WASHINGTON — Congress is pressing ahead with efforts to update the much-criticized No Child Left Behind education law.

A bipartisan conference committee of about two dozen lawmakers met Wednesday to work on compromise legislation that merges two education bills that passed the House and Senate in July, years after the Bush-era law was supposed to be reauthorized.

Republicans and Democrats since then have made some progress developing a framework to negotiate a new bill.

The framework would maintain the education law’s federally required annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But it also would return to the states the power to determine whether and how to use those tests to assess the performance of schools, teachers and students.

“One-size-fits-all federal policies dictating accountability and school improvement are eliminated,” said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who will lead the conference committee.

For example, the Education Department may not mandate or give states incentives to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, such as Common Core.

The college and career-ready curriculum guidelines were drafted by the states with the support of the administration, but have become a rallying cry for those seeking a smaller federal footprint in education.