State Board of Education Strongly Urges Legislature to Waive State Assessments and Accountability if USED Does Likewise

Contact: Marilyn Schneider, State Board of Education Executive 517-241-7161
Agency: Education

March 9, 2021

LANSING – The State Board of Education today unanimously adopted a resolution to strongly urge the Michigan legislature to relieve added burden on Michigan students and waive all state laws requiring the administration of statewide summative assessments and associated high-stakes accountability requirements for the 2020-2021 school year as a result of the disruption in schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, if the U.S. Department of Education (USED) approves waivers to federal laws that do the same.

“I think that of all years, it is safe to say that this year is one in which giving a state summative assessment makes absolutely no sense,” said State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich. “These tests, at least this year, cannot be offered to all students appropriately given the fact that some students are still learning at a distance and some are in-person.

“You cannot give these tests remotely and accurately, in which case the data will lack both validity and reliability. The resulting data will be fundamentally flawed,” Dr. Ulbrich said. “And yet, if we continue down this road, we will be making high stakes decisions that could include holding children back based on a summative assessment at a time when they are taking these tests in extremely challenging circumstances.

The Michigan Department of Education has a request pending with USED to waive the federally required statewide summative assessments for the 2020-2021 school year and associated high-stakes accountability requirements and will continue discussions with USED on its declared offer of flexibility to states on such issues.

Michigan’s legislature passed, and the governor signed, a state law last summer to require public school districts to administer locally chosen, national benchmark assessments to measure where students are academically at the beginning and end of this school year, and for districts to share that information with parents and educators.

The data gathered from those benchmark assessments have helped and will continue to help local school districts focus resources and determine interventions and supports for students.

“Benchmark assessments are a much better offering and a much better use of teachers’ and students’ time,” Dr. Ulbrich said. “They provide everything necessary for an assessment during a pandemic. They safeguard the time and attention for both students and educators, and give information to parents so they can understand where their children are academically and in a timely manner.”

The resolution states that given the presence of benchmark assessments, schools need to continue focusing as much time as possible on the academic and social emotional needs of their students.

In recognition of this disruption and the public health threats present amidst the growing pandemic last spring, the U.S. Secretary of Education approved the requests of the Michigan Department of Education and other states to waive state summative assessments and associated high-stakes accountability requirements tied to those assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.