Five years ago, I thought I was going to catch Miriam Hughey-Guy, principal of Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington County, making an excuse for her school’s failure to reach federal proficiency targets three years in a row.
I didn’t see why she had to take the blame. Her students were mostly from low-income families. Many parents spoke little English. That year the school just missed the mark, needing only seven more limited-English students to pass the state reading test.
When I asked about this, she began a sentence with the word “because.” She seemed on the verge of blaming somebody or something else. But she cut herself off and started again.
“No because,” she said. “There is no excuse!” Failing to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law was “mind-boggling,” she said, “but it is something we have to work on.”
Which is what she, and a team of teachers who hold her in awe, did. They brought the school back into compliance. More importantly, they demonstrated how good a school full of poor kids can be if it has a smart, energetic principal who gives teachers unwavering support for their best ideas.