A Senate committee made progress Wednesday on a bipartisan update to the No Child Left Behind education law.
The committee passed a handful of amendments in the morning and hoped to hold a final vote on the bill in the evening.
Lawmakers are intent on ensuring that schools continue to use annual standardized tests to measure student performance. But they are moving toward letting states determine how much weight to give the tests in evaluating school performance. The move is in response to frequent criticism that the federal government shouldn't dictate to the nation's schools what they should do to improve.
Amendments approved on Wednesday tended to focus on renewing programs designed to help low-income children or those with special needs. For example, lawmakers voted to renew a program that helps poor students qualify and pay for taking college level classes while in high school. Lawmakers also renewed a grant program that trains teachers to identify and reach out to gifted children, particularly in poor schools where the students can get overlooked.
Tougher battles are sure to come, but senators have attempted to strike a bipartisan note in the debate. Some lawmakers have pulled divisive amendments and said they will bring them up at a later date, potentially on the Senate floor.
Lawmakers have lauded the intent of No Child Left Behind, which became law in 2002. But they increasingly seek distance from the law as schools find the performance benchmarks to be unreachable. The Senate bill jettisons the No Child Left Behind name altogether. Authors instead called it The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
The White House has cheered the Senate efforts. A proposal in the House is still taking shape after generating criticism from conservatives as well as Democratic lawmakers.