I also have hope for the common core, I really like that they reduced the length of the check list in order to allow teachers to further pursue depth in each area. There are also some great groups working on providing support materials, such as the Waters Foundation, to increase the impact of the CCS. I remain cautiously optimistic.
I get what you are saying on charter schools, especially if they are being run to make money. Personally I don't think a school should ever be managed by for profit interests. Honestly, I think innovation in education needs to come from outside of the public system. Currently my thought is that private non-profit schools designed as lab schools to explore a complete overhaul is the avenue. I'm not sure policy driven reform is powerful enough at this point.
I agree on the quality of education being in the action for and in the community. I think being able to shift the focus from GPA' to community impact is beneficial but not substantive enough to make the desired change. However, discussing these metrics and integrating them into an educational paradigm shift is essential.