Maine Students Warned Assessment Opt-Out May Cost Graduation

Maine-State-FlagA.P. Dillion pointed out this disturbing article out of Maine.  The Bangor Daily News reports that the Maine Education Commissioner says students who opt-out of Smarter Balanced that they may not graduate.

As debate over standardized testing ramped up in the Legislature, the Maine Department of Education again cautioned parents and school administrators this week about the possible fallout from opting out of statewide assessments. Among the potential repercussions — a school could withhold a student’s diploma.

“No one is going to force a child to sit and take the test,” Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardin said in a written statement released Wednesday. “[Parents and students] do not, however, have a right to be shielded from the consequences of that act, which could range from action by the school district or loss of federal funding for the school.”

The article notes several school districts who make taking the standardized test a graduation requirement.  This is mainly done to make sure a school district achieves the 95% participation benchmark required under No Child Left Behind.

In SAD 60, if parents want to opt their children out of the Maine Educational Assessment, they must sign a form stating that they understand that all schools in Maine are required by federal law to have 95 percent of their students tested or the school could face financial penalties.

It’s unclear how many other districts in the state have similar graduation requirements. Neither Desjardin nor the Maine School Management Association could name others off hand, and no reliable record exists on the varied graduation requirements in districts across the state.

However, student handbooks available on school websites indicate that Old Town High School and Lake Region High School in Naples also require students to take the state assessment in their junior year in order to graduate.

Lake Region Principal Ted Finn said Friday that in his five years at the school, which has had the requirement since the 1990s, no student has failed to graduate because they didn’t take the test. Students have failed to graduate, but never solely because they didn’t take the state test, he said. As of Friday, no juniors at Lake Region had opted out of this year’s exam.

The Maine Legislature is considering a bill, LD 1276, that would end the state’s participation with Smarter Balanced.  A bill, LD 695, that would codify and clarify a parent’s right to opt their student out from standardized assessments will be considered by the full House and Senate even though it was not recommended by legislative education committee.