After posting my suggestion for California schools... I started researching a little and found some interesting models from none other than the Netherlands. Being from the Netherlands, and having some first hand knowledge of the system, I was curious to see how it was viewed.
Go to Open Education site for the full articles.
We left the Netherlands in 1956, and just 10 years later as we embarked on high school, my father, had some regrets about our immigration to America. So much so, that he sent my brothers and I back to summer in the Netherlands for the next 3 summers. I think he was appalled at the lack of core knowledge and memorization that was required of us in High School. Things like naming the continents and world leaders. World History and basic math and science facts. He didn't understand that in America they would allow the least experienced teachers to teach at the elementary level where the children were the most vulnerable. He thought the concept was upside down. There are tried and true formulas for teaching basics and you shouldn't experiment with the minds of the young and impressionable. He thought new ideas and theories should stay in the University where students and professors could debate as equals.
At the heart of the Dutch School system is their secondary program. I think this diagram from the article shows it best.
The model shows three separate paths from school to the workplace while still allowing for an individual student to transfer between the paths if they are willing or unwilling to do the work. I do believe also in compulsory education for youth under 16, but I don't believe the California Elementary school system is doing a good job for the money we are spending...and I really think we are FAILING, and have been FAILING our secondary and post secondary students for the past 30 years. What's appalling about that is the costs keep going up, the standards and the expectations keep going down and the dropout rate keeps going up.
Until we have real REFORM in our schools, outside of the current monopoly hold that the school system has on our educational options...we are never going to get it right.