Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Joyce Irvine vs. the federal government

posted by Rod Dreher

Joyce Irvine is the principal at an elementary school in Vermont where 97 percent of the students live in poverty. Many of them are refugees from other countries. Joyce Irvine has by all accounts done an excellent job with these kids. Says the New York Times:

Ms. Irvine’s most recent job evaluation began, “Joyce has successfully completed a phenomenal year.” Jeanne Collins, Burlington’s school superintendent, calls Ms. Irvine “a leader among her colleagues” and “a very good principal.”
Beth Evans, a Wheeler teacher, said, “Joyce has done a great job,” and United States Senator Bernie Sanders noted all the enrichment programs, including summer school, that Ms. Irvine had added since becoming principal six years ago.

But Joyce Irvine was recently taken out of her job. Read on:

“She should not have been removed,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “I’ve walked that school with her — she seemed to know the name and life history of every child.”
Ms. Irvine wasn’t removed by anyone who had seen her work (often 80-hour weeks) at a school where 37 of 39 fifth graders were either refugees or special-ed children and where, much to Mr. Mudasigana’s delight, his daughter Evangeline learned to play the violin.
Ms. Irvine was removed because the Burlington School District wanted to qualify for up to $3 million in federal stimulus money for its dozen schools.
And under the Obama administration rules, for a district to qualify, schools with very low test scores, like Wheeler, must do one of the following: close down; be replaced by a charter (Vermont does not have charters); remove the principal and half the staff; or remove the principal and transform the school.
And since Ms. Irvine had already “worked tirelessly,” as her evaluation said, to “successfully” transform the school last fall to an arts magnet, even she understood her removal was the least disruptive option.
“Joyce Irvine versus millions,” Ms. Irvine said. “You can buy a lot of help for children with that money.”

What a damn shame. That poor woman. Those poor kids. She nearly eliminated discipline problems in this school, but because these kids’ test scores were low, she’s out. Why on earth is the government trying to hold schools mostly or wholly populated with the poorest, most desperate kids, to standards that are virtually impossible to meet? Read on in the story and learn that many of these kids just arrived from foreign countries barely speaking English, some of them having gone through traumatic situations in their homelands. Look at this and tell me that it’s right:

Oscar [an African refugee child] needed 20 minutes to read a passage on Neil Armstrong landing his Eagle spacecraft on the moon; it should have taken 5 minutes, she said, but Oscar was determined, reading out loud to himself.
The first question asked whether the passage was fact or fiction. “He said, ‘Oh, Mrs. Irvine, man don’t go on the moon, man don’t go on the back of eagles, this is not true,’ ” she recalled. “So he got the five follow-up questions wrong — penalized for a lack of experience.”

A whole bunch of children left behind there, I’d say.



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Comments read comments(36)
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Bill

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm


Simple solution. Get the federal government out of the education business. Let local schools solve local problems.



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Peterk

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm


classic example of the old saw
Hi! I’m from the government and I’m here to hep you
yeah right



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bktx1

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Very sad. This is what happens with a bureacracy run amok. There is no logic or common sense.



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Peter

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm


Another success under No Child Left Behind



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BobSF

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm


Why on earth is the government trying to hold schools mostly or wholly populated with the poorest, most desperate kids, to standards that are virtually impossible to meet?
Because someone told us it would work. I can’t recall who.



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MH

posted July 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm


Don’t get me started on no child left behind testing nonsense. Using their logic a doctor would be to blame for a diabetic’s blood sugar problem. That coupled with the fact that the standards aren’t uniform means the test results are meaningless.



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stefanie

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm


Every Child Left Behind [sic] strikes again. *That* one can’t be blamed on Obama, at least.



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stari_momak

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm


Why are African refugees being placed in a state that is 90% white?
Really, they just can’t leave white communities alone, can they.



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Turmarion

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm


THANK YOU for posting this, Rod. Everyone who wants to blame things on the teachers and who wants to solve everything by the great god Accountability (high-stakes criteria, standardized testing, merit pay, etc.) need to read this. The so-called “reform”, as all to often is the case, makes it worse.
stari, ever since they started letting in those awful Irish, Germans, Italians, and Slavs, it’s just gone downhill (sarcasm).



