Monday, May 18, 2015

Students Opting Out of Federalized Smarter Balanced Assessment

The following piece appeared on


Bill would eliminate new statewide standardized test

(NEWS CENTER) -- Students across the state are taking a brand new standardized test this year, and it's drawing complaints from teachers and students.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is designed to measure students' progress in meeting newly adopted common core standards. Students and teachers have complained that the test takes too much time away from learning and has technical problems.

"Out of our five day week of school, one hour every day to learn how to prepare for the test for about three weeks that could've been way better used doing another core class or doing a class you wanted to have fun in like chorus or band," said Gorham eighth grader Evelyn Kithcen. "Instead we had to do test prep and then once we finally got to the test it was 2 1/2 hours for a week that could've been used to learn something new."

A legislative committee heard testimony Monday on one bill that would do away with the test, and another that would make it clear that students can opt out of testing. The Department of Education is opposed to the opt out bill. The acting commissioner said it violates federal law.

"Nowhere in the law does it mention the state," said Department of Education Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardin. "So this is really a situation between the federal government and the schools to where they send money, and for us to interfere with that and say it's okay to opt out or it's not okay to opt out is not really our place, it's not our law."

The Department of Education is not taking a position on the bill to eliminate the test. Desjardin said when it comes time to select a company to provide statewide English and math testing next year the department will choose the test that is the most cost-effective and takes less time away from learning.

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