WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday approved a sweeping revision of the contentious No Child Left Behind law, sending to President Obama’s desk a proposal that ends an era of federal control in education policy after 14 years.
The legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12, would restore authority for school performance and accountability to local districts and states after a lengthy period of aggressive federal involvement. While it keeps the existing annual testing requirements in reading and math and requires that states act to improve the lowest performing schools, it allows more local control to set goals, determine school ratings and decide remedial measures.
“I believe it inaugurates a new era of innovation and student achievement by putting the responsibility for children back in the hands of those closest to them: parents and classroom teachers, and others,” Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Education Committee, said Tuesday.
Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, the product of a conference committee of the House and Senate that passed easily in the House last week with bipartisan backing.
No Child Left Behind, George W. Bush’s signature education initiative, had passed with strong bipartisan support in 2001. It introduced high-stakes standardized testing to gauge students in reading and math from the third to eighth grades, with the ultimate goal of making every student proficient in those subjects by 2014.
But as time went on, more schools faced sanctions, including closings, as they failed to meet what turned out to be an unworkable expectation. Republicans and Democrats alike backed away from the law as it became apparent that its penalties for struggling schools were overly punitive.
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