Sandra Tsing Loh, one of America's funniest and most astute writers, points out in today's NY Times that the American upper middle classes, like the Obamas, who send their kids to private schools, have no idea what is going on in public education. Agreed, but given that many parents who are not quite as engaged as Tsing Loh don't get it either, I would argue that what is most essential is that teachers reclaim (and be allowed to reclaim) their professional status. Part of that must involve drastically limiting the bureaucrats' influence.
(As an aside, years ago, as an undergrad, I spent a summer sitting in a superintendent's office in California working on my research project on the history of high school fraternities. Over those few months, I was witness to more inane conversations than I had ever heard in my life among the district administrators: Their main qualification seemed to be being overconfident men: They certainly didn't seem to have much going on up top. One of them, disturbingly, went on to a career in high places.)