AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate – against the recommendation of the Legislature’s education committee – approved a bill Monday that strengthens parents’ rights to have their children opt out of standardized testing.

The House approved the measure last week, but it faces additional votes.

Parents already have the option to allow their children to sit out during standardized tests, but L.D. 695 sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, explicitly says that students can opt out with written consent.

The bill also requires the Department of Education to create an annual report that “outlines federal and state laws and judicial decisions relating to the right or options of a student’s parent or guardian to excuse the student from a statewide assessment program administered as part of the system of learning results.”

“As many are aware, we are in the middle of a firestorm regarding standardized testing in our schools. There’s a lot of confusion about whether a child is required to take the test,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “At this point in time, it is critical that we as a state provide consistent and clear information to our educators and our families about the law. … This bill makes sure that everyone is well informed about their rights and takes some of the pressure off our educators.”

One thing the bill does not do is eliminate any penalties for opting out. The original bill did have that language but it was dropped. Some school districts require standardized tests in order to graduate.

Last month, the committee voted 9-4 to reject L.D. 695, but it has received much more support in the full House and Senate, where the initial votes were 80-62 and 24-11, respectively.

“Classroom time is already at a premium and standardized testing mandates only increase the intensity of that. Parents and students in my community are seeking relief from these heavy-handed testing mandates,” said Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston. “Teachers and parents know what is best for their students, yet some school districts have been making it less than easy for parents to opt their children out.”

Standardized testing has been a frequent topic of discussion this legislative session.

The education committee voted unanimously last month to withdraw Maine from a standardized test known as Smarter Balanced and instead solicit proposals for new tests that include more input from educators.

That bill has not yet been voted on in the House or Senate.