Maine Legislature Considering Parental Opt-Out Bill

State Representative Sara Gideon (D-Freeport)
State Representative Sara Gideon (D-Freeport)

The opt-out movement continues to grow this year, and State Representative Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) would like to see a parent’s right to opt-out codified in Maine’s state law.

Bangor Daily News reports:

LD 695 aims to codify in state statute that parents can opt their children out of standardized tests. This is a right that parents already have — several Supreme Court decisions have said so — but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said she wants that spelled out in statute.

The bill also would require a school to find an alternative “educational activity” for an opt-out student to do while his or her peers are taking the test, and it would prevent the Maine Department of Education from “penalizing” schools for not testing a student…

…This is Maine’s first year of issuing the Maine Educational Assessment, as developed by Smarter Balanced to test student performance toward Maine Learning Results, which were amended to adopt Common Core standards in 2011.

Schools in pockets across Maine have reported students opting out of the tests at high rates. The movement seems to be most prevalent among high school parents, with far higher opt-out rates among juniors taking the Maine Educational Assessment than among elementary and middle schoolers, who take the tests to measure their progress between grades three through eight.

In Sanford, 120 of 268 high school juniors didn’t take the test. In Lewiston, 55 percent of juniors opted out, along with about 10 percent of elementary school students and 14 percent of middle schoolers. Cape Elizabeth saw 32 percent of its eighth-graders, 18 percent of its seventh-graders and 64 percent of its high school juniors opt out. There are many examples of high opt out rates across the state, but a reliable statewide tally isn’t yet available.

“These opt-out numbers are significantly different to opt-out numbers we saw under NECAP or prior MEA assessments,” said Meredith Nadeau, superintendent of Cape Elizabeth School District.

LD 695 has been introduced in the Maine House and Maine Senate.  It currently has five co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate.