Federal government will not invite “blanket waivers” of standardized testing, but Michigan superintendent says there is flexibility in the event of a pandemic
Thousands of Michigan students are learning virtually, but schools are still required to perform standardized tests this spring, but they will have more flexibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Department of Justice recently informed. Education.
Last week, the Biden administration offered school leaders guidance for administering statewide summative assessments, including flexibility to administer shorter versions of government-mandated state exams. federal government, offer them remotely and delay testing.
But in a letter to state education officials, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Ian Rosenblum wrote that standardized testing is too crucial to collect data on the impact of COVID-19 on learning for be phased out in 2021.
“We must be prepared to address the educational inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including using student learning data to enable states, school districts and schools to target resources and supports to students with the highest levels of education. greater needs, ”Rosenblum wrote.
The guidelines come after Michigan’s second request that the federal government waive standardized testing for 2021 due to the pandemic. Michigan Superintendent Michael Rice has argued that exams cannot be administered fairly and safely while thousands of students are still at home learning remotely – many without d consistent Internet access.
Former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos allowed Michigan to forgo standardized testing in the spring of 2020 as schools abruptly switched to distance learning at the start of the pandemic, but denied the first waiver request for 2021 in September.
While the federal government has said states will have to administer the exams, the Michigan Department of Education has understood that the Feb. 22 guidelines “are not a blanket acceptance or rejection of anything, but rather a advisability of submitting specific derogation considerations to the State “.
“The letter says there won’t be a cookie-cutter approach like the pandemic started last year,” Rice said in a Feb.24 Michigan Department of Education article. . Press release. “What USED (US Department of Education) basically said is that it’s open to considerations on the accountability side and a little less open on the evaluation side.”
On Tuesday, March 2, Rice said Michigan’s waiver request was still pending.
“We expect to get a response from USED to our waiver request before the legal deadline,” Rice said in a statement Tuesday. “The MDE is prepared to administer state assessments in the event that a federal waiver is not approved. “
In her Jan. 25 request to the federal government, Rice argued that a majority of students received no in-person, if not inconsistent, instruction during the 2020-21 school year.
He called on the federal government to drop Michigan’s standardized test, the M-STEP, and replace it with locally administered benchmark assessments.
Michigan education officials say there is still a chance that will happen.
“We expect to get a response from USED to our waiver request before the legal deadline,” Rice said Tuesday. “The MDE is prepared to administer state assessments in the event that a federal waiver is not approved. “
Boards of the Biden administration have recognized that some school districts may not be able to safely administer the state’s standardized tests using their standardized practices. Rosenblum said the federal Department of Education will work with states to meet their individual needs.
“Certainly, we don’t believe that if there are places where students cannot safely attend school in person due to the pandemic, they should be brought into school buildings for the sole purpose of take a test, ”Rosenblum wrote.
While Rice recognized the importance of collecting data on learning loss, he argued that it can be done with benchmark assessments instead of standardized tests.
“We are able to discern where children are academically for parents and educators with our baseline assessments, and we can use the assessments to target resources, interventions and supports for our children in our. districts, ”Rice said Feb. 23 after the federal conference. guidelines have been published.
Bay City Public Schools Superintendent Steve Bigelow previously told MLive that benchmark assessments, such as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), allow educators to track student progress throughout the year, while standardized tests only provide a ‘snapshot’ of where students are. students at the end of the year.
But Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest, argued that local assessments don’t force all students to meet the same standards and expectations. She issued a declaration February 23 in support of the federal government denying a general waiver of standardized testing.
“They do not provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities or English learners as required by federal law for statewide assessments; they are not peer reviewed to ensure quality and avoid bias; and the results of these assessments will not be comparable from district to district, ”Arellano wrote.
In federal guidelines, Rosenblum said states would be allowed to seek exemptions from school accountability and identification requirements in the Primary and Secondary Education Act, which would also reduce the requirement that 95 % of students pass exams.
Rice said the guidelines marked “the start of a new part of the process that may take some time.”
“I appreciate that during the pandemic the US Department of Education recognized the need for a number of flexibilities, including school identification, accountability and turnout,” Rice said.
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