Countless tomes have been written on how to fix the schools. In a moment of clarity or of self-delusion, I believe that the K-12 schools could be vastly improved with just this half page worth of changes:
1. Recruit more heavily for engaging teachers. It will be easier to recruit them if all that's required is a bachelor's degree. Requiring all prospective teachers to complete 30-45 units of stultifying post-bachelor's teacher prep courses shoos-away many potentially excellent teachers. That hurts the quality of teaching more than most teacher education programs improve it.
2. Merit pay would help retain the good teachers and encourage the bad ones to leave.
3. Relieve teachers of the vast amounts of accountability paperwork that drives teachers crazy.
4. Eliminate tenure. Some teachers are fine for some years but then burn out. But being tenured, it's almost impossible to get rid of them. Meanwhile, they're hurting kids for many more years.
5. Group classes by student ability. That will dramatically increase the amount of appropriate-leveled education each student receives. Recent decades' move to mandate mixed-ability classes to ensure racially balanced classes has done more to hurt the quality of education than all the budget cuts combined.
6. Reduce standardized testing. In-class tests and teacher observations plus one short annual standardized test are enough. The number of days spent studying for and taking standardized tests could be better spent.
7. Put curriculum development in the hands of teachers, not professors. The latter have insisted that all high school students learn such arcana as quadratic equations, the halide series of chemical elements, and the causes of the Peloponnesian Wars, even if they graduate without being able to resolve personal conflicts, be savvy consumers, or write a business letter.