WA state educator advocates for English Language Learners in ESEA reauthorization


Pictured: Sen. Patty Murray and Seattle educator Michael Tamayo.

by Colleen Flaherty

Michael Tamayo is a Seattle elementary school teacher who will begin a round of standardized testing this week for his students.

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“We were told that each day of testing will take 2 hours and that the entire assessment will take 20 hours over a two-week period. Our 3rd graders started the test last week and teachers were reporting that it was taking upwards of 3 hours to finish the first day’s tests,” said Tamayo at an event with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash).

At Tamayo’s school, about 30 percent of the students are English Language Learners, or students whose primary language is not English. These students are not exempt from testing, and teachers were told that if the student couldn’t read at their appropriate grade level and couldn’t answer the questions, the students were just supposed to let the test time itself out and the students would receive a zero.

“Can you imagine a student who is new to this country, working hard in class to learn English and then sitting in front of a computer screen and not knowing what to do? Can you imagine what that does to a student for 2 hours a day over the course of 2 weeks?”

Over reliance on testing and a one-size-fits all approach to assessment introduced by No Child Left Behind—the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—has had a major impact on classrooms like Tamayo’s.

DSC_0018Last week, ranking Sens Murray and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced the bipartisan markup of a bill to overhaul ESEA, more commonly known as No Child Left Behind. The bill passed unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee and will be sent to the floor for consideration.

“We applaud Senators Alexander and Murray, along with all the members of the committee, for listening to educators and leading the improvements made to the bill in committee over the course of the past week,” said Utah educator and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia last week. “As things progress, we will continue to call on senators to go even further in helping each and every student, particularly those in poverty and with the greatest educational needs. We still have work to do to ensure equity and opportunity for all students.”

Tamayo said he was appreciate of Sen. Murray, a former teacher and fierce education advocate, for leading the way in listening to educators about what their classrooms truly need.

“States and districts don’t need new federal mandates on education; we just need better ones. Educating young people is not a one size fits all proposition. States and districts need the flexibility to best address the needs of our ever-evolving student population,” said Tamayo.

“I know there is a long difficult road ahead, but I also know that educators and families everywhere are ready to stand up for the policy that best represents the needs of all students, no matter what their primary language is, where they are from, or who pays for their lunch.”

Reader Comments

  1. Great web site. They won’t post comments that are contrary to the warped perspectives of the liberal-socialist agenda.

  2. Research shows that it takes between 1-3 years to learn English for social situations (navigating conversations on the bus, on the playground, in the cafeteria, on a sports team, etc) and 5-7 years to attain English for academic situations (learning biology, chemistry, American Government, etc). If you make students wait until they “know” English to go to school then they will fall further and further behind academically. They would have to enter school at an age completely out of synch with their grade level knowledge. Furthermore, where would a child learn English more rapidly, at home with limited interaction in the target language or at school among peers and accesss to books, mentors, music, sports and technology? With the right support, students from other home languages can learn social and academic English simultaneously and thus be prepared to graduate and constructively contribute to the workforce. Educating bilingual students is a wise and prudent investment in the future economy of our country.

  3. How about this novel idea? If you can’t speak English, you can’t go to a public school and get special help? Learn the language of the country then come to the public schools.

    1. A vast majority of the immigrants to our country in the past 300 years did not come from English-speaking countries and were not fluent in English when they came here . Our country is a strong economic world leader because we educated those people when they did come here .

      1. Sorry Linda, non English speakers were ostracized from public forums and general public gatherings. Ethnic communities arose and worked to help their members learn English so they could participate in this English speaker country.

        Only when bleeding heart liberal-progressives saw an opportunity to socialize this country by allowing non English speakers and illegal aliens to become their voter base did non English speaking become acceptable.

        Lots of giveaways and tax payer support now allow anybody, citizen or not, to live off hardworking, tax paying Americans. Maybe if you can’t speak the language you ought not to come to this country.

        The costs of tolerating non English speakers far outweighs any benefits of educating such people on the public tab.

        But again, diluting public education so all standards are lowered is another hallmark of liberal socialization of this country by progressives who want the government to have control of everything.

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