DeVos Tells Michigan Schools Not to Expect Federal Testing Waivers


Michigan schools should not anticipate waivers to allow schools to skip statewide testing for the upcoming school year, according to a letter sent by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to State Superintendent Michael Rice.

Rice and State Board of Education President Casandra Ulbrich had, in light of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, requested waivers from DeVos that would allow Michigan schools to skip student assessments typically required federally.

Although similar waivers had been granted for the end of the previous school year, when COVID-19 first made its appearance, DeVos said in her letter that schools should “not anticipate such waivers being granted again.”

“As you’ll recall, statewide assessments are at the very core of the bipartisan agreement that forged [Every Student Succeeds Act]. They are among the most reliable tools available to help us understand how children are performing in school. The data from assessments can help inform personalized support to children based on their individual needs and provide transparency about their progress,” DeVos said in her letter. “There is broad and consistent support for assessments because there is general agreement among the public that a student’s achievement should be measured, that parents deserve to know how their children are performing, and that it should be no secret how a school’s performance as a whole compares to other schools.”

Rice said in a statement published by the Michigan Department of Education that he disagreed with DeVos’s decision.

“We agree with the need to know where children are academically in a pandemic, but strongly disagree with the need to use spring state summative assessments for this purpose,” Rice said. “Recent state law requires benchmark assessments in the fall and in the spring of this school year for this purpose. We will be re-applying this winter for federal waivers from statewide summative test administration.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also pushed back on the decision.

Other administrators have also voiced concern.

Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, said DeVos’s decision was disappointing.

“The absence of assessment does not equate to the absence of learning. Schools are working overtime to ensure student learning takes place,” he told The Detroit News. “The insistence on dedicating class time to test preparation instead of student learning is a bad one and we hope the secretary reconsiders this decision.”

DeVos said that failing to test students will have “a lasting effect for years to come.”

“Not only will vulnerable students fall behind, but we will be abandoning the important, bipartisan reforms of the past two decades at a critical moment. Opponents of reform, like labor unions, have already begun to call for the permanent elimination of testing,” she said. “If they succeed in eliminating assessments, transparency and accountability will soon follow.”

Read DeVos’s full letter here.

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Jordyn Pair is a reporter at The Michigan Star and Star News Digital Media. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]






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