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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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February 20, 2004

Still leaving children behind

Oh thank you, President Bush and Education Secretary Rod Paige for finally giving schools some slack in the No Child Left Behind law. Schools will no longer be required to count the test scores of recent immigrants to determine whether a school is meeting annual targets for academic progress.

So generous, these guys. The Bush administration decided Thursday to allow immigrant students one year--one whole year!--to learn English. Then, schools must include their scores in the schools' overall progress reports to the feds.

One year to learn English? If the consequences weren't so dire, this would be comical. Many educators say it takes three to five years to learn a new language. The feds say about 30 percent of US schools are already failing the No Child Left Behind standards, and are labeled "in need of improvement." They say by allowing schools one year to teach recent immigrants English, this could knock it down to 20 to 25 percent still failing.

Consider the town of Sunnyside, in central WA, where many schools have close to 90 percent Hispanic students, with the same number on the free lunch program. Try asking these educators to do the impossible: in one year, teach these kids English, many of whom never stepped foot in a classroom in Mexico.

The same goes for our state's WASL tests, which most recent immigrants are expected to take even though they can't read them. It's not fair to these students and it's certainly not fair to the hundreds of strapped schools nationwide trying like mad to raise test scores--and escape federal sanctions--while faced with such major language barriers.

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Posted by Colleen Pohlig at February 20, 2004 09:47 AM



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