What do we mean when we talk about standards? Everyone is in favour of higher standards. No one seems to doubt that the concept of a standard is appropriate as a sign of educational worth or achievement. It seems self-evidently so. I want to challenge this easy consensus. I will argue that the standards laid down in the National Curriculum - targets and levels of attainment measured at the end of specified key stages by tests and teacher assessments - fail to represent the most significant features of intellectual performance. I will suggest that there are better ways of evaluating chil dren's learning.