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Randy G.

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm


Be careful and read the article before condemning “the government.”
I’ve read some calls for letting local people solve the problems. But here it was the local school district that decided to seek the funds by tossing the principal under the bus.
I have a brother in a very similar district. He directs 6-12th grade bands in a diestrict where 23 languages were spoken in the district last year, yet all are required to take MEAP standardized tests without assistance. It is no surprise they end up in the lowest 5% of state schools.
Just south of us is Kalamazoo, where donors have banded together to guarantee that those that stick with school and graduate will receive scholarships. But here in GR, the big powerful philanthropists are so opposed to public schools that they are watching them fail rather than drop a dime to assist local schools in a similar way.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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Charles Cosimano

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:59 pm


I know I’m going to regret saying this, but I can just hear the outcry over tax dollars being wasted on educating refugees.



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Turmarion

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:01 am


Excellent points, Randy. Local control (e.g. site-based councils) often just slide the politicking and dysfunction to a more local level. You’re also right that many of the philanthropists essentially are opposed to public schools in principle, and aren’t too concerned about who gets hurt as the schools fail.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:14 am


stari, ever since they started letting in those awful Irish, Germans, Italians, and Slavs, it’s just gone downhill (sarcasm).
To some extent that is true, but you really need lessons in Western Culture and in population genetics, Turmarion.



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Turmarion

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:27 am


I’m quite versed in Western Culture, stari, and while I don’t think I have anything to prove and am not interested in one-upmanship games, I think the evidence of my grasp of Western Culture stands on its own merits for anyone who’s been reading my posts here over the long term. I also have a good grasp of population genetics, and if I want to know more, I call up my sister, who is a PhD. in evolutionary biology. Meanwhile, had your worldview prevailed in previous centuries, I’m fairly certain (absolutely certain, in my case) that a lot of my ancestors and yours as well would never have been let into the country. People who live in glass houses, you know.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:40 am


Meanwhile, had your worldview prevailed in previous centuries, I’m fairly certain (absolutely certain, in my case) that a lot of my ancestors and yours as well would never have been let into the country.
You know nothing about my ancestors — but at any rate there were no refugee programs, indeed barely any public education, when the last of them arrived.
And the thing is, my worldview prevailed for much of the twentieth century, and during that time America grew powerful, and developed a large middle class and a prosperous working class. Sorry, just because we let in some immigrants who were close to the founding population genetically and culturally doesn’t mean we are morally obligated to let in the world now.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:20 am


Tumarion,
Ever hear the Uncle Remus story about Br’er Rabbit and the tar baby?



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Travis

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:31 am


Really, they just can’t leave white communities alone, can they.
White people can’t seem to leave everyone else’s communities alone.



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Jon

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:07 am


Re: And under the Obama administration rules…
Are we sure thsi isn’t due to No Child Left Behind, which was passed by the Bush administration? Of so, it really ought read: “Under Federal rules…” No need to drag partisan politics into it at all.



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Turmarion

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:21 am


chris, you’re right. I should know better.



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Richard

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:04 am


The really foolish thing is thinking that $3MM is more important than this principal and (probably) her faculty and staff. It sure seems like a lot of money, but once you get finished fulfilling all the conditions required by the government, it’s not going to be enough to ‘transform’ the school in any meaningful sense.
This is not the fault of NCLB or Bush or Obama per se. First and foremost this kind of problem is the product of education thinking which holds that more money will solve the problems. It should be pretty obvious by now that it won’t.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:10 am


Every Child Left Behind [sic] strikes again. *That* one can’t be blamed on Obama, at least.
Actually, according to the story, you can. Or rather, you can blame Bush for NCLB (which, please note, passed with the enthusiastic support of Sen. Ted Kennedy), and you can blame Obama for retaining the core of it under his “Blueprint for Reform.”



