Maine Democrats Introduce LD 695, Clarifying Right To Opt Out Of Standardized Testing

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Lois Kilby-Chesley, Maine Education Association president, and Rep. Sara Gideon

Lois Kilby-Chesley, Maine Education Association president, and Rep. Sara Gideon

Democrats held a press conference in the State House’s Welcome Center with area parents and PTA members to roll out a proposed bill aimed at clarifying the rights of students bombarded with a slew of standardized testing under the “No Child Left Behind” Act.

While parents already have the right to opt out, there has been confusion among parents, superintendents and school boards. LD 695, “An Act To Empower Parents in the Education of Their Children by Allowing an Opt-out from Standardized Assessments” would codify those rights in state statute and eliminate any confusion on the matter. The bill is sponsored by Asst House Majority Leader Rep. Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) and Senator Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin).

Due to federal mandates, schools are spending more time than ever preparing students for standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, students are tested every year in grades 3 through 8, and the state is moving toward testing all third- through 12th-graders.

In addition to codifying parents’ rights, the bill:

· requires alternate learning opportunities for students who opt out;

· requires that school districts inform parents of their rights by posting the information in a public place, like the Internet;

· ensures teachers are allowed to notify parents of their rights; and

· prohibits the state from penalizing a district when students have opted out.

Via press release:

    “As the mother of three kids, I know how much time these tests now take and about the stress and anxiety high-stakes testing causes for teachers, educators, parents and students,” said Rep. Sara Gideon (D-Freeport). “I really want Maine to have a conversation about the sheer number of tests our kids are taking, the effectiveness of these tests and whether we’re using these tests in the best way to improve education for our kids.”

    DSC_0138“Teachers, parents and students in my community are fearful, frustrated and seeking relief from these heavy-handed testing mandates,” said Sen. Nate Libby (D-Lewiston). “This legislation is simple and straightforward. And, it will ensure parents and students know and understand their rights. School performance, teacher performance and student performance based so heavily on standardized testing is deeply flawed. We all know some students perform better than others on standardized tests and that test results do not universally reflect individual students overall academic performance. Classroom time is at a premium. State and federal mandates on classroom instruction continue to grow while teachers and students struggle to meet all the requirements in a six-hour school day.”

    Karen McClure-Richard, a Lewiston parent, described the standardized testing experience of her daughter. The tests didn’t have “cut scores” – set benchmarks for passing a test – but instead looked for progress made from previous tests. Because her daughter scored high, her goal scores climbed higher and higher. In her sixth-grade year, she put a great deal of pressure on herself before missing the goal score by one point despite doing her very best.

    “She came home very upset and eventually told me that she felt ‘stupid,’”
    McClure-Richard said. “My daughter who made honors every single year felt stupid and subsequently lost her love of school because of a meaningless test. Because she missed the growth goal, she also contributed to the ‘failure’ of her teacher and the ‘failure’ of the school even though she scored the equivalent of one grade level higher than the grade she was in.”

    Lorri Cahill, a kindergarten teacher in Skowhegan who has taught for 31 years, said there is no longer balance in the educational system.

    DSC_0155“The increasing amount of testing and assessing is leading to missed educational opportunities. In order to attempt to standardize children’s performance, we have adopted scripted lessons that are devoid of developmental theory. We are told to individualize our instruction, yet use high-stakes standardized tests to measure the success of that instruction,” said Cahill, who is opting her own son out of tests this spring.

    Lisa Cooley of Jackson, a school board member in RSU 4, said public education needs to be more responsive to students. The school district serves the communities of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo.

    “This testing regime has created a toxic learning environment where too many children are left behind, disconnected from learning and ill-prepared for successful lives. With the advent of standards that are enforced by testing, we’ve embraced a regime that runs counter not only to the way kids learn, but to their happiness and fulfillment,” she said.

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