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Michigan seeks federal waiver to cancel M-STEP test this year

kids at computers
U.S. Department of Education
Creative Commons

In yet another step that would have been unthinkable just a week ago, Michigan is asking the federal government for a waiver on federally-mandated statewide student assessments this year.

In Michigan, that assessment is the M-STEP test. It’s given to all 3rd-8th and 11th graders in public schools. It was scheduled to start the week of April 13 and run through May 28.

But Michigan schools are shut down through at least April 5, and the state notes that the “trajectory and duration of the pandemic remain uncertain.”

Given that reality, State Superintendent Michael Rice and State Board of Education Chair Casandra Ulbrich argue in a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that it would be unfair and counterproductive to administer the M-STEP this year.

“When we return to school, the focus should be on tending to children’s immediate needs: physical, socioemotional, and academic,” Rice said. “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.”

“For a variety of reasons, this is not simply an undesirable situation; it is a completely unacceptable one,” the letter to DeVos argues. “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.”

Rice said he will also work with state legislators to waive state requirements for administering the M-STEP.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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