Brett of Dehavilland Blog has a good post up on academic standards and why moving them from the state to the federal level isn't going to get us where we want. Brett points out that the problem isn't where the standards are enacted, but rather the contents of the standards themselves.
I'd call this the E.D. Hirsh fallacy. Just because the student should know x by grade y, doesn't mean that it's possible to teach him all of x or that he necessarily needs to know all of x in the first place.