Jay P. Greene calls the idea of national standards “nonsense,” in this essay. He writes, “Yes, the national standards may be better than those in some states, but everyone seems to agree that they are also worse than the standards in some states.”
The problem with government-imposed standards, ironically enough, is that they end up serving not the public, but the regulated industry.
The hard reality is that regulation tends to be captured by the regulated industry (unless there are competing, well-organized interests, which in education there are not). Education regulations, like national standards and assessments, are at least as likely to be captured by the Edublob as the oil industry is to capture off-shore drilling regulations or the banking industry is to capture financial regulations.
Among governments, it’s better for states to be the regulators than the federal government. Not because states are less likely to be capture, but because if a bad set of regulations get imposed in one state, they can’t (by definition) afflict other states. Pure federalism works as a great defense against bad ideas.