I just finished writing a review on reading and literacy in the classroom in the journal "The History Teacher." The author, Paul Otto bravely calls for getting rid of textbooks in the classroom. I generally agree with some of what he says, but am a bit apprehensive of suddenly getting rid of textbooks.
Alfred Marshall was a 20th century economists who was able to synthesis the marginalist revolution of the mid 1800s and the classical school of economics. His life motto was "natura non facit saltum," Nature does not make leaps. The point is, in order to bring about good lasting change that contributes to the betterment of society, one can't change things quickly.
Paul Otto asks for a sweeping change. (Getting rid of textbooks.) No Child Left Behind was also a sweeping change. A movie coming out about education reform is called "Waiting for Superman." Sounds like people are waiting for someone to come along and change everything. [I'm not sure what the movie is specifically about except that it shows three kids experience in public education.]
This is not possible with education for three reasons.
1. Education is run by states. There are fifty states. So unless you want to work at the federal level, influencing the whole education system is quite hard.
2. The more the federal government gets involved in education, the worse it will get. (My third points explains why.)
3. The core of education is the relation between the teacher and parent working together to help the students learn. Ultimately, it's up to the student to learn, but the closest ones to the student are the teacher and parent, and if they are able to work together then the education system will produce better students. Having the federal government involved in this process naturally inhibits this three-way relationship because it has proved itself incapable of understanding the unique needs of people. It tries to create a one-size fits all. There is no one-size fits all. How you do education in Kansas City will be different then doing education in New York City. How you teach a student with autism is different then a "normal learner," and you normal learners need to be taught differently from each other.
The core of my post: the education system can be "fixed" (Or begin to produce well educated students.) by teachers and parents working together with the student in a system which fosters a positive relationship between the three.