NCC Committee Calls For Moral Approach to Education

The “No Child Left Behind Act” needs a moral overhaul because it is leaving behind more children than it’s saving, especially poor children and children of color, according to the National Council of Churches education committee.

Citing a moral imperative, the education committee states that children need to be educated and treated with more humanity. Under the current No Child Left Behind Act, children are viewed as “products to be tested and managed,” according to a public statement released by the NCC.

“Christian faith demands, as a matter of justice and compassion, that we be concerned about our public schools,” stated the NCC Committee for Public Education, which enumerated 10 “moral concerns” that should be taken into account when implementing the NCLB law.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which was passed in 2001 has been criticized by some educators who note with frustration that although their schools may be improving, they still fall short of the law’s standards, which reward good performance on tests.

The NCC comments on the state of education under the NCLB law come following a shift in strategy for the U.S. Education Department. In November, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said that as many as 10 states will be allowed to begin employing "growth models," if they wish. The new method would credit adequate yearly progress, even if test scores do not meet the state standards.

"A growth model is not a way around accountability standards," Spellings said, according to the Washington Post.

She said that students would continue to be tested in reading and mathematics from grades 3 to 8, with reports in high school recording statistics on racial and ethnic minorities. The law’s goals remain. They are to close achievement gaps and make sure that all students reach proficiency by 2014

In response to the difficulties being encountered with the new law, the NCC issued ten “moral concerns” about the way it is being implemented and its effects on students, teachers, schools and their communities.

In addition, the NCC education committee faults Congress for allocating fewer funds every year than the law authorized since it was passed.

The NCC criticizes the “business-management assumptions” it says the NCLB law makes. It states that the law approaches education looking to improve student productivity instead of providing resources and support “for the individuals who will shape children’s lives.”

The NCC also faults the law because it clashes with the organization’s view that public schools cannot be improved by focusing only on the schools.

“Overall, the law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement."

Members in the NCC’s Committee for Public Education and Literacy represent various denominations. Among them are: the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ; the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; the Episcopal Church; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Women.