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Matthew

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:29 am


And yet, had this school received federal assistance with their subpar test scores and kept the current administration, there would be an outcry from “conservatives” equating it with the welfare system.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 9:31 am


Seriously, if you have historic population A, and that population is behind historic population B, and you are spending some serious cash and mental effort in getting A to ‘catch up’ with B, does it make sense to bring in population C which certainly shares a lot of the characteristics of population A? And if you must bring in population C out of your particular sense of morality, does it make sense to put it in a place where the climate is totally foreign, there are few jobs to suit its average skill level, and there are few to zero of historical population B to act as a sort of bridge?
They say it is wise never to attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity, but in this particular case I suspect malice was at work.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 9:34 am


and there are few to zero of historical population B to act as a sort of bridge?->and there are few to zero of historical population A to act as a sort of bridge?



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Franklin Evans

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:51 am


My only post on this thread, I promise!
What’s missing from the equation, brought into stark relief by NCLB by its absence, is a moral mandate to provide educational services to children.
Just that. No politicking, no whining about how much music and art programs cost. Just that. The “local control” has mixed results because the politicians and (often childless) money handlers are in charge of defining those things on a grand scale, bypassing the professional judgment of teachers and administrators.
Why don’t we try something new*? Evaluate each child individually, then assign each child to a class or teacher that best fits the child’s needs. Don’t ask how much it costs**. As soon as you do that, you remove (for example) every low students-to-teacher ratio class where it is humanly impossible to serve those students otherwise.
* Oops. Sorry. Already tried and proven its effectiveness.
** The people who balk at education costs generally know next to nothing about being teachers, let alone teaching students who do not fit the “average” mold.



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 11:34 am


Seriously? We can’t blame Obama for a problem that is the direct result of a stimulus program he created? I boggle.
I agree with the poster who said we need to take the federal government out of public schools. NCLB was a desperate attempt to introduce accountability into a failed system through bribery, and the teachers unions wouldn’t play ball. End it, end federal funding, and let reform-minded governors take on the teachers unions.
“Don’t ask how much it costs**.”
Sorry, but that’s a recipe for fraud, and our public schools have done nothing to demonstrate they are ready to take away that layer of accountability.



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Broken Yogi

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm


“Seriously? We can’t blame Obama for a problem that is the direct result of a stimulus program he created? I boggle.”
The stimulus created more funds for programs like this, which was certainly Obama’s doing, but their use is still constrained by the NCLB law, which was not. It’s NCLB which requires the principal to be fired in order to receive the stimulus money, not the stimulus bill passed by congress last year. But hey, let’s blame Obama if it’s a rainy day as well.



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Franklin Evans

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm


Sorry, Kevin. My sarcasm prompted me to use poor phrasing. If we ask why it costs that much, and the professionals providing the answer do so rationally, and further an ordinary audit concludes that no golf junkets or BMWs are involved, my original question stands.
Some unions have already been taken on and “defeated”. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is a prime example. Couple that with NCLB-prompted (at the state level) removal of the board of education and replaced with a corporate-structured management team, and follow-up with the numerous examples of fraud in charter schools and the failure of private education companies to show any improvements, you see my local example of the failure of “accountability” as a primary “cure” to what ailed (and continues to ail) the Philadelphia schools.
And I did promise to make only one post to this thread. Don’t be offended if this is my last one. Truly, this is a “don’t get me started” topic… as you may already have figured out. ;-)



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Randy G.

posted July 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm


Stari,
I repeatedly see references in your posts to “bring them in”. Who are we speaking of? It seems to me that most immigrants at this level come because they are seeking a new life. The ones that are “brought in” are the higher-income B1-B visas that white collar companies are “bringing in.”
Peace,
Randy G.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm


Randy G, these refugees are indeed brought in, usually through non-profit groups, who often receive grants from the government or private foundations. Many of the folks involved are volunteers, while directors, legal council, lobbiests, etc of such programs often make a significant chunk of change.
Here, btw, is to me a standard example of condescending liberal SWPL-ness gleaned from the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Project’s web site.

