Teachers have their hands tied by test scores and spend the bulk of their time teaching to the test. School boards have adopted terrible curricula and teach it as gospel. Many parents are apathetic at best and adamant that their kid can do no wrong. Larger class sizes and the inclusion of everyone in the regular classroom setting results in teachers who have to deal with disruptive behaviors and end up teaching to the lowest group of kids. It results in middle of the road kids being forgotten and students who excel being forced to help those that are having trouble rather than allowing them to work to their potential.
Many kids get pushed along to the next grade even if they are not ready to go there, because failing is not an option. They end up graduating High School with little more than an elementary grasp on the basics and move on to college only to be forced to spend money on remedial classes that offer no credits towards a degree. They are paying big bucks to learn the things they should have over the course of the previous 12 years. For example we have several sections of ENGL 001 that are all full. In this class they are reading The Giver, which is a 6th grade reading level book, and many don't have the skills to comprehend it.
The bar has been set so low that most kids don't have a challenge to rise to. I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a country where being mediocre is the aspiration. Righting this ship will take a major shift in the way everyone thinks. The emphasis needs to be taken off of standardized test scores and put on teaching skills. Kids need to be challenged and allowed to fail, if warranted. We need to go back to the basics and start over.
We are raising a generation of people who are going to run this great country when we are old. I, for one would like to grow old with the knowledge that we did everything in our power to prepare them for this task.