The responsibility for satisfactorily completing the course of educational instruction is NOT the responsibility of the government, or the school district, or the teacher.
The federal government has no place in public education. Their unwanted participation shifts the goal from "general education" to one of political indoctrination. The system then becomes corrupt, and the end-product is equally corrupt. "Common Core" is an example of a confusing, ineffective collection of time-wasters.
The school district has the responsibility for establishing learning objectives, and providing the materials necessary to achieve those objectives. Textbook selection should be accomplished by a review panel composed of educators and parents. Basic course outlines should be provided by the district, but allow for some flexibility in the method of presentation in the teacher's lesson plan.
The teacher's job is to present the materials in a way that will facilitate the desired learning outcomes for a given course of instruction. There are many truly dedicated teachers in our country, but there is no shortage of those who see teaching as "just a job" (an unmotivated, unenthusiastic teacher will have unmotivated, unenthusiastic students). Those teachers who lack the ability or the desire to inspire their students should either be re-educated in the joys of their subject matter, or replaced by those who ARE inspiring. Students intuitively "know" if a teacher has enthusiasm for the subject matter, or really enjoys teaching. Lackluster presentations, the absence of visual aids, the indifferent attitude when questions are raised are all indicators of indifference - it's "just a job". The basic problem for teachers is to make demonstrating intelligence (the ability to learn) something desirable and popular with the majority of the students. There are students who are natural-born leaders in every class, win them over and successful education follows shortly thereafter.
The responsibility for learning, however, falls squarely upon the shoulders of the students, for one cannot "teach" those who are unwilling (or unable) to learn. Being "a brain" in the public school system is to become a pariah. In a great part, school is about being "popular" for the kids. Peer acceptance is crucial for most grade school children, and by the time they reach middle-school/junior high school their social status has virtually been decided and "carved in stone" by the other students. The basic problem then, is to create a learning environment where demonstrating intelligence (the ability to learn) is something desirable and popular with the majority of the students. Again... if the natural student leader(s) buy it, the educational process WILL be successful within that particular class. The opening lines of Alexander Pope's well-known poem, "A Little Learning" state:
A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
This is probably MOST true in Chemistry classes! (The reference to "Pierian spring", is that in ancient Greece, the Pierian Spring of Macedonia was believed to be the metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science - the seat of all learning.
Now we have the question of, "Where does NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND fit into this?" Honestly... IT DOESN'T. The inconvenient truth is, that there are some children who cannot keep up with their peers, and NEED to be left behind for their own educational well-being. No Child Left Behind is simply an attempt to make ALL children feel good, feel successful, and feel all warm and fuzzy. Unfortunately, when they enter the real world workplace, nobody gives a rat's if they feel warm and fuzzy. They aren't going to be PAID to feel warm and fuzzy. Warm Fuzzies should come from their friends and families... for free. No Child Left Behind is WELFARE FOR THE MIND!
Using the Wechsler Scale, the mean average IQ of American high school students is 100 (within a range of 80 [low low average] to 130+ [very superior]). A student with an IQ of 90 or above should have little difficulty satisfying educational course requirements... IF PROPERLY MOTIVATED. A student with an IQ in the 80s will probably have some academic difficulties, and an IQ of below 80 will usually suffer frustration and embarrassment in the mainstream public education system. Permitting a student to progress from grade-to-grade simply for the sake of his/her feeling warm and fuzzy is an injustice of great magnitude. There are those students who are intellectually unprepared to achieve "normal" progression in school. There are also those students who lack sufficient motivation to keep pace with their contemporaries. There are other reasons as well, but they are too many to cover each individually... let's call them socioeconomic reasons.
Students should be promoted or held back based upon their mastery (or lack thereof) of the course materials. A "D" grade average should NOT be sufficient to move ahead, while a straight "A" student may be ready for AP classes early in the school year. If a student has not satisfied the academic requirements of the current grade, advancement to the next grade level is doing him/her a tremendous disservice, and LOWERING THE STANDARDS so everybody can move ahead is an even greater disservice.
Our literacy rate has been dropping for over 10 years now, and continues to do so. American students world rankings: 6th in 4th grade reading, 11th in 4th grade math, 9th in 8th grade math and 10th in 8th grade science. This is appalling! Parents have a responsibility to insure their children are properly prepared to ENTER school, insure their children DO their homework assignments, and to stress to their children to, "Always strive for excellence, in ALL things."
Is THIS what you want for YOUR CHILD?