Senators Alexander, Murray Offer Overhaul for No Child Left Behind


A new bipartisan effort this year could bring a change to the No Child Left Behind Act by offering states and local school districts more local control.

Created by Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray, the effort would put an end to a number of federal government controls.  States would no longer be required to comply with federal test-based accountability standards.  In addition, the federal government would no longer hold a tight control over how states are allowed to spend education money, nor would they be allowed to mandate how teacher evaluations are carried out.

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, up for committee vote this week, would keep the federal government from creating or approving state standards.

The effort could move states away from the debate over Common Core standards, which has caused more money to be spent on accountability testing and created confusion among teachers concerning which standards to teach.

The bill has received support from both the White House and the National Education Association.

The Common Core is a set of curricular standards adopted in over 40 states that focus on critical thinking and state what children should know by the end of each grade level in math and English.  They do not make up the actual curriculum taught in the classroom by teachers.  However, the federal government has linked them to federal grants, creating a controversy surrounding the standards as critics argue that the federal government is increasing its control into state and local territory.

The bill would address a number of concerns outlined by critics of Common Core.

While federal testing would still be required between third and twelfth grades, states would be allowed to develop their own accountability measures and decide how much weight should be given to each test.

Other features include competitive grants for charter schools, with incentives given to states who open more charters.  Low-performing schools would also be able to receive federal grants for improvement, but the federal government would not be able to control how that money is spent.

Student data would still be collected by the federal government, including information pertaining to minority learners and English-language learners, in an effort to ensure they are making gains.

Earlier this year a Senate committee in Tennessee reached a compromise that would create a committee to study the standards.  The committee would support an effort already in place by Governor Bill Haslam to review the standards, writes David Plazas for The Tennessean.