AUGUSTA — Members of a legislative committee on Monday overwhelmingly opposed eliminating the Common Core education standards in Maine schools but endorsed a bill that would require the state to drop a current standardized test that is aligned with Common Core.

The Common Core bill, L.D. 1396, is part of a nationwide movement led by critics of the national educational standards for math and English that have been adopted by 45 states since 2009. Several states have since withdrawn from the program, amid concerns about the content and opposition by some to the trend toward nationalized education.

After hearing hours of testimony last week, members of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted 12-1 on Monday to reject the bill to withdraw Maine from the Common Core standards. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Karen Gerrish, R-Lebanon.

Committee members voted 9-4 to reject another bill, L.D. 695, which would require the Maine Department of Education to notify parents of their right to opt out of standardized tests for their children.

Lawmakers did endorse a bill that would direct the Department of Education to explore a new set of standardized tests.

In March, Maine students began taking a new state assessment test known as the Smarter Balanced test, which is aligned with the new Common Core state standards. Maine is one of 18 states participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that created the online tests. But some have criticized the tests.

L.D. 1276, which was endorsed by the committee by a unanimous vote, directs Maine to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced consortium and instead solicit proposals for new tests created with more input from educators and the public.

Legislators on the education committee had heard eight hours of public testimony last Monday from people expressing support for eliminating Common Core education standards, dropping the annual Smarter Balanced tests, and easing the new, more rigorous proficiency-based graduation standards.

Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the teachers union and advocacy organization Maine Education Association, said she was “ecstatic” at the committee’s vote on the Smarter Balanced tests.

TEACHERS’ ADVOCATE ‘ECSTATIC’

“The Maine Education Association has been wary of the Smarter Balanced Assessment since it was selected by the state,” Kilby-Chesley said in a statement. “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.”

The education committee also unanimously supported a bill to create a 15-member working group to explore how to move ahead with the state’s plans for “standards-based diplomas” aimed at ensuring students are proficient in key subject areas before graduating.

“There are some major issues that need to be addressed before standards based is adopted fully throughout Maine, and I’m glad the committee recognizes this urgency.” Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “The transition from students sitting in their seats and getting a grade to showing proficiency is difficult and this stakeholder group is crucial to keeping momentum statewide.”

The bills now go to the full Legislature for consideration.