The US Department of Education rejected a request by Michigan officials to allow the state exam to be canceled this year, a move one state education official called “shameful.” .
âIt’s more than disappointing. It’s shameful, âCasandra Ulbrich, president of the Michigan Board of Education, said in a statement Tuesday night. “USED had the opportunity to do the right thing for the right reasons, and instead chose to appease special interests rather than support students.”
The denial means Michigan schools can begin administering state exams starting Monday. But there is enough flexibility to make the results difficult to analyze. For starters, the federal ministry previously said schools would not be held accountable for rules that require 95% of its students to be tested.
And the Michigan Department of Education has told districts that distance-learning students don’t need to be tested.
âThe MDE has informed school districts that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not support requiring that otherwise distant or virtual students be brought to school only for state assessment purposes. A statement from the State Department said.
In its letter of rejection, the federal ministry made a similar assurance to the districts:
“We don’t believe that if there are places where students cannot go to school safely in person due to the pandemic, they should be brought into school buildings for the sole purpose of passing a test, “wrote Ian Rosenblum, deputy assistant secretary. for policies and programs.
The Michigan Department of Education said districts must offer virtual students the option of entering school to take the state exam. This can be especially important for students who wish to take the SAT.
In late March, the federal department approved a Michigan request – to waive most school liability rules. This waiver means the state won’t have to rank schools largely on the basis of test scores.
On two occasions this school year, Michigan has called on the federal government to waive testing requirements. In its most recent request, the state said it wanted to allow the use of locally chosen assessments – called benchmark exams – to meet federal testing requirements. Baseline assessments are administered multiple times during a school year and allow educators to track improvement during that year.
State law passed last summer requires districts to pass such an exam and administer it twice this school year.
Michigan’s denial of waiver was not surprising. South Carolina, which requested a similar waiver that would allow the use of benchmarks, was also denied.
State Superintendent Michael Rice released a statement saying the Federal Department “continues to demonstrate its disconnection from conditions in public schools in Michigan and across the country.” Michigan currently has the highest rates of recent COVID-19 cases and recent cases per 100,000 in the country.
Says Rice, âIs it any wonder educators are leaving the profession when, in the event of a pandemic, USED insists Michigan uses time, which should be spent on children’s social, emotional and academic growth, to test a part of its students in order to generate data that will inform precisely nothing about the needs of our children that we will already not know more substantially and quickly with the baseline assessments this year? “
Michigan state exams include the M-STEP, several additional state exams, and the SAT. Exam scores are used for accountability purposes.
In its denial letter, Rosenblum said the state had failed to demonstrate “specific circumstances that would warrant waiving the statewide annual assessment requirements and, in particular, failing to not administer statewide assessments at all. “
âObtaining data on student learning includes high-quality statewide assessments, which can help identify where the opportunity gaps are persistent and have been exacerbated – particularly during pandemic – and, along with other data, can help states direct resources and support to address these gaps, âRosenblum wrote.
Jennifer Mrozowski, spokesperson for the Education Trust-Midwest, an education and research advocacy organization, applauded the federal decision, saying they “have taken an important step in ensuring that parents, Michigan educators and policymakers have essential data to better understand the impact of this unprecedented period of unfinished learning. Student assessment data will also be critical in indicating how to fairly invest state and government dollars. federal government so that funding is directed where it is most needed.