I decided to take a look at that in a new way, comparing improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessments to a new analysis of the relative difficulty of various state standards.
What I found was very interesting. This graph shows what I found:
(graph at link)
All of the correlations figures shown are low, meaning that across the country, at least between 2003 and 2009, there hasn’t been much of a correspondence between having higher state academic standards and improvement in mathematics.
Interestingly, the correspondence is even weaker for blacks than for whites. In fact, the data indicate that, across the country, eighth grade blacks receive essentially no benefit from living in states with higher math standards on their own state tests.
If your culture doesn't value education, you're not going to do well no matter what the standards are.