From my perspective as an educator who taught college freshmen for 10 years, I have to say that any student who can't write a coherent essay expressing an actual idea is NOT college ready. Any student who is not empowered or motivated to take charge of their own education/career/future is NOT college ready. I understand your job as a teacher to do that. I also understand that filling in bubbles is not constructive to getting students to my definition of college readiness.
But I also believe that there are teachers out there who are not getting students to the level of college readiness and that they need to be removed. I think that just because you've taught for a long time doesn't mean that it means you're a good or great teacher. And I know from experience that the best and brightest students are not the ones going into teacher's colleges and getting education degrees. We need a way to get rid of these teachers and get the best for students. I also think that people will rise (or fall) to expectations.
I don't want my children to learn to hate school (and thus learning) because school has removed all of the joy from the process. But I also don't want my children to be completely free to indulge in any and all impulses in order for them to feel "good" about themselves. I want them to take pride in their accomplishments and to understand that the feeling of satisfaction they feel is directly related to the amount of effort (I don't want to use the word "work") they put in.
I guess the problem for me is that I DON'T understand what the K-12 system is doing right now. I don't understand what school administrations are doing, what teacher's colleges are doing, what teachers are doing, what legislators are doing, what parents are doing. Why can't my freshman students write? Why won't they read? Why don't they know the difference between "I think" and "I feel"? Why can't they understand that just simply showing up for every class isn't enough to get an A in the class?
So, that's my answer. Everyone lays the blame on everyone else. So, it's hopeless, I guess. But not really. When my students come into my class, I tell them that there is no reason (not one) why they cannot be successful, however they define success. But, they have to be willing to do the work. If they are willing to do the work, so am I. I could write them off because of their parents, friends, high school, study/social habits, etc. I make it clear that I am not the one wasting their time in my class, they are. I'm tired of laying blame and tired of excuses. If I don't try, I'm not sure who will.