As a past teacher and teacher assistant, I'm in favor of accountability. If you don't test students using some common standard, how can you assess progress? As teachers we have a profound responsibility for preparing America's children for the workplace. We know that jobs have changed over the decades and that good paying jobs are going to demand an advanced education with an emphasis in math and science. Sadly, many students do not possess the innate ability to compete at such high levels. The educational process must expand its vision and scope and educate these students in other fields, some now existing and others that will come upon the horizon.
My observation, at least with Lynchburg schools was that they were living in the past where vocational education was concerned. I think that's another frontier that public education needs to expand if we are to give needed skills and employment to many of our students who fall through the cracks.
The most difficult thing I had to do as a teacher/teacher assistant was to motivate a student who had already given up on themselves. I saw so much of that from our inner city kids and it always broke my heart.