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State Education Leaders Urge National Waiver of State Assessments

March 17, 2020

LANSING – Michigan’s president of the State Board of Education and its state superintendent urged U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments.

With the current coronavirus pandemic closing schools in Michigan and across the United States for weeks leading up to scheduled statewide assessments, State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice wrote to DeVos to say that federally mandated state testing should be waived this year in favor of focusing on the more immediate needs of children.

“It’s time for Betsy DeVos to do the right thing on behalf of our students and waive statewide assessments,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “When our kids get back to school, our number one priority must be ensuring they have the resources they need to get back on track.”

Dr. Rice noted, “When we return to school, the focus should be on tending to children’s immediate needs: physical, socioemotional, and academic. In many cases, children will have experienced trauma. In other cases, they will simply need to be re-acclimated 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.”

Michigan’s annual M-STEP tests are scheduled to begin the week of April 13 and run through May 28. An executive order by Governor Whitmer closed all K-12 schools in Michigan for a three-week period, from March 16 through April 5. The trajectory and duration of the pandemic remain uncertain.

“For a variety of reasons, this is not simply an undesirable situation; it is a completely unacceptable one,” Drs. Ulbrich and Rice included in their letter to DeVos. “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.”

Any state summative assessment results would not be an accurate reflection of student learning given the tremendous disruption in children’s education and lives during this extraordinary period, Dr. Rice added.

“Upon return to school, our focus nationally should be on instruction, supports, and nurturing of students, not on state summative assessments,” the letter to DeVos added. “By waiving the requirement nationally to provide state assessments under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, you help schools put students first and focus on providing the supports that students will need in the coming weeks and months.”

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