Advance Notice: Briefs

Ed leaders to DeVos: Waive standardized tests due to Michigan school closures

By: - March 17, 2020 6:10 pm

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits Detroit Edison Public School Academy, Sept. 20, 2019 | Allison Donahue

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to close all K-12 schools for three weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and state education leaders are calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to waive the national requirement of standardized student assessment tests. 

State Superintendent Michael Rice and state Board of Education President Casandra Ulbrich on Tuesday wrote a letter to DeVos, a West Michigan native, calling the requirement “unacceptable” under current circumstances. 

Mandated by state and federal law, Michigan’s standardized M-STEP tests are scheduled to begin the week of April 13 and continue through May 28.

Michigan’s school closure period began Monday and is expected to last until April 5, but many schools have spring break scheduled the week of April 6.

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“Many children will struggle with the long absence from school. It will take many districts a considerable period of time to resume normal functioning, not to mention refocusing on the instruction of children,” Rice and Ulbrich wrote.

The letter states that state education leaders on Friday inquired about a waiver, but were told that it would only be permitted if the window for state testing overlapped with the closure period. 

“In many cases, children will have experienced trauma. In other cases, they will simply need to be reacclimated into their schools. In all cases, students will have missed instruction, and this lost instruction will render any conclusions about test results dubious, especially any comparisons across school years and in light of the pending public health concerns of parents, students, and staff,” Rice and Ulbrich wrote. 

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Whitmer echoed the state Department of Education in a statement Tuesday.

“It’s time for Betsy DeVos to do the right thing on behalf of our students and waive statewide assessments,” she said.

Ulbrich and Rice wrote that any summative test results would not be accurate due to the disruption in learning from the closures. 

Rice said he will be working with state legislators to waive the requirements in state law to administer the M-STEP tests.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.