I care about the students being taught to be whole people--strong academically but also artistic and creative, possessing social skills as well as some athletic development. It's a lot to ask in this day and age, where standardized testing rules all. It's why we went out of district and drive so far out of our way to send DD to an alternative program, where the teachers believe that all those other things are as important as academics. I think anyone with a good understanding of child development would believe that as well. The more you explore and grow in other areas of life, the better you do at academics. The beneficial connection between music and math is pretty well documented, but somehow music programs keep getting cut so they can focus on math (??).
DD (1st grade) was doing really well in her classes so I let the teachers challenge her more and more, but only to a point. I told them the most important thing to me is that she continues to develop her love of learning, and they agreed to push or not depending on her enjoyment. I feel that elementary schools that push kids too hard can damage students' intrinsic drive to learn, and that would be really hard to get back as a teenager. DD wanted to do 3rd grade math and reading? Great. She got frustrated with learning to multiply by 9s, and got frustrated that the chapter books were too long and couldn't be read in one day? Great, back to first grade work, that's obviously too much at the moment. The academics are important to me, but if she's in a good school I know they will come in time. It's the other areas that require more effort on parents, I think.