, but why should 5th grade ESL standard be different in Maryland from South Dakota? 

    The difficulty in having different standards for every geographic and demographic circumstance is how are schools in other districts going to be able to figure out what the actual capabilities of your students are, when they move to a different district or go to college?  They have to account for 5,000 different standards? 

    The argument of “we started lower” and therefore should not be expected to progress as far is precisely what you want to avoid. Otherwise you end up with kids who graduate from HS who can’t read or write or do basic math, the excuse being that they “started out lower” and hence can’t be expected to achieve higher standards. Well, then, they shouldn’t have graduated from HS yet. 

    Logically, how is this argument different from the Leftist arguments for affirmative action and race/gender based standards? 

    • #11
  12. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Barkha Herman:

    As for the Mandate, yeah, yeah – we can talk about the bribe a.k.a Race to the Top money – but it’s not like I in my school district even have a vote if the state has adopted a standard – and states, as you mention have been bought using Federal money. Soft tyranny / hard tyranny – same result.

    My point is that in arguing against Common Core you have to be clear about that.  When conservatives don’t make it clear that they understand — and object to — the Race to the Top deal up front and talk about federal mandates, they get slapped down by supporters who thereby contrive to appear more informed (whether they really are or not).  I keep seeing that happen, which is why I keep going on about it.  

    • #12
  13. user_148538 Member
    user_148538
    @MGK

    Not to mention that the only way to get a waiver from NCLB was to adopt CC. Just see what Uncle Arne is doing with Washington state to see how the feds strong arm states in regards to CC.

    • #13
  14. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    AIG:

    The argument of “we started lower” and therefore should not be expected to progress as far is precisely what you want to avoid.

     The challenge is that this is being used to evaluate teachers.  If your students started lower and had less parental support then, yes, chances are that overall they will not progress as far even if your teaching is equally skillful.  So while you shouldn’t lower college admission for them, you should evaluate the teacher differently.

    Colleges managed to have an admissions process before state standards, and they still accept private school students.  We have college admissions tests and other methods of evaluating schools and student preparedness. 

    But as for a single standard, who can say it is the right one?  Curriculum scope and sequence are utterly debatable, and Common Core has not closed this.  If Minnesota thinks they can teach math better by covering something earlier, who has the right to tell them they are wrong?  If South Carolina thinks its state history is heavier and should wait an extra year, should they switch just to be on board with everyone else?

    • #14
  15. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Barkha Herman:

    Like I said before, can I, as a teacher in my district, choose what textbook I use to teach a subject?

    If choice became more prevalent, would it be?

     Even in a private school I don’t choose my textbooks, though I have input.  If you want to do that you homeschool :).  Administrators want to coordinate their approach.   Sometimes it doesn’t matter (high-school economics) but some things need to be the same (early elementary reading).

    Of course, in a more free-market approach teachers and schools would have more opportunity to find each other based on agreement in such factors.

    • #15
  16. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Leigh:

    We have college admissions tests and other methods of evaluating schools and student preparedness.

    Of course. But an SAT doesn’t tell you everything, nor does the HS GPA if you aren’t too sure on what that GPA is over. 

    Colleges manage because there is already tremendous converge in standards across States. They would manage far less if thee were more divergence. The question is, however, why should there be divergence in what constitutes a “HS degree”? There’s already very little to begin with, which renders both the need for CC, and the opposition to CC, rather pointless. 

    But as for a single standard, who can say it is the right one?

    It doesn’t seem to me, on face value, that CC established anything particularly stringent or unreasonable as to what the standard should be. Seems well within the reach of the vast majority of States, already (which is an argument for not needed CC). 

    But even if we asked who and what, do we have an answer? Saying “let the market do it” isn’t an answer since there is no market. Saying let the States do it, is the same answer. The States are the ones doing CC.

    • #16
  17. Nick Stuart Member
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    A number of problems with college would be solved by making the school the guarantor of student loans. If the student defaults, the college pays and has to pursue collection in civil court (no SWAT teams).

    This would insure due diligence on the college’s part when it came to admissions. It would insure good faith effort on the college’s part when it came to providing the student with marketable skills and placement.

    • #17
  18. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I don’t know nick, that seems it would more likely just freeze poor people out of the system.

    • #18
  19. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Leigh:

    Barkha Herman:

    Like I said before, can I, as a teacher in my district, choose what textbook I use to teach a subject?

