A bipartisan bill set to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind law and reduce the amount of power the federal government holds over schools has been approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The bill was approved in a unanimous 22-0 vote after three days of debate and the addition of almost 30 amendments.
Critics of the original law feel it offered too much power to the federal government in deciding how to improve schools deemed as "failing," while also placing too much emphasis on the judgement and punishment of schools according to student test scores. While the law expired in 2007, states are still required to follow the law until a new law is created to replace it, writes Erin Kelly for USA Today.
"I believe that working through this process in a bipartisan way from the start is the best chance we've got at fixing this broken law," said Murray, the senior Democrat on the education committee. "It helps make sure that all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make."
The Every Child Succeeds Act would still come with standardized tests, which includes testing in reading and math each year for grades three through eight, and one time in high school. In addition, three science tests would be required between grades three and twelve.
However, those scores would no longer carry any weight for punishment of "failing" schools that receive federal funding for low-income children. Those schools are currently required to offer the students the ability to attend a different school and must also pay any transportation fees for students to get there and back. Other punishments include faculty replacement or having a private company take over the school.
The new bill would allow states to create their own accountability systems and determine how much weight to place on test scores. In addition, other measures of student and school success would be determined by individual states to offer a more accurate description of how well a school is doing.
"That consensus is this: continue the law's important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement," said Alexander, chairman of the education committee. "This change should produce fewer tests and more appropriate ways to measure student achievement."