Zombie, as the final chapter of a 5-part series on US Education, has some proposals for an Educational Renaissance.
They basically boil down to:
(a) back to basics. Focus on children actually learning something (language, math, and sciences first and foremost, but also useful day-to-day skills), and eliminate ideological claptrap from left and right alike
(b) the more competition between schools, the better. Encourage this by school vouchers or tax credits, encouraging homeschooling,… I would personally add: do away with school catchment areas. One reason (as John Stossel discovered) why state-run and state-subsidized schools in, e.g., Belgium deliver better quality for less money per pupil is that parents can send their children to any public or state-subsidized school of their choice, regardless of where they live. This creates internal competition on quality between schools in the same system.
There is a lively discussion in the comments. Get thee there and read it.
/Now back to the salt mine…