Two education stories that came out over the weekend revealed unintended consequences to education of US law and a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The first story—”A Popular Principal, Wounded by Government’s Good Intentions” (NYTimes, July 18)—tells of the removal of a Burlington, Vermont school principal Joyce Irvine from her leadership position at a school with 97 percent low income children, and 50% foreign-born children, a large number of whom are refugees who have had traumatic experiences of one kind or another.
Although all comers are impressed by the accomplishments of the children from year to year, the testing system under the No Child Left Behind Act—which has meant that some new-comers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan, for example, have had to take an English language state math test after a month or less in the United States, for example—is not adapted to this type of situation.
As a result of standardized tests offered under these conditions, the school scored poorly, and the school district was faced with a choice of fulfilling heart-breaking requirements—closing the school; removing half the staff and the principal; or removing only the principal and transforming the school—to receive as much as $3 million in federal stimulus funds, or forgoing the stimulus funds. The decision was that removing the principal was the least damaging choice.
The principal is so highly regarded that she has been given another job by the school district that removed her and both the Burlington school superintendent and US Senator Bernie Sanders have spoken very highly of her.
The second story—”Standardized English Tests Are Halted in Iran” (NYTimes, July 17)—explains that the UN Security Council resolution of sanctions against Iran as well as US sanctions make it impossible for Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), to accept payment of registration fees from Iran.
As a result, registration for the TOEFL testing program has been suspended, making things more difficult for people whom the sanctions were not intended to affect in this way. The situation may, however, be short-lived because a State Department spokesman has reported that explorations of alternative means to allow the program to resume are under consideration.