    If choice became more prevalent, would it be?

    Even in a private school I don’t choose my textbooks, though I have input. If you want to do that you homeschool :). Administrators want to coordinate their approach. Sometimes it doesn’t matter (high-school economics) but some things need to be the same (early elementary reading).

    Of course, in a more free-market approach teachers and schools would have more opportunity to find each other based on agreement in such factors.

     Indeed – home school is the best option, and I’d like to see our education system move towards that – not in the opposite direction.

    CC is a deterrent towards that move.  

    The root cause for *my* opposition is the direction this is leading the education system.  I think some vilification of the direction is in order.

    • #19
  20. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    AIG:

    But even if we asked who and what, do we have an answer? Saying “let the market do it” isn’t an answer since there is no market. Saying let the States do it, is the same answer. The States are the ones doing CC.

     That is the issue.  The feeling that a bunch of bureaucrats sitting in a room coming up with solutions to tomorrows problems based on their past experience – that is a world view of restrictions and limits.  To understand that central planning is not the solution is the first step in thinking out of the box.

    Let’s fix what is broken, not what is not.  And, no, we do not have to have an all encompassing panacea fix.  *That* is the illusion, and a step backwards.

    This is the issue I have with many on the right.  They buy into the idea that we need to come up with a “less big government” central plan in order to compete with the other big government central plan.

    • #20
  21. Pilli Member
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    AIG:

    The real issue is…transaction costs. Say you are a university with applications from 5,000 different HSs in front of you. If each of these 5,000 HSs had its own independent, or somewhat different mean of evaluating students, each one would send a somewhat different “signal” to a particular university. How do you compare? It will cost a lot to compare each student against the other, since there is considerable information asymmetry between you and the individual HS (you can’t know all the 5,000 HSs accreditation systems!). Each “transaction” becomes too expensive.

    I disagree with your premise.  Why should anyone care what the transaction costs are to screen an applicant for college?  Let the college remedy inefficiencies  in other parts of the organization to pay for it.

    The real “standard” is ‘Does the college student pass or flunk out?’   Prospective college entrants usually self-screen as to the college where they think they can succeed.  And, yes, a student that fails took the space of a student that may not have.  It’s not like there are a severely limited number of colleges.  No room at college A?  Go to college B.

    • #21
  22. user_189393 Member
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    @Pilli – true.  And it easily be filtered out by allowing for either a online test / essay etc.  Clearly, the standards applied for entry into an engineering college has nothing to do with the standards for an art program.  Why standardize?  Why should two art schools want the same types of applicants? Allow colleges to have their own flavor.

    • #22
  23. AIG Member
    AIG
    @AIG

    Pilli: Why should anyone care what the transaction costs are to screen an applicant for college?  

     You don’t have to care, but the colleges care, and they DO pass the cost on to the earlier levels of education. I.e., they’ve already passed the costs on to HSs.

    I have no problem with this at all because it seems to me that the issue is a non -issue. I really don’t get all the “fuss” from the right.

    Burkha, with all due respect, what you said earlier sounds way too idealistic and unconvincing. If all you can say that the “problem” is that there’s “government and bureaucracy”, well then you haven’t made a very convincing argument even to me, a conservative, let alone others. 

    Specifically, what is the problem? Most States and schools are already…standardized…This CC stuff is marginal. So why all the big fuss over nothing. 

    As for “markets” etc etc, again, there are no such things in lower ed. You may wish them, but there aren’t. “Smash the System!” hasn’t exactly worked as a strategy for anyone in the past. 

    • #23
  24. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    AIG:

    But as for a single standard, who can say it is the right one?

    It doesn’t seem to me, on face value, that CC established anything particularly stringent or unreasonable as to what the standard should be. 

    That doesn’t answer my question.  The State of Minnesota disagrees with your face value assessment.  They like their old math standards and think Common Core is weaker, and so adopted the ELA standards only.  Do you see a problem with that? Who gets to judge whose standards are better? 

    But even if we asked who and what, do we have an answer? Saying “let the market do it” isn’t an answer since there is no market. Saying let the States do it, is the same answer. The States are the ones doing CC.

     The states are doing CC for all the reasons that politicians do such things, including federal money and political pressure from influential groups.  Some of the states are undoing it — Indiana did, South Carolina is in progress, Wisconsin almost did and may yet.

    • #24

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