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.
Last 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.”