Commissioner’s Update – May 21, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

On Monday May 18 the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs held a work session on LD 695 “An Act To Empower Parents in the Education of Their Children by Allowing an Opt-out from Standardized Assessments.” The end result was that 11 of the 13 committee members voted not to force local school districts to inform parents of their right to opt-out of statewide assessment. Two of the eleven voted to pass a version of the bill without that requirement. The bill now goes to the Maine House and Senate.

Discussion of the bill included a lot of information regarding the legal aspects of this potential action. This included legal opinions from attorneys with both the Office of the Maine Attorney General and the legislature’s Office of Policy and Legal Analysis.

Both attorneys advised the committee that parents and students have a right to not take the standardized statewide assessment. No one is going to force a child to sit and take the test. They 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. Local school districts in Maine have the authority under state law to place requirements on students and not award a diploma if the student does not meet these requirements. This could include things such as community service, a senior year graduation exam, or participation in statewide or local assessments.

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