New Jersey's education standards earned a "C" from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's "State of State Standards" released Wednesday.
But the state is one of 25 that have so far agreed to adopt the new national Common Core Standards, so expect some changes.
In a media briefing on the report, Institute president Chester Finn and vice president Michael Petrilli noted that standards do not mean much if they are not implemented.
They noted that states like New Jersey can have good results on the National Assessment of Education Progress tests even though their standards get mixed reviews.
"States have done well without high standards if they have terriffic teachers and good curriculum and tests," Finn said. "But it's better to start with high standards."
The problem with lower standards is they often show up as a big achievement gap, where wealthier schools do well because they set their own high standards, but the poor and minority schools lag behind.
New Jersey has continued to wrestle with the "home rule" issue which is one reason the state standards have sometimes seemed vague. The state Department of Education has tried to give individual districts leeway in implementing the standards, but the state standards that get ranked the best always seem to be those with very explicit direction about what children should learn and when.
Another concern is whether states are adopting the national standards in hopes of getting some of the Race to the Top federal funding.
"We do worry what will happen in states that do (adopt the national standards) and then don't get any (Race to the Top) money," Finn said. "It will be much harder for them."
Click here to read the report.
Another report released today questions whether national standards will help improve student performance.
"Without addressing both the in-school and out-of-school influences on test scores, common core standards are not likely to improve the quality and equity of America's public schools," author William J. Mathis explains.
Click here to read that report.