It's been a long-held tradition in American public education that decisions about standards and curriculum are best left to state and local school systems, not the federal government. But that soon could change, amid mounting evidence that American students are falling behind their peers in other countries.

Leading education groups and government officials agreed at a congressional hearing April 29 that adopting common academic standards across all states might be the way to give U.S. students an advantage in an increasingly competitive and international marketplace.

During the hearing, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said support...

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