MDE Responds to Fed’s Denial of Waiver for State Assessments

The Michigan Department of Education 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.

That policy guidance was issued in light of the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of Michigan’s request to waive mandated state assessments this spring amid a global pandemic.

Districts will have to offer remote or virtual students the opportunity to come into school to take the appropriate state summative assessments, MDE said in a statement issued Wednesday. However, those remote-only students will not be required to come into school for the sole purpose of taking the assessments.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said the federal department’s decision to require statewide testing demonstrated a “disconnect from conditions in public schools in Michigan and across the country,” noting that “Michigan has the highest rates of recent COVID-19 cases and recent cases per 100,000 in the nation at the moment.”

In late January, MDE 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.

“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?”

With the USED decision, local school districts will be expected to administer the state tests as scheduled. These tests include M-STEP for students in grades 3-8; PSAT 8/9 for students in 8th grade; MME, including SAT, for students in 11th grade; MI-ACCESS for students receiving special education services in grades 3-8 and 11; and WIDA for students in English learner programs in grades K-12.

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