After 12 years of teaching language arts at a middle school that serves many working-class children, Ellen O’Neil has decided to change careers.

“I come home every night, bone-tired, feeling like the blood has been drained out of my body,” she explains. “It’s like we’re trying to educate a population that doesn’t want to be educated. They show up late or don’t show up at all. On a good day, half of them do their homework.

“The parents aren’t much better,” she continues. “They don’t show up...

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