The main reasons she cites for the inequitable and thus poor system comes from the way schools are funded which continues to polarize and segregate socio-economic groups. The poor urban schools which house minorities are getting poorer and poorer and the richer schools are becoming more and more rich.
I had the opportunity to work in such a school in Oakland, CA for 6 weeks. The school is called Castlemont High School, known ironically as The Castle. In it there were no computers, no books, no paper, no tools, no library, no air conditioning and the windows didn't open. It was in such a dangerous neighborhood the teachers were warned to not leave at 3pm due to drive-by shootings, but to leave before 5pm because it was too dangerous. In 2013 on average there were 3 shootings a day within 1.5 miles of the school. The students were tired, hungry and angry. Almost all knew someone who had been killed and had a relation in prison. The majority of teachers stayed for less than one year and in the last four years there has been a massive turnover of administration.
In Finland, the emphasis is on "well-prepared teachers who work in concert", (p. 164) and who create a high quality curriculum, have appropriate materials and the whole system helps teachers and students alike. Finland has only one exam which students take before university. Instead of standardized testing each school gives student samples to a centralized committee which checks how the school is doing. Teachers also have a degree in the content they are teaching as well as in education. Classrooms are student centered and inquiry based. Also, importantly, Finnish schools are equally funded.
Korean schools have a focus on quality and not quantity. They have a central cycle of curriculum which is revised every 5 to 10 years to ensure it is up-to-date and relevant, and they focus on the 'whole child' meaning teachings are thoughtful and look at aesthetics, spiritually, morals, physically and intellectually. Access to schooling is also vital to the Koreans.
Singapore mirrors a lot of the Finnish and Korean system and also has a strong emphasis on teachers being coaches instead of people who stand at the front of class lecturing. It has also created the role of a teacher as equivalent to a doctor or a lawyer. As such, salaries are higher, there is a lot of training and teachers are encouraged to grow and move up in the school system as principals and in other roles.
Learning about the different schooling cultures and comparing them to the system in California, I believe key elements I will use in my classroom are make it: student centered, well-equipt, inquiry based and current.