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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