Carey correctly notes that for roughly 80 percent of kids in American schools, the schools are OK. They are not great but they are not the spirit crushing voids that comprise most of our urban public education either.
And it's not at all clear to me why this isn't achievable at scale for most at-risk students. Many of them are in cities, all of which have big law firms and hospitals that absolutely depend on exactly the kind of time- and human capital-intensive model described above. If law and medicine--the two professions against which education is constantly measuring itself, and lamenting its inferior status--can build stable business models that assume a steady influx of super-motivated people in their 20s and 30s, why not education?The biggest problem of course is pay. But the biggest obstacle to the pay issue is not finding the funds to pay teachers similar kinds of salaries to attract smart, motivated and commited 20 and 30 year olds, but the fact that such individuals will not serve under the mind and soul crushing auspices of a big city union. Dealing with bureaucracy comes with the territory of any job, but one should not have to contend with two such bureaucracies, particularly when one is supposed to "help" the teacher.
But here is another problem with the heroic teacher model. It cannot work for an entire schools sytem. First, such heroic teachers are the exception, not the rule. Second, a system can only tolerate so many syslistic outliers. Most heroic teachers make other teachers and administrators look lazy or incompentent or both. While one or two individuals per school can be excused, you can't have everyone be that way, or the organization would collapse under the weight of all those egos.