Yesterday I shared my take on the NAEP results, which is that they may be starting to reflect the effect backing off on accountability. Yet we should ask a second question, too. It’s also possible that after two decades that saw progress we are starting to see the limits of standards-based reform – not in places that desperately need to dramatically improve like Washington, D.C. but more generally. That seems like an odd question to ask on the eve of the Common Core but we should be open to the idea that standards-based reform has hit a plateau or ceiling and that the education sector needs to think differently about supports for kids, using technology, rethinking human capital, and changing how schools and districts operate. That’s not synonymous with walking away from standards or from meaningful accountability, and in the context of American social policy the standards movement has accomplished a great deal. But even our very best schools (and despite the best efforts of debunkers on the political left and right there are some very good ones) are not systematically accomplishing what we want to see for young people.