LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday denied Michigan’s request to waive standardized testing for this school year, meaning students who have had a “brutally difficult” year learning amid the COIVD-19 pandemic must take tests this spring, according the Michigan Department of Education.
This is the second straight year that Michigan has requested a waiver for standardized testing such as the M-STEP and SAT. State education officials instead wanted to focus on other metrics for academic progress and support students emotionally during a disrupted academic year. Last school year, the federal agency waived standardized testing for the state.
“With its decision today to deny Michigan’s request to waive M-STEP testing in the midst of the pandemic, USED continues to demonstrate its disconnect from conditions in public schools in Michigan and across the country," state Superintendent Michael Rice said in a news release.
In January, Rice appealed to the federal agency in his request, saying there is no safe and uniform way to administer standardized tests because the state would not pull students into schools who have remained fully online for safety reasons. Online test taking isn't a solution because of inconsistent internet connections and noisy home environments, he said.
Michigan's Education Department had hoped that benchmark assessments now required by the state would be a substitute to measure what students learned during the pandemic, giving teachers and parents an opportunity to find out where students need extra help.
“Is it any wonder that educators are leaving the profession when, in a pandemic, USED insists that Michigan use time, which should be dedicated to children’s social emotional and academic growth, to test a portion of its students to generate data that will inform precisely nothing about our children’s needs that we won’t already know more substantially and quickly with benchmark assessments this year," Rice said in the release.
The federal agency honored some other waivers the state asked for in January, including providing progress reports with long-term goals for schools and the requirement for 95% of students to participate in testing or risk losing federal funding.
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.