To me, it is not so much the standards that are the issue; it is the culture of standardization. Alfie Kohn discussed this issue at length here, here, and here. (Really, just about everything he writes is worth the reading, and you can find lots of it here.) He wrote that, while many people are against high-stakes standardized testing, hardly anyone questions having set standards in the first place. "Standard" is not even an education word. It is a word that is more appropriate in industry. Industry standards ensure that the products we buy are safe, reliable, and effective. I want things like tires, airbags, and pharmaceuticals to be standardized. But children are not products. They are persons. Each one is unique, and that is beautiful. Is it reasonable to expect every one of them to learn at the same pace? Why would we even want learning standardized in the first place? I think it is unlikely that even excellent math programs will make much difference until our education culture lets go of the idea that standardization is both possible and desirable.
Jean Piaget was a respected Swiss developmental psychologist. He studied children in order to identify stages of development. Although many early childhood experts now find his stages overly simplistic, he did contribute significantly to the conversation on child development. He called one of his biggest frustrations "The American Question." As he travelled around sharing what he had observed in children (descriptions), he found that people in this country wanted to turn these things into prescriptions and figure out ways to accelerate the progression. If the typical child can conserve number at age 7, then how can we train all children to do it at age 6? Or 5? Or 4? American reformers wanted to transfer the industrial ideal of producing more, faster, cheaper into the realm of education, and they succeeded. The same thing continues today, as preschools and kindergartens become more and more academic.
But here's the thing: It doesn't work. It turns out that a child will develop in his own time regardless of intervention, and attempting to speed the process up too much usually has negative effects. In addition to this, individual children develop at different rates. Just because most children can understand a concept at 6 does not mean they all can. Some will understand it much earlier, and some will need another year or two. That is why it is unreasonable to impose firm standards for particular grade levels and then make high-stakes decisions based on whether or not a child mastered them.
It is important to note that "more, faster, cheaper" does not equate to "better." Like so many things in life, we can either choose to teach quickly or teach thoroughly, and America has historically preferred to teach quickly. Teaching math--or anything else--in a way that honors the child is a slow process, but we (as a culture) don't want to give the time. Taking too long to master one skill can result what we have been told should be our worst nightmare: that our kids will be behind. (As Alfie Kohn suggests, it might be prudent to ask, "Behind what?") Math concepts build upon one another. If a child is forced to move onto the next set of objectives before he has mastered the prerequisite concepts, he has been set up to struggle with math indefinitely. Since it takes less time to just have kids memorize the algorithms than it does to help them really understand mathematical concepts, this is what schools tend to default back to when the pacing guide says that it is time to move on. It is a short-term solution with long-term consequences.
Implementation of better math instructional methods will inevitably come with a lot of frustration, because students, parents, and teachers will be forced to rethink what they thought they knew. It will be uncomfortable for a while as we find that our kids who always got good grades in math did not, in fact, always fully understand the algorithms and formulas they memorized. Growth is always uncomfortable. But in order to implement a great math program well, we must be willing to meet students where they are. That means that if a fifth-grade child has gaps in her understanding that are part of the second-grade standards, we have to be ok teaching her below her grade level until mastery of the lower concepts is secured. What is called for is a more individualized, as opposed to a more standardized, approach.