News Releases

Bill would end need for waivers in Washington state, restore flexibility while keeping federal protections in place
Murray: “We still have important work to do as this bill moves forward”


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed Sen. Patty Murray’s bipartisan education bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) in a final vote of 81-17. Sen. Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, wrote the bill with her Republican counterpart, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. 

See Senator Murray’s speech immediately following the vote here.

“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 forward to conference and before it is signed into law,” said Senator Murray. “I was proud 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. It is so important to Washington state- and all states- that we build on this bipartisan process and continue working to improve this 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.”

Before the bill can be signed into law, the Senate and House will go to Conference to reach an agreement on the final bill, where Senator Murray will continue to fight for students and Washington state priorities.

Read more about the ECAA here.

The ECAA includes a number of provisions important to Washington state, including:

An End to State Waivers:


The waivers that exempt states from No Child Left Behind’s requirements have created uncertainty for schools, teachers, and parents in Washington state. ECAA would eliminate the need for state waivers, and it would grant states increased flexibility to design their own accountability systems, allowing for evidence-based, locally designed solutions that meet the unique needs of schools and communities.


Student-Focused Flexibility:


ECAA gives states and school districts greater flexibility to improve student achievement.


Under NCLB, all schools were forced into rigid state accountability systems, and if schools were deemed “in need of improvement,” they were subject to one-size-fits-all interventions. This punitive system hindered, rather than helped, a school’s efforts to increase student achievement. ECAA removes the current law’s one-size-fits-all approach on school interventions. Instead, it gives states the flexibility to design and establish accountability systems, allowing for evidence-based, locally designed solutions that meet the unique needs of the schools and communities.


To reduce the role that high-stakes testing plays, ECAA allows states to design accountability systems that include multiple measures of school success, instead of just test scores.


NCLB over-emphasized test scores as one of the only indicators of school success. While annual assessments provide valuable data to teachers and parents about student performance, assessments provide just one piece of information about student learning and school quality. ECAA broadens the focus of accountability beyond just test scores. This will lower the stakes of testing and will reduce pressure on students, teachers, and parents, so they can spend less time on test prep and more time on learning. The state-based accountability systems supported by this law will provide more flexibility to implement meaningful solutions to address a school’s unique challenges, instead of singularly focusing on test proficiency. In addition, ECAA would create a pilot program to provide states with additional flexibility to design and administer innovative assessments. To further reduce the stakes on testing, ECAA allows, but does not require teacher evaluations based on multiple measures.


ECAA supports access to high-quality early learning opportunities:


ECAA recognizes the importance of high-quality early childhood education to help young learners build their skills to start school on strong footing and to succeed later in life. For the first time ever, the nation’s primary elementary and secondary education legislation includes dedicated funding to support early learning. The bill establishes a competitive grant program to provide funding for states that propose to improve coordination, quality, and access for early childhood education for low- and moderate-income children from birth to age five. This will help states like Washington, which despite a strong application for the Preschool Development Grants program, did not receive funding last year. These grants will help Washington build on progress to increase access to high-quality preschool programs.


Affirming our national commitment to a high-quality education for all students:


ECAA takes important steps to include federal protections for state-designed accountability systems.


In developing this bipartisan bill to fix the law, some argued for removing all federal requirements in state-designed accountability systems for schools. Without basic federal guardrails and protections, there would be no accountability for federal taxpayers’ largest investment in K-12 education, and states would be entirely left to their own devices to identify and address low performance. ECAA provides states with flexibility to design their accountability systems, but also ensures states still include student performance and graduation rates for all students and subgroups of students in their accountability systems, with the goal of ensuring all students graduate from high school college-and-career ready. This will help ensure students will be able to create and take on the jobs of the 21st century global economy.


ECAA maintains annual, statewide assessments to ensure student progress is measured from year to year.


This bipartisan bill preserves annual, statewide assessments to ensure that parents, educators, and communities have reliable data to make informed decisions about student performance. Some have argued for provisions to do away with yearly assessments and allow local entities to administer their own assessments, but that would prevent comparing student achievement across all districts in a state and hinder efforts to ensure students are college-and-career ready. Maintaining annual, statewide assessments is a key to holding schools and states accountable for student achievement.


Expanding opportunities for all students to learn, grow, and thrive:


The bill maintains the intent of the nation’s K-12 law to meet the diverse needs of all children and young adults.


