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Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, proposed axing all six turnaround models and giving all power over reform plans to the states. His amendment met stiff resistance from Democrats, some of whom say the federal government is already relinquishing a great deal of power under the Harkin plan and must at least retain some on the worst schools in the country.

Sen. Michael F. Bennet, Colorado Democrat, said the turnaround proposal outlined in the Harkin bill “is a federal intrusion, but it’s an important one.”

The bill “is the biggest retreat that we’ve had in domestic policy in this country that I can remember,” he said. “We have given up in this bill oversight over 95 percent of the schools. We’re down to the bottom 5 percent, the worst of the worst.”

Other approved changes to the bill include: a measure allowing schools to implement computer-adaptive testing; an amendment requiring schools to better track students who drop out after eighth grade; and a measure letting foster children be placed in a new family to continue attending their old school if it’s deemed to be “in the best interest of the child.”

Dozens of amendments were withdrawn, and senators from both parties promised to resurrect them during Senate floor debate, setting up a lengthy showdown that calls into question whether a reform bill can reach President Obama’s desk by Christmas, as leaders in both parties hope