In engineering disciplines, engineers build products based on *requirements*.
Requirements are specifications of a problem to solve in order to build a product, or system or process. Requirements are NOT a design--they are not a solution. They specify key elements that a solution must have, should have, and would like to have, but properly written, they leave open what the actual solution is.
Examples of requirements are:
device must weigh less than 2.2 ounces;
device must operate properly during and afterw a fall from 8 inches into a bath of 110 degree liquid for not less than 6 seconds duration
device user input method must support touch typing at not less than 20 wpm
system performance requirements are things like:
system must detect intrusion within N seconds with probability of detection >=80% in noisy/cluttered environment
system must locate target within accuracy of 3 sq feet at range of 1.5 miles with false positive rate of no more than 1%
Excellent requirements are difficult to write. The best ones are (at least) unambiguous, concise, testable and/or measurable, and finite. Unambiguous requirements leave little room for confusion (and seldom have compound requirements in them.) Measurable requirements give you a way to tell performance; testable ones allow you a method to demonstrate you've met the requirement.
Requirements define inputs and outputs as well as what happens in between.
Given good requirements, a good design will meet them, and even more, will trace how they are met (if possible, every design choice points to a set of requirements, and on design choice exists without such requirements backing it up.) Every choice at every stage would be traceable to the requirements.
Among the stakeholders looking for a product/process/system, most aren't skilled at requirements writing. Explicit requirements are few and far between, and most must be teased out, so that derived requirements (that do meet the above criteria) can be created.
Given that, what in the world are standards in education? Are they supposed to be requirements? Of WHAT system/process/product? A classroom's learning? A classroom's teaching? Are they requirements from which one defines curricula? Is the curricula the product that meets the standards? Are students the product that are supposed to meet standards?
Reading the Common Core standards, they don't come close to meeting the criteria of requirements.
Here's an example:
1. Understand that multiplication of whole numbers is repeated addition. For example, 5 7 means 7 added to itself 5 times. Products can be represented by rectangular arrays, with one factor the number of rows and the other the number of columns.
2. Understand the properties of multiplication.
a. Multiplication is commutative. For example, the total number in 3 groups with 6 things each is the same as the total number in 6 groups with 3 things each, that is, 3 6 = 6 3.
b. Multiplication is associative. For example, 4 3 2 can be calculated by first calculating 4 3 = 12 then calculating 12 2 = 24, or by first calculating 3 2 = 6 then calculating 4 6 = 24.
c. 1 is the multiplicative identity.
d. Multiplication distributes over addition (the distributive property). For example, 5 (3 + 4) = (5 3) + (5 4).
So, apparently, these are *student* requirements.
They mean to be saying
"THE STUDENT SHALL understand that"
But what student? All students? A typical student? A student who passed the prior year's standards?
What does it mean to understand that 1 is the multiplicative identity? Does it mean to be able to recite that phrase? use that fact in a problem? use that fact in N problems, and get the answer right M times out of N problems? does it mean being able to cite the use of the multiplicative identity in order to solve the problem?
These standards aren't finite, concise, unambiguous, and without guidance, certainly aren't testable.
Where does that leave curricula? Since the standards are "THE STUDENT SHALL" rather than "the system shall", how can any curricula meet the requirements of what a student is required to learn?
If curricula aren't solutions to the problem defined by the standards requirements, then what are curricula? And what are teachers or students or schools? Stakeholders ? Or something else?