It is curious that duo many supporters of the Common Core standards want choice among schools but celebrate the standardization and lack of choice among suppliers of education materials. They want to multiply choices of schools while standardizing learning and standing back while only two, perhaps three at most, mega-publishers create nearly identical products for the nation’s students and schools.

Robert Shepherd posted a comment about the death of competition in the marketplace for educational materials. Consolidation started years ago as large companies bought up small companies, and as small companies found they were financially unable to compete with the giant corporations. Those trends have accelerated to the point where only two or three corporations control the education publishing industry. He wonders if anyone cares. I say yes, but no one knows how to stop this monopolizing trend. We feel powerless. To whom do we direct our complaints? This is not an oversight. Creating a national marketplace for vendors of goods and services was an explicit purpose of Race to the Top.

Joanne Weiss, who was Arne Duncan’s chief of staff and who directed Race to the Top, wrote in The Harvard Business Review:

“The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

“In this new market, it will make sense for teachers in different regions to share curriculum materials and formative assessments. It will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students – and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents.”

This may explain why so many major corporations are enthusiastic about the Common Core. It promises them a national market for their products and bring America’s schools into the national economy, where consolidation reigns. Walmart wins, Amazon wins, Google wins, small-scale enterprises lose and disappear.

Robert Shepherd writes:

“I am despairing of anyone’s paying any attention to the consequences for markets in educational materials on the CC$$ and of inBloom.

“Perhaps we have become so used to people using political influence to fix markets in this country that they simply don’t think twice when they see another instance of this. Is that the problem? Or is it that people don’t understand why these dramatically reduce the number of players in the educational materials market? Or are people just fine with having a couple of all-powerful providers of educational materials and with having all the little companies go under. Maybe people are OK with curricula from the educational equivalent of McDonalds or Walmart or Microsoft.

“Even on this blog, when I post about these matters, there is very, very little, if any, response.

“When I started in the educational publishing business years ago, there were 30 companies competing with one another. When the teachers at a school got together to decide what book they wanted to use, there were many, many options. Now, there are three big providers that have almost the entire market. What were previously competing companies are now separate imprints from one company.

“And the CC$$ creates ENORMOUS economies of scale for those few remaining publishers, making it almost impossible for any other publisher to compete with them.

“And inBloom creates a single monopolistic gateway through which computer-adaptive online materials must pass. A private monopoly created by the state.

“Are people OK with this? Where are the articles and essays and speeches about these issues from those opposed to Education Deform? One can understand the silence from the deformers–they created these deforms precisely in order to ensure their monopoly positions. But . . . but . . . why the deafening silence from the other side?