"Normal" isn't what it used to be. American education will never be the solution we all want it to be unless we look soberly at what is actually going on in our schools.
I have a good friend who teaches first grade up north in Michigan. Traverse City is a bright spot in the otherwise severely depressed rust-belt economy. It's a regional center for light industry, medical care, education, services, retailing, and commercial and wholesale supply. It has fine museums, music, good restaurants, and wonderful recreational activities. Incomes are above-average.
Amy's 20 six-year olds are pretty average kids. She's is an exemplary teacher, and most of them are doing well, but there are three or four who are not. Problems at home: poverty, single parents, bad boyfriends...... Lots of snow and cold this winter and one kid who shows up often smelling of pee, wearing the same ratty sweat pants and tee-shirt, sometimes with no socks. The school does what it can, and keeps a supply of clean clothes available. The hot lunch is free for these kids. Social services are involved, and two of the kids are receiving psychological services. There are many students at Amy's school that really should be in a special-ed type of school, but inadequate funding has too many in the mainstream. Frequently, a child will spin out and have to be removed from the school and sent to a special-ed facility that is equipped to handle emotionally disturbed children. Nowadays, the teachers at the regular schools are required to take EMT type training in how to safely restrain a violent kid. This is the new "normal" at American schools. It works, more or less, within the constraints of available resources.
After 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM with the kids, and then 'till 5:30 or 6:00PM prepping, and handling paper work, Amy finishes her long day at school. She hasn't had a raise in years. She doesn't complain and does a great job not letting it get her down. Amy knows that she and her fellow teachers are making a difference every day.
I have to ask however, why we aren't doing more, a LOT MORE for these kids. It's bad luck and bad choices that got them where they are. But guess what, six-year olds don't make those choices, the grown-ups do. And, it's up to the rest of us grown-ups to make good on a promise to help with all our hearts that these kids won't end up living the same tragedies as their parents. Four kids doesn't sound like much, but it's one-in-five, 20%, and that's plain TOO DAMNED MUCH for a truly healthy community to thrive and prosper in the future.