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Urging School Districts to Help Fight the COVID-19 Surge in Michigan

LANSING – State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice is urging Michigan school districts to support Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s call today to have high schools pause in-person learning and postpone youth sports for the next two weeks in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“Our recent COVID case numbers are the highest in the nation, and hospitalizations have climbed significantly in the last month. Michigan educators, students, and families have risen to the challenge over the past year, and I am confident they will continue to do what is needed to help save lives as we keep fighting the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “I support the recommendations of the governor. I urge schools to contribute the next two weeks toward the common good of our state and the health of our residents.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) denied Michigan’s request to waive the federal requirement for state summative assessments. As a result, local school districts will be expected to administer the state tests. These tests include the Michigan Merit Exam (MME), including SAT, for students in 11th grade.

Last year, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) requested and received federal waivers to required state summative assessments and school accountability requirements associated with those tests. In late January, given the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued to disrupt the education of Michigan’s 1.5 million students, MDE again requested waivers to federal requirements for state summative tests, as well as waivers of associated high-stakes accountability requirements. The accountability waivers were approved on March 26.

“We fought hard to waive state assessments again this year, but the U.S. Department of Education ignored Michigan’s very specific challenges during the pandemic, including our low percentages of students in in-person instruction and our recent COVID-19 cases, the highest in the nation,” Dr. Rice said. “We did receive a waiver for federal school accountability requirements that include the need for 95 percent student participation on the state tests, but not for the tests themselves.”

MDE has informed school districts that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not support requiring otherwise remote or virtual students to be brought into school solely for the purpose of state assessment. Districts will have to offer remote or virtual students the opportunity to come into school to take the appropriate state summative assessments. However, those remote-only students will not be required to come into school for the sole purpose of taking the assessments.

In the presence of the federal government’s denial of Michigan’s request to forego this year’s M-STEP, MME, and MI-ACCESS tests during the pandemic, the effect of local school districts supporting the governor’s call and pausing in-person instruction in high schools for the next two weeks is that state assessments will have to be pushed back to later dates in the testing windows.

Taking into consideration the unpredictability of the pandemic, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) added additional test dates and extended test windows for the state summative assessments, including the MME, to provide as much flexibility as possible during this unprecedented year.

MDE has also worked with the College Board to secure alternate dates for high school juniors to take the national SAT with essay exam. The original date is     April 13, with alternate dates of April 27 and May 18. The PSAT 8/9 exam for 9th graders has an original testing window of April 13-16, with an alternate testing window of April 27-May 7.

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