Every child deserves a high-quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

  • ECAA supports students in poverty by maintaining disaggregation of assessments by groups of students, including low-income students. This will provide parents with key information on how their students are performing year to year. In addition, ECAA maintains key fiscal protections to ensure funding is directed toward students in poverty.
  • The bill improves supports for homeless children by ensuring homeless liaisons have the time and training to fulfill their responsibilities. It strengthens requirements that provide homeless students with more stability, and it provides supports to ensure all homeless students can enroll and excel in school.
  • The bipartisan bill serves English-language learners by ensuring states measure students’ progress toward English proficiency and holds districts accountable for designing and implementing effective English-language programs. In Washington state, the number and percentage of students who are English learners has been steadily increasing over the past decade. This bill will help more than 100,000 English learners in Washington state receive the language and academic supports they need to succeed.
  • ECAA ensures that tribal students get the support they need by involving tribes in designing education programs that serve tribal communities and by including a program to build tribal educational agency capacity to run federal education programs. Senator Murray also fought for passage of an amendment to improve the understanding of elementary and secondary education in vulnerable areas of Indian country. The amendment would require a study of schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) on how to improve effectiveness. This would include ways to increase tribal control of schools, identify ways to recruit and retain highly effective teachers, identify areas of improvement and provide strategies on how to increase high school graduation rates in such schools.
  • The bill provides critical support to school districts that serve high populations of military families and children living in tribal communities by strengthening and updating the Impact Aid program. These updates will provide speedier payments and funding stability for districts across the country. Washington state has 53 school districts that rely on Impact Aid support to provide quality education and critical services to students. 
  • ECAA provides much-needed relief to the Central Kitsap School District by directing the Secretary of Education to release $14 million in unobligated funds to CKSD for the fiscal years in which they were deemed ineligible for Heavy Impact Aid.
  • ECAA ensures that only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take easier, alternate assessments so that more students with disabilities stay on track to earn a regular high school diploma and have broader career and college opportunities when they graduate.


ECAA includes important programs to enhance learning and student achievement and ensure that all students have access to a well-rounded education.


Literacy: To improve student achievement in reading and writing, ECAA would provide federal grants to develop, revise, or update comprehensive literacy programs. These grants would help improve literacy instruction plans and would be targeted toward areas serving disadvantaged children.


STEM: Ensuring students have the skills they’ll need to take on the jobs of tomorrow, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), is an economic imperative, especially for Washington state. By 2018, STEM jobs in Washington state will increase by 24 percent, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. ECAA would establish a grant program to support projects that improve student achievement and improve the recruitment, training, and professional development for STEM teachers to ensure students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy.


Afterschool programs: ECAA supports learning opportunities in afterschool programs by reauthorizing the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. This program is the only dedicated federal funding source that specifically supports before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs for students attending high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program also allows funds to be used for some expanded learning program activities. It will provide much-needed services to help students improve their academic achievement and well-being.


Elementary and Secondary School Counseling: Students need access to support services and professionals that help remove barriers to learning. ECAA would provide grants to school districts to hire school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and other school-based mental health service providers to help students deal with academic, non-academic, and behavioral challenges and support students’ growth and achievement.


Physical Education: Physical education helps to enhance a student’s school day and the lessons provided can improve a student’s physical and mental health, as well as their academic achievement. ECAA would provide grants to schools and community organizations to initiate, expand, or improve school physical education. 


Innovation: ECAA provides funding for the development, implementation, replication, or scaling and rigorous testing of entrepreneurial, evidence-based, innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students. This program will help build a base of best practices in education that will help students across the country excel.


Education Technology: Washington state is on the forefront of the education technology movement. But while some schools in Washington state have access to innovative technologies to help students learn, too many schools have not been able to keep pace. ECAA helps to close this digital divide by providing funding for states and school districts to improve access to education technology and provide professional learning opportunities to help educators, school leaders, and administrators have use technology effectively and support digital learning.


Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools: ECAA includes a new program to support schools that use Native American and Alaska Native language as the primary language of instruction. This program will help tribes around the country preserve their tribal languages and provide culturally appropriate instruction to students. 


Addressing inequality in school sports: Senator Murray fought to improve an amendment that would require schools to report on access and funding to shine a light on inequalities in school sports. According to the National Federation of High School Associations, young women have 1.3 million fewer chances to play sports in high school, compared to boys.