A standard is a statement that can be used to judge the quality of a mathematics curriculum or methods of evaluation. Thus, standards are statements about what is valued.
—From 1989 standards released by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
When the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers commissioned a small body of scholars to create national standards for mathematics in spring 2009, it seemed astounding that anyone paid attention. We have been inundated with standards for more than 20 years. A Google search for the phrase “mathematics standards” produces about 300,000 results, many referring to the various NCTM standards; to multiple guides created by individual states, often in conflicting versions; to publishers and software companies; and so forth. Here was one more set of standards, and it was likely irrelevant, people could be forgiven for thinking. But when nearly all the states (at last count, 45 of them, plus the District of Columbia) agreed to adopt both the math and English/language arts standards, people paid attention. This gave those states, if not a common K-12 curriculum, a common foundation for a national curriculum. It was an unexpected opportunity.