The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, has announced it opposes the Every Student Succeeds Act recently signed by President Barack Obama, due to its flexibility in allowing states to choose whether to implement the Common Core standards when it comes to standardized testing.
“The law is embodied with good principles, given the most vulnerable populations in public education are poor and minority students,” NBCI stated. “With that principle alone, the black church supports President Obama, and the bipartisanship efforts taken to maintain this important tracking system of student progress. … However, for as much as the Every Student Succeeds Act reaffirms the legitimacy of standardized testing in closing the achievement gap, the capacity to protect and prepare poor and minority students from noncompetitive standards and outcomes unfairly remains at the subjective will of the states, and school boards where they reside.”
The new law reportedly allows states to adopt Common Core standards, but does not require it. Actually, it requires the Education Department to remain neutral: “The Secretary shall not attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce state adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or any other academic standards common to a significant number of states, or assessments tied to such standard,” the law stated.
Yet, according to NBCI, the Every Student Succeeds Act, unlike its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, will eliminate access to federal enforcement tools which would hold states accountable for their actions when it comes to educating general and minority students.
“The absence of standardized accountability denies poor and minority students from access to quality education, and standards that would allow them to be college and career ready, as well as be competitive on a global level,” NBCI stated. “Thus, the black church is extremely disappointed in the majority of the law that does not protect poor and minority students, although the law offers provisions for the federal government to intervene for the students in the bottom five percent. What about the remaining 95 percent? What mechanisms, or assurances of protection, do they have? Simply put, rich school systems, where there are tremendous resources, will continue to do well, as opposed to poor school systems who will continue to perform at the level of their investment.”
According to NBCI, districts should have consequences for failing to meet federal educational standards, as well as incentives, or mandates, for states to attain equality and provide equity for public school students.
“While many people might not believe in this vulnerable population of poor and minority students, the black church believes in them, and their perhaps untapped, and raw capacity to be change agents,” the group stated. “The black church believes in the importance of generating competitiveness that extends beyond local communities, and the local states where these students reside. The black church believes these students should be prepared for a world that is uniquely different from what they see and/or experience on a day-to-day basis. That is the capacity of education, and subsequent laws that we believe in. Through laws involving public school education, the Every Student Succeeds Act falls short in the most important ways to protect, and alter the destiny for the most vulnerable population, poor and minority students.”
President Obama signed the bi-partisan bill into law Dec. 10.
Visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/10/white-house-report-every-student-succeeds-act for additional information regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act.