Michigan’s education leaders are asking for federal approval to halt mandatory student exams for the 2020-21 school year.
“The long absence from in-person instruction will present challenges for many students as they return to class,” Casandra Ulbrich, president of the state school board, said in a statement Wednesday. “The focus should be on tending to children’s immediate needs: physical, socioemotional, and academic.”
She and State Superintendent Michael Rice sent a letter to Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, asking for a suspension of federal testing and academic accountability requirements. DeVos granted nationwide waivers of such requirements for the 2019-20 school year, when the coronavirus pandemic forced school buildings to close and learning was moved online for students who had the proper technology. Those who didn’t were provided paper academic packets.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released guidelines for re-opening schools.
When in-person learning resumes, schools will have to address a range of needs, Rice and Ulbrich said in the their letter. “In many cases, children will have experienced trauma,” they wrote. “In other cases, they will simply need to be reacclimated 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.”
They also noted that there could be a disruption to the 2020-21 school year that would make testing difficult.
“We understand that there is a strong possibility that a second wave of the pandemic could require schools to close again to protect the lives of Michiganders,” they wrote.