Local schools wait on instructions from state after Every Student Succeeds Act passed

Local schools wait on instructions from state after Every Student Succeeds Act passed
January 07
00:00 2016

By Tevin Stinson 

The Chronicle

It was a major moment in educational history last month when President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). But what does the act mean for the schools in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County?

On Dec. 9 the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 85-12, to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Under ESSA, less emphasis will be placed on standardized testing.

Although public school students will still be required to take statewide reading and math exams, the new law encourages states to limit the time students spend on testing and preparing for testing.

The act will also place the power of education into the hands of the individual states instead of the U.S. Department of Education, meaning the state will determine how to turn things around at low- performing schools.

According to numerous reports, the state will be required to intervene at elementary and middle schools that perform at the bottom five percent of all schools, and high schools that graduate less than 70 percent of their students.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ spokesman Theo Helm said the local board is still waiting on instruction from the state to determine the impact of the law.

“We are not sure yet of many of the effects,” said Helm. “We are waiting to see what North Carolina and the Department of Public Instruction do before we really know the impacts.”

Helm mentioned the law wouldn’t be implemented until mid-2017. While the school board is waiting to see how the new education law will affect the students, a number of parents don’t believe giving individual states power is the best news for schools in North Carolina.

“The way our education system is run in this state, ESSA may be bad news for students in this area,” said Mildred Brown, parent of two. “The local board has had their disagreements with the state in the past, and I think the act will make that relationship worse.”

Last year the State Board of Education changed the definition of a low-performing school which more than doubled the number of subpar schools in the state.

Superintendent Beverly Emory and the Board of Education showed their displeasure with the change by implementing their own grading scale that district leaders believed gave more accurate grades based on growth and student development.

“We developed our own grading scale because the state grades did not reflect what we thought was most important.” said Emory. “The states grades put too much emphasize on standardized tests and not growth.”

A number of national civil rights organizations have voiced their opinions on the act in recent weeks.

According to the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, although the ESSA is an improvement from No Child Left Behind, it falls short in some areas.

A letter submitted to members of congress reads, “There are several important areas in which the bill falls short. The Every Student Succeeds Act’s language on resource equity requires states to consider longstanding resource disparities, but does not go far enough to address them in a meaningful way by holding states accountable for these disparities.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is made up of more than 200 national organizations that promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The letter sent to Congress can be read in its entirety on the organizations official website,

While the local board awaits answers from the state, Helm mentioned no matter what changes may occur the goal of the local school board will not change.

“Regardless of who is making the decisions, our goal of providing the best education possible for our students will remain the same.”

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