support, seek, and are able to accomplish. As decades of research on policy and program implementation attest (Anderson, 1996; Anderson and Helms, 2001; McLaughlin, 1987, 1991), it is likely that enactments of nationally developed standards will take on very different forms as implementation proceeds.
What has changed as a result? What new policies, programs, or practices can be attributed to the influence of standards? Attempts to implement national standards, whether faithful to their original intentions or to alternative interpretations, do not guarantee educational improvement. Furthermore, as the Framework implies, incorporation of standards into one part of the system may or may not lead to programs and practices in other parts of the system that mirror the intent of the nationally developed standards. Ultimately, what matters is how student learning is affected—or to be more precise, whether standards-based changes in the education system and in teaching practice have led to improvements in student learning.
Who has been affected and how? In specific terms, how has the learning of students who have been exposed to standards-based practice been affected, and do these effects vary across groups or types of students? For the student population, or subsets of it, do effects on learning represent an improvement? Substantial inequities continue to be documented within U.S. education in general (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2000) and within mathematics, science, and technology education in particular (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000; Martin et al., 2001; Mullis et al., 2001). Thus, it is entirely possible that nationally developed standards or other educational interventions may engender practices that differentially benefit (or harm) some segments of the student population, or that benefit some schools or communities more than others. Nationally developed mathematics, science, and technology standards explicitly call for reform in policies and practice leading to literacy for all students. It is imperative that investigations of the influence of nationally