Longevity of gear is a major issue. Students routinely manage to damage the old heavy MSR Dromedary bags. Despite repeatedly showing, explaining and modeling the care taken when putting on the fly of our NukTuks, we had two ripped open by the mast pole on one of my courses. A 30 denier silnylon fly or tarp would have evaporated with these students, and these were all college age, not high schoolers. Of course, starting with 8 pound Lowe Alpine packs that can be "adjusted" for over 8 inches of torso length is another immediate weight issue.
But kitchens are the ultimate weight hogs. Yes, students carry about 10 days at a time. The result is about 20 pounds of food per person per cook group. Now add two big pots, and a big Frybake pan. Now add a Whisperlite stove and 3-4 33 ounce bottles of fuel. Now add a gym bag that is at least 1/2 a pound just to hold the stuff because students who are new to bear baggin have a history of shredding nylon bags. Oh and don't forget the MONSTROUS 2 pound spice kit. (AT LEAST 2 pounds - plastic bottles of salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot sauce, soy sauce, oregano, chili powder, baking powder, yeast, dill, cumin, curry, oil, vinegar, etc). Being the biggest member of every expedition I was ever a part of, I consistently wound up with 35 pounds of "kitchen" on my back at the start of a ration period, with at 27 of it being food and spices.
Bulk ration food is a way for the school to save money, but there has to be a major overhaul. Currently students bag their own rations one pound at a time in the rations the first morning of their course. Perhaps they can start bagging freezer bag meals instead, which would be more economical. But the four pounds of flour per cook group per ration period will likely go by the way-side if a truly lightweight approach is followed. I can make a mean lasagna or mess of biscuits in the backcountry, but I have never even considered it on a personal solo trip.
The other key is to change the marketing perspective somewhat. NOLS courses are outrageously expensive courses for priviledged youth (and a few scholarship kids) with little or no backcountry experience to learn solid fundamental wilderness skills. But a "light and fast" approach would be ideal for the 20-to-30-something professional who already enjoys backpacking and wants to lighten the load and increase the intensity of their treks, but can only get a couple of weeks of vacation time. This could be a core group if marketed correctly. Only time will tell if this proves to be the case.