There are now common national standards available for English Language Arts; Literacy in History, Social Studies, and Science; and Mathematics. The Common Core State Standards Initiative has released its 130 page plan for improving education in the United States. It is basically a national curriculum for schools to follow. So far 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have signed on. The government has promised support to states that participate. Alaska and Texas are not participating at this time because they feel their states curriculum already meet stringent standards.
When I was teaching, a tremendous amount of time was spent writing curriculum. In Iowa, there were no state standards; everything was left to the local districts. That meant that every 6 - 8 years, a subject's entire curriculum needed to be rewritten. Once the curriculum was written, then books could be purchased. We always tried to match the books with the curriculum as much as possible. This task of writing curriculum and selecting textbooks was unbelievably time-consuming. We often wished for state standards and a state curriculum. It would have given us so much more time for actually preparing lesson plans and teaching.
Now it appears there will be something even better. Students across the country will be learning basically the same things, at the same time. Hopefully, they will be tested using the same instrument. It will be so much easier to compare students in one area of the country with another. In the past, each state had it's own standards and testing procedures, making it impossible to compare students. I hope this will also help those students who move from one school district to another. With national standards, a student moving from California to Kentucky should expect to have a smooth transition if the new school is teaching the same things at the same time as the old school. I'm sure this will not be the ultimate solution, but if done properly, it can be so much better than what we've had.
Right now the Common Core State Standards are available for public comment at: http://www.corestandards.org/