Senate Passes Alexander, Murray Bill to Fix No Child Left Behind

Bipartisan bill to fix K-12 education law that expired seven years ago passes Senate by a vote of 81 to 17

Posted on July 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16 – The Senate today passed by a vote of 81 to 17 the Every Child Achieves Act, the bipartisan agreement by Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to fix the No Child Left Behind law, which is seven years overdue.

Alexander said: “Last week, Newsweek Magazine called this the ‘law that everyone wants to fix’—and today the Senate’s shown that not only is there broad consensus on the need to fix this law—remarkably, there's also broad consensus on how to fix it. This is the consensus: continue the law's important measurements of students' academic progress but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about the results of those tests.

“On the Senate floor, we’ve considered 78 amendments, adopted 65 and passed a bill that says that the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability is through the states and local communities, not Washington, D.C. Now our job is to work with the House to produce a conference report that we can send to the president’s desk.”

Murray said: “Today, the Senate cleared a major hurdle with this strong bipartisan vote to fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law, but we still have important work to do as this bill moves to a conference and before it is signed into law. I thank Chairman Alexander for his hard work with me to break through the gridlock and take this important step, and I am hopeful that this bipartisan work can continue as we take the next step to get this done. As we head toward conference, I look forward to working  with Ranking Member Bobby Scott, the Administration, and the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans who are willing to work with us to continue improving the bill to make sure all students can get a good education no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.”

What the Every Child Achieves Act does:

·        Strengthens state and local control: The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. These accountability systems will be state-designed but must meet minimum federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government is prohibited from determining or approving state standards.

·        Maintains important information for parents, teachers, and communities: The bill maintains the federally required two annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. These important measures of student achievement ensure that parents know how their children are performing and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet state standards. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems. The bill also maintains annual data reporting, which provides valuable information about whether all students are achieving, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.

·        Ends federal test-based accountability: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of No Child Left Behind, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems. States will also be required to include graduation rates, another measure of academic success for elementary and middle schools, English proficiency for English learners. States may also include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.

·        Maintains important protections for federal taxpayer dollars: The bill maintains important fiscal protections of federal dollars, including maintenance of effort requirements, which help ensure that federal dollars supplement state and local education dollars, with additional flexibility for school districts in meeting those requirements.

·        Helps states fix the lowest-performing schools: The bill includes federal grants to states and school districts to help improve low-performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems. School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low-performing schools, with technical assistance from the states, and the federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve these schools.

·        Helps states support teachers: The bill provides resources to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, principals, and other educators, including allowable uses of funds for high quality induction programs for new teachers, ongoing rigorous professional development opportunities for educators, and programs to recruit new educators to the profession. The bill allows, but does not require, states to develop and implement teacher evaluation systems.

·        Reaffirms the states’ role in determining education standards: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.  

For access to this release and the senator’s other statements, click here.

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