We currently have a national test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that is given to a sample of students in every state. Its findings are illuminating. While many states' data shows that a large portion of students meet their state standards, NAEP reveals that only a small fraction are proficient, while other states show the opposite.
Fortunately, this disconnect is about to end.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are leading an effort called the "Common Core Standards Initiative," to develop clear, rigorous standards for what should be learned in every public school in every state in the Union. This initiative combines the efforts of educators and states to tackle the difficult task of enacting fewer, clearer, higher standards in a coherent document that can actually be used to gauge success and guarantee that students graduate job- and college-ready.
Before becoming Governors, we both spent most of our careers in the private sector where global competition is a daily fact of life. We have studied the educational programs of countries around the globe that are making real progress and discovered each of their efforts share similar ingredients.
Each utilizes consistent and clear standards to measure the success of local efforts, but retains critical flexibility on how those standards are met. The same should be true for the Common Core Standards effort underway here. Local districts need the flexibility to innovate and educate the best way they see fit, but they also need to know the rules and how their results will be measured - how high the bar is.
In America, states introduce the concept of negative numbers in different grades. For example, South Dakota introduces negative numbers in grade 4, Arizona introduces this in grade 5, Indiana and Massachusetts introduce the concept in grade 6 and Minnesota introduces it in grade 7. The Common Core Standards locate negative numbers in grade 6, which is consistent with countries that score highly on the TIMSS international math test.