The bipartisan bill to replace No Child Left Behind that was crafted after months of negotiations between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would end federal high-stakes testing and grant more power to states to decide what to do about struggling schools and how or whether to evaluate teachers.

The Senate education panel is slated to mark up the bill starting Tuesday. Alexander, a former U.S. education secretary and the committee chair, hopes to bring the bill before the full Senate later in the spring.

The 600-page proposal would make plenty of other changes to the way the country’s 100,000 public schools operate. You can find the bill here and a summary by the Senate committee is here.

Among the provisions:


States would still have to administer reading and math tests to students in grades three through eight and once in high school, and science tests once in elementary, middle and high school. But states could choose one end-of-year test or a series of smaller tests that would combine to create an overall measurement of student achievement. And states could also experiment with more innovative assessments such as student portfolios or student performances, similar to a pilot project underway in four districts in New Hampshire.


States would design their own systems to hold schools accountable for educating kids. It must include graduation rates, English proficiency rates for English learners and some measure of college or career readiness. But it could include other measures, including not just students’ test scores but how much they grow academically over the course of a school year or the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement or honors classes.


It would be up to states to decide whether to evaluate teachers, and, if so, how to do it. That’s a big departure from current conditions, where nearly every state created a teacher evaluation system tied in part to student test scores — in order to meet conditions set by the Obama administration to get a waiver from No Child Left Behind. In some number of states, especially where teacher unions are strong, look for evaluation systems to be significantly reconfigured.

The bill deletes the requirement in No Child Left Behind that teachers of core subjects in high-poverty schools be “highly qualified.” Although the law defined “highly qualified” as a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, who is state certified and knows the subject he or she is teaching, the phrase lost meaning as it was interpreted differently in different states. In 2010, Congress passed legislation to allow “highly qualified” to include student teachers and others with little training and amended it further in 2013 to include Teach for America, which gives college graduates five weeks of training before placing them in some of the neediest classrooms in the country.

The bill would create a competitive grant program to help school districts develop, expand or improve merit pay programs for teachers, principals and school leaders.

American history

The bill would create a competitive grant program to help states and districts teach “traditional American history” as a subject separate from social studies in elementary and secondary schools. To win a grant, schools would have to partner with a local museum, a college or university or a history or humanities nonprofit organization. The bill also creates a competitive grant program to train educators in how to teach American history and civics.


The bill would provide grants to states to develop or improve comprehensive literacy programs to teach writing and reading to disadvantaged children from early childhood through grade 12, as well as grants to organizations that teach pre-literacy skills to children from birth until kindergarten.

English language learners

The bill would give grants to states to help schools and organizations that teach English language learners, including infants, families and school-age children.


The bill says states have to assure the federal government they have “challenging” standards but that’s about it. What’s more, the federal government isn’t allowed to mandate or encourage states to adopt any standards, including as a condition of competitive grants, the way the Obama administration used Race to the Top to nudge 43 states and the District to embrace the Common Core.