tion of Teachers, the Fordham Foundation, and the Council for Basic Education.14 The conflicting reports have created confusion among parents, teachers, and policy makers alike. According to one analysis of the reviews:
While…multiple analyses of state standards are better than no analyses, the grade differentials among the three reports are confounding—enough so to make state leaders either throw up their hands in utter bewilderment or embrace a high mark and ignore the others. Both responses threaten to defeat the very purpose of the reports. For example, Florida received a D from one appraiser and the equivalent of an A from another in mathematics. In both English and mathematics, Michigan received an F from one appraiser and a B-plus from another.15
Often missing from the public discussion of such reports are the processes and criteria that gave rise to the ratings, which has only added to the confusion.
Some caveats about standards deserve mention. First, most groups charged with developing standards for a school subject have strong expectations for learning in that subject. They may spend more time devising the standards than checking the feasibility of achieving them in the time available for learning. One analysis of standards for 14 subjects found that it would take nine additional years of schooling to achieve them all.16 Thus, it is important that states and districts avoid long lists that are not feasible and that would contribute to an unfocused and shallow mathematics curriculum.
Second, when grade bands (e.g., grades pre-K-2) are used in specifying standards, it is important to clarify that each goal does not have to be addressed at every grade in a band. Such redundancy again contributes to the dissipation of learning efforts and interferes with the acquisition of proficiency.
Third, states and districts need to decide what they will do when students do not meet grade-level goals. Children enter school with quite different levels of mathematical experience and knowledge. Some need additional learning time and support for learning if they are to meet the goals. As schools shift to standards-based mathematics curricula for grades pre-K to 8 with challenging grade-level goals, thorny questions arise as to whether and how special accommodations will be made for some students and what criteria will be imposed for promotion to the next grade.
A recent comparative analysis of mathematics assessments given to U.S. and Japanese eighth graders revealed some striking differences in the expectations held for each group, with much lower expectations in the United States. The author concluded by pointing to the need for grade-level goals: