The Senate on Wednesday passed a major bill overhauling the federal government’s role in elementary and secondary education, reducing its reach after over a dozen years of No Child Left Behind.
The bill—called the Every Student Succeeds Act—maintains reading, math, and science tests to help track students’ progress but gives states the power to use that information as just one component in a new set of accountability standards each state creates. It blocks the Education Department from telling states how to assess schools and evaluate teachers.
The legislation, which affects 50 million children in nearly 100,000 public schools, passed 85-to-12 and now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it by the end of the year.
Before the vote, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a key author of the bill, turned to his fellow Republicans and said, “Your voting ‘yes’ means the largest step toward local control of schools in 25 years.”
The bill provides some federal safeguards that were especially important for Democrats. States would be required to report the academic performance of low-income, disabled, and minority students and to intervene in the state’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools. It would also create a new grant program to improve early childhood education.