A related debate centers on the distinction between “knowledge” and “skills,” and how schools and teachers may interpret—or misinterpret—the concepts. Some educators argue that it’s not possible to teach cross-disciplinary skills separately from knowledge and conceptual understanding—for example, students can’t learn to write well if they don’t have ideas, facts, principles, and philosophies to write about. The basic idea is that “21 st century skills” is an artificial concept that can’t be separated out from subject-area knowledge and instruction. Other educators may argue that cross-disciplinary skills have historically been ignored or under-prioritized in schools, and the push to give more emphasis and attention to these skills is simply a commonsense response to a changing world.
Some aspects of standards-based reform have come under scrutiny. Some education researchers such as UCLA's Gary Orfield disagree that all students should pass a rigorous test just to get a high school diploma. Others such as Mathematically Correct have questioned the NCTM standards approach to teaching mathematics. Some state standards have been criticized for either not being specific as to academic content, or not implementing curricula which follow the new standards. Advocates of traditional education believe it is not realistic to expect all students to perform at the same level as the best students, nor to punish students simply because they do not perform as well as the most academically talented. [ citation needed ]