Someone once said that the problem with national standards is that the right won't abide "national" and the left won't abide "standards".
John Ray linked to this Washington Post article on low-level "Advanced Placement" courses. Edespresso linked to this Education Next article by Chester Finn and Mike Petrili advocating national standards as a substitute for the thicket of Federal laws which interfere with local control of education.
NCLB is an unconstitutional intrusion by the Federal government into an area reserved to the States or to the people. While that objection may sound antique to those who believe that the US Constitution is a living document, the Federal principle recognizes that human rationality has limits and allows numerous experiments in public policy. To a devout Federalist, the Department of Education is unconstitutional, and so are Federal minimum wage laws, Federal child labor laws, Social Security, and Federal subsidies to agriculture. To avoid that larger fight, an administration concerned simultaneously for the Federal principle and for education might consider that the Federal government exercises legitimate authority over four pre-college school systems: the Washington, DC, schools, the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, the Department of Defense schools, and the US Embassy schools. All the Federal government has to do to inject competition into the K-12 education industry is 1) to create exit exams for a 12 year sequence of courses which meets graduation requirements in these schools, 2) to offer credit-by-exam at any time, at any age, 3) to allow any US citizen the option to sit for these exams, 4) to offer HS diplomas to students who accumulate sufficient credits, and 5) to authorize independent institutions to administer these exams. Let competition between Sylvan Learning Centers and the Kumon Institute drive the cost of an accredited K-12 education to the marginal cost of administering and grading exams.