LEWISTON – Karen McClure-Richard, the parent of two Lewiston students who she opted out of standardized tests, said Monday she’s delighted the legislative Education Committee voted unanimously to recommend axing the controversial Smarter Balance test in Maine.

The committee is recommending Maine find a new test to give students statewide.

McClure-Richard leads an “Opt Out Lewiston” Facebook page and is part of a national opt-out movement. She said she’s not pleased with a second committee vote against giving parents more authority to opt out their students from testing by mandating schools be more transparent. That bill was rejected 8-4.

The bill to stop Smarter Balance “is a step in the right direction,” McClure-Richard said. “That test had lots of issues, lots of questions about the validity of the data and speculation that it was designed to fail up to 70 percent of students so (test-makers) can sell you products you need to improve test scores. I’m very happy Smarter Balance is going away.”

Meeting with state Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin last month, Lewiston teachers complained about Smarter Balance. “It’s a bad test,” teacher Emily Talmage said in an April 19 Sun Journal story.

Several college-educated parents said they took the test online and quit halfway through because it was too confusing and frustrating.


The statewide teachers’ union applauded Monday’s vote, saying Smarter Balance caused too much stress on teachers and students.

“For more than a year we have heard stories as to the pitfalls of the test, as well as the errors in it that confuse students and make taking the test a stressful and frustrating event,” Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said Monday in a prepared statement.

“MEA is ecstatic to hear that the Education Committee voted unanimously to end the contract with Smarter Balanced Assessment, and stakeholders, including educators, who know students best, will be collaborating for an educated decision on a new test.”

The percentages of students who opted out of the test across Maine, the MEA reported, are: Washburn District High School, 80 percent of juniors; Camden Regional High School, 50 percent of juniors; Sanford High, 40 percent of juniors and 15 percent of elementary and middle school students; Lewiston High School, 55 percent of juniors.

Problems with the test, according to the MEA, included directions were sometimes vague and poorly worded, causing students at times to hit “end” as if they were finished their test when they were trying to review their answers.

McClure-Richard and the MEA expressed disappointment with rejection of a bill that would mandate schools be more transparent about telling parents they have the legal right to opt out their students from testing.


Parents and teachers have said students are overtested.

McClure-Richard said she’s concerned that Commissioner Desjardin went along with getting rid of Smarter Balance “to quiet the opt-out movement.” Initially the opt-out movement had nothing to do with Smarter Balance, but the sheer number of tests given to students.

“Schools are giving too many tests for all the wrong reasons, she said. The opt out numbers have never been higher.” If the bill fails, “I don’t think it’s going to stop parents who want control over too much testing,” she said.

Lewiston teachers told Desjardin last month that students are given too many tests, and it’s getting in the way of learning.

Lewiston teacher Ernie Gagne told Desjardin he’s relatively new to teaching “and is blown away” by all the testing. “It’s really painful.” After 20 minutes of testing, some of my students are done” and stop trying, Gagne said.

Desjardin said last month that the Smarter Balance test was “misunderstood,” and that the state needed test data to ensure students were getting the education they need. If more than 5 percent of students in a school opt out, the district could lose federal money, educators have said.

Both bills now go to the full House and Senate for votes.

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