The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) announced plans to conduct a groundbreaking survey that will gauge the awareness and impact of President Barack Obama’s education law — the Every Student Succeeds Act — in the Black community.

The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies and newspapers in the United States, that reach an estimated 20 million readers, combined, in print and online, every week.

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on Dec. 10, 2015, replacing the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act. ESSA encourages a personalized educational environment; supports programs that enhance parental engagement in schools; and improves guidelines about targeted resources for historically, underserved schools.

In late 2016, the NNPA received a three-year grant from the Gates Foundation to develop a multi-media public awareness campaign focused on ESSA, improving educational outcomes for Black students and increasing parental engagement.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, thanked the Gates Foundation for collaborating with the Black Press to help raise public awareness about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Dr. Chavis described the ESSA awareness research as a “proactive move.”

“Rather than let people outside of our community tell us what’s going on inside our community, this is an opportunity for the [Black Press] — the people who work and serve and live and thrive in the community — to do our own research.”

Dr. Chavis said that the data will help the NNPA and other community stakeholders gain insight into how to be more effective in raising public awareness around ESSA.

“This study will also give a stronger voice to parents, educators and caregivers in the Black community,” Dr. Chavis said.

The NNPA has a track record of success for measuring the pulse of the Black community. The trade group partnered with Howard University in Washington, D.C. for a national poll of Black voters ahead of the 2016 midterms and for a 2017 poll on sickle cell disease (SCD) in the Black community; the SCD poll was supported by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

During a press conference about the results of the NNPA/Pfizer SCD poll, Michael Goettler, the global president of Pfizer’s Rare Disease unit, said that the survey analysis provided a basis for Pfizer to seek more detailed assistance for SCD sufferers, who are disproportionately Black.

Dr. Chavis said that the success of the Black voter poll and the SCD poll not only opened doors for other research opportunities, but that it also showed that Black folks trust and rely on the Black Press.

During a 2017 interview with the NNPA Newswire, John King, the former U.S. Secretary of Education and current president and CEO of the Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization focused on closing opportunity and achievement gaps, said that the Black Press has a hugely important role in mobilizing Black parents around education and ESSA.

“It’s partly about telling the story about [exposing academic and opportunity gaps], but it’s also about changing the narrative,” King said. “Sometimes, we focus only on what isn’t going well, but there’s also a powerful story to tell about what is going well.”

Dr. Chavis said that the ESSA survey and the data that is collected should play significant roles in crafting those powerful stories.

The ESSA survey will be conducted online and target pre-selected markets in California including: Los Angeles and the surrounding regions (Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County); San Francisco; Oakland; San Jose; Sacramento; Stockton; Modesto; San Diego; Fresno; Visalia and Bakersfield.

NNPA member publications in California will help to promote and distribute the survey and the results will be shared broadly across the nation.

Dr. Reggie Weaver, the former president of the National Education Association (NEA), said that, all too often, parents are not engaged in the education of their children.

“Any way that information about ESSA can be coupled with getting parents to act on the things that are in the law is absolutely critical,” Weaver said. “What the NNPA is doing to educate and inform parents of their rights is important.”

Weaver said that parents can’t sit back and be spectators in the education of their children; they have to be active participants. That means getting involved in school board meetings, working with teachers and school administrators, and participating in surveys like the NNPA’s education poll.

Dr. Chavis said that the results from the NNPA’s education poll will not only be used to develop successful models for future public awareness campaigns, but the national exposure would also help to enhance the visibility and value of Black newspapers in California.

“This is a historic moment for the NNPA and we are encouraged that so many of our members will be able to participate,” Dr. Chavis said. “We are eagerly waiting for the study to commence and to get the results.”

Dr. Chavis continued: “This is just the beginning. The NNPA will continue to seek out culturally-relevant research opportunities in our on-going effort to improve the quality of life in the Black community.”

Learn more about the NNPA’s ESSA awareness poll at

Freddie Allen is the former editor-in-chief of the NNPA Newswire and Follow him on Twitter @freddieallenjr.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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