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Long-time Michigan educator decries forcing schools to conduct standardized testing during pandemic

Andrew Neel

June Teisan isn't a fan of national standardized testing for K-12 kids under the best of circumstances.

During a pandemic, when many school districts are offering remote instruction, she says it's unconscionable. But U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos says she will not grant waivers to states like Michigan that want to skip the testing this year.

Teisan taught at Harper Woods School District for 27 years. A former Michigan Teacher of the Year, and runner up for National Teacher of the Year, Teisan currently runs the school programs at Detroit's historic Belle Isle Aquarium. 

Teisan says the development of federal standardized testing had good intentions: to try to improve the educational achievement of minority, low-income and other at-risk students.

But she says it mainly forced teachers to "teach to the test," by focusing on the kind of knowledge acquisition that can "be looked up on Google these days," rather than the skills most parents and employers want for students, namely problem-solving and independent thinking.

Teisan says standardized testing takes too much money and time from actual teaching in the best of times.  But it was designed to be conducted in a face-to-face, monitored environment, not online. She suspects it won't be possible to do it properly online.

"This is a juggernaut of draining money from schools," Teisan says. "Money that could be spent right now in these difficult financial times much more appropriately."

Teisan was a guest on Stateside on Tuesday.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says failing to assess students will have a lasting effect for years to come, especially for vulnerable students. She says it was appropriate to grant waivers when the pandemic began in the spring this year, but schools have had enough time now to adjust.

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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