Not trying to be a tease. Had to rush off and now I can't recall exactly where I was headed. I remember the real conversation starting with the bullying thing and then led onto the other stuff. (Once again they started on that baloney about kids learning "sportsmanship" in PE and I just was not going to let that slide without comment. I don't know that teachers actually do anything about bullying these days, but at least people are aware of the problem.)
I don't have an opinion of teacher's planners. As I was teaching in college I never used one. What I was referring to mainly was the planners they give the students and continually remind the students to write in ("everyone take out your planners *now* and write down the assignment on the board - XYZ, that means you too!") Back to the teacher's planners - I think the better teachers have a good plan, but know how to improvise. They don't need a whole lot of detail.
The testing thing is good and bad. I can see the need for, say, one real, standardized test per year (and even that borders on excessive). But, jeez, the kids sometimes get like three tests in one year. A special reading test, an SOL test (standards of learning), and some kind of aptitude test. The homeschoolers I mentioned previously were not homeschooling because of religion, btw (well, I don't *think* they were). I think they were particularly annoyed at all the tests the kids had to take. I think there view is that teachers are forced into teaching to the test. I don't think that's true in general, but I think it's what a lot of people believe. And I suppose it could be true in some subject areas (some of the questions on the VA history SOL are inane, e.g. "What year was tobacco introduced to Virginia?" and the answers are several choices spaced two years apart.) In our particular case, I like having an SOL as it provides a balance to the very nebulous-sounding "basic school" philosophy that our school uses. (Not 'basic school' as in the three Rs type, but basic school as expounded by the Cargnegie institute. It's a good thing, imo, but very nebulous.) So I like the idea of testing as a balance to nebulousness. I'm not sure I like the idea of testing to ensure accountability. Or, if they're going to use it that way, then I think parents need to be held accountable.
Whatever problems exist today (real or imaginary) I think are exacerbated by parents not demonstrating the proper interest. Interesting thing a few weeks back (or maybe it was a few months ago - time is a blur for me), they had a math night at the school. There were a *lot* of empty tables - in fact, most were empty. Most of the kids who were there did not need to be there. And most of the parents who were there, were also there at the previous gatherings on science, math, etc. (I will say that the science night was a little better.) Some parents convey to their kids that this stuff is important and others may or may not give lip service to it, but regardless don't seem to be really interested in demonstrating to their kids that it's important to them.
Another really good thing: at the high school level it used to be an infrequent thing for high school students to take college courses. I've noticed a pretty fair number of HS students taking college courses in differential equations, physics, etymology, history, writing, debate and a few other things. This is a good trend, I think - particularly the diversification in subject matter.
I'm not sure what you mean by "looser" students. Do you mean students who are less ridid in their learning strategies? Or were you refer to "loser" students in an ironic manner?
In general, the best classes I had in K-12 were free format - the "looser" the better. I heard a statistic a while back about testing they had done on prisoners - turns out that some outrageous percentage of them (like 70% or better) were kinesthetic learners. Which might explain why so many denizens of our prison system did poorly in school. A looser format might allow people to learn in their own way. I dunno. It also might let them goof off more. I remember teaching a class to 8th (or maybe 9th graders) once. Everyone was very interested except one student who just couldn't keep her mouth shut. It was amazing. Teacher never tried to put the student in line. I didn't realize it at the time, but the county had no procedures for kicking students out of class. Amazing how a single individual was allowed to disrupt an entire class.