AUGUSTA — A Lewiston lawmaker is helping lead the charge on a bill that would make it easier for parents to keep their children from taking standardized tests in public schools.

State. Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said Thursday the bill he’s c0-sponsored with state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, is simple and straightforward and makes it clear children, schools and teachers can’t be penalized when parents pull their children from standardized testing.

Libby’s bill requires school districts to inform parents of their rights to ask to have their children excluded from the tests with a written request. The measure would also prohibit the state from penalizing schools or students when students do decide they don’t want to participate in the testing regime.

The bill would also require schools to offer alternative educational activities for students who are sitting out the tests.

Federal law already allows parents to have their children exempted from the tests, which parents and many teachers say are increasingly taking children from more meaningful learning opportunities and instruction.

Public school students have been taking standardized tests for decades, Libby said, but recently the frequency and intensity of the tests, along with a new focus on test scores and school and teacher performance, has made the process counterproductive.

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“Classroom time is at a premium as state and federal mandates on classroom instruction continue to grow, while teachers and students struggle to meet all the requirements in a 6-hour school day,” Libby said. “Teachers, parents and students in my community are fearful, they’re frustrated and they’re seeking relief from these heavy-handed testing mandates.”

Gideon, who authored the legislation, said the trend of more and more tests was something she had serious concerns and questions about.

She said she and others want to know how much time testing, administration of the tests and preparation for tests, is consuming in Maine schools each year.

Gideon, also a parent of three public school students, said it also wasn’t clear what the government was trying to determine by doing so much testing and whether the tests were actually providing any valuable data to school systems.

“There’s no doubt we must make sure our schools are offering rigorous curricula,” Gideon said. “But as a parent, I tell you this, I’m not convinced that standardized testing measures the effectiveness of a teacher, a school or of a student’s ability.”

She said the U.S. Supreme Court had already established the right for parents to exempt their children from the tests, but Maine law remained unclear. She said the bill would ensure there was no room for question.

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Also joining Libby and Gideon to call for action on standardized testing was Lewiston parent Karen McClure-Richard.

McClure-Richard told the media how her daughter, who is a high-achieving student and always on the honor roll, was so pressured by working to constantly improve on the tests she was emotionally traumatized by testing and lost her love for school.

Eventually, McClure-Richard said, she started asking questions of school leaders and decided to exercise her parental rights to opt her children out of the test.

McClure-Richard said she then decided to choose the tests her children would take based on which tests teachers said they found useful in helping guide student education. She also noted that Lewiston was now facing technical issues with taking a new state standardized that is administered on iPad tablets.

“I believe in public schools,” McClure-Richard said. “I believe that our incredibly hard-working and dedicated teachers deserve better. Our children are more than test scores. My children are not data, they are not for profit.”

She said the city’s school budget was “as tight at ever.”

“And we are spending thousands on useless tests,” McClure-Richard said. “The only people benefiting from this are the companies that write the tests. All this testing is hurting our children, hurting our teachers and hurting our schools. Our schools are not failing the tests, the tests are failing the schools.”

The bill, LD 695, will next move to public hearings before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

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