Many issues that seemed black and white to me before volunteering seem complex and multi-layered to me now, and it is easier for me to recognize how imbedded I am in my own culture and to remember to try to see things from another perspective. As a white, middle-class liberal I always knew intellectually that racism in Vermont existed, but I didn’t see it myself in my daily life. How would I, as a white woman with almost no black friends? But now, as a friend to black African people and an honorary grandmother to 10 Somali Bantu kids (with one more on the way soon), I am exposed to it regularly (though thankfully not frequently) and my understanding has become personal and visceral. This, while painful, is something I needed.

So Vermont’s demography is to be made over so this woman can experience vicarious racism



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the stupid Chris

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Or rather, you can blame Bush for NCLB (which, please note, passed with the enthusiastic support of Sen. Ted Kennedy), and you can blame Obama for retaining the core of it under his “Blueprint for Reform.”
All true, but the real culprit is the idea behind these efforts: That the best measure of teacher and administration performance is test scores.
Every problem has an elegant solution which generally takes many years of hard work to achieve, and a simple solution which offers the illusion of elegance to the slothful. Guess what America we’ve been living in for the past 40 years?
This error is what happens when simplistic analysis becomes conventional wisdom. In fact, that could well be the epitaph for the naughts: They loved simple solutions.



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hlvanburen

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm


“You know nothing about my ancestors…”
I have to side with Stari on this. His ancestry has no business being brought into this. Whatever his ancestors may or may not have done really has no impact on him as a person other than genetically. If they slept around some and had an illegitimate child with a person of another race, or even if they had a spouse of another race, it isn’t Stari’s fault.
And besides, having a diverse genetic ancestry is a benefit. After all, as any person familiar with dogs can tell you, mutts generally live longer, healthier lives than purebreds.
So lay off Stari and quit trying to dig in his woodpile. Whatever is there is his business, and his business alone.



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hlvanburen

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Those of you who are questioning why this school caved in and took the money from Race to the Top need to answer this question.
If you were a parent at this underperforming school, would you have supported the district if they rejected several million dollars designated to improve the education of your child?



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My Name

posted July 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm


People who blame NCLB, and especially those who claim that we should make educational decisions locally as opposed to with the federal government, need to take a look at the details of the story and see who is making the decisions here. Nobody has to apply for a Race to the Top grant. This local district and/or state is applying for one, so it has to follow the NCLB rules. Bush is in no way responsible for this, as I can’t imagine him, when NCLB was passed, having a vision that we would have a stimulus bill in 2009 that provides education grants. Now, some people have already mentioned these points. One that hasn’t been mentioned is that NCLB does not require states to compare school simply based on overall scores, it does however require improvement from poorly scoring schools. This improvement can be documented within a child. That is by comparing a child’s scores from year to year. If this school is as good as advertised, then individuals’ scores should increase dramatically over the first few years, even if they don’t become stellar academics. However, the state (not the federal government) has decided not to use progress at the individual level to determine how good a school is educating its students.



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hlvanburen

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm


“One that hasn’t been mentioned is that NCLB does not require states to compare school simply based on overall scores, it does however require improvement from poorly scoring schools.”
As part of the application process for RTOT grants each state had to identify and list the lowest performing schools in its jurisdiction. The primary criteria used in making that determination was standardized test scores. This criteria was set by the Obama administration as part of the RTOT program, and is measured using only one of the NCLB standards.
NCLB has established what is known as AYP goals (Annual Yearly Progress) in several areas (standardized test scores in multiple areas, graduation rate, attendance rate, discipline issues, etc.). These measure the school’s progress towards the overall goal of the program…100% of the students performing at grade level. Each year the hurdle raises a bit as the deadline for the 100% performance approaches (2014 I believe, as currently set).
What was predicted when this went through is exactly what is happening. Each year, as the AYP goals move higher and higher, more schools are identified as at risk on one or more of the criteria, and more schools are moved into the SINA (School in Need of Assistance) category as they face two consecutive years of failing to meet these goals. Next year will see more schools fall into this category, as even those “good” schools fail to make progress towards 100%.
By 2014 it is predicted that nearly 80% of our schools will be marked in the SINA category. What do we do then?



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Connie Connie in Wisconsin

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm


(Of course, it’s ADEQUATE yearly progress, not annual yearly progress, as that would be redundant.)
his civrieux ? WT#?



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