LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Education announced Monday that federal accountability procedures requiring high participation rates and progress goals will be waived for the 2020-2021 school year due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on classrooms.

The U.S. Department of Education said in a letter last week that the intent of waiving some accountability requirements is so the state can focus on creating assessments to keep parents, teachers and other stakeholders in the loop about student needs as COVID-19 has disrupted their education.

The state is also seeking a waiver from standardized testing for this school year, instead favoring benchmark assessments to see if students are maintaining the pace in their education. The education department said it is still reviewing that request.

Now is the time to forgo standardized testing so educators can focus less on test results and more on the upkeep of students' emotional well-being and education longevity, state Superintendent Michael Rice said in a news release Monday.

“This has been an extremely challenging year for students and educators,” Rice said. “USED’s waiver of federal accountability requirements recognizes that our schools are still navigating their way through a deadly pandemic that continues to grip our state and nation.”

In January, Rice expressed concerns about student participation and safety during the pandemic in a request to waive standardized testing. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires 95% of students take the tests or Michigan could have federal funding pulled.

Last March, Michigan was allowed to waive standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year.

The state department of education instead is advocating for twice-a-year benchmark assessments to be used to measure student success of K-8 students after the state created a requirement for such examinations last summer.


Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.