LANSING, Mich., April 12, 2022 — Michigan students are returning from Spring Breaks and starting the standardized testing process for M-STEP and Michigan Merit Exams, following another tumultuous school year punctuated by surges of COVID-19 delta and omicron variants. School districts are implementing COVID-19 Rescue dollars to address academic supports, emotional support services, and facilities that have been identified by respective communities. Educational professional staffing shortages have presented additional challenge for schools and instruction.
State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) led a bipartisan coalition of legislators to create a package of education bills targeted at providing students, staff and schools grace in light of the constantly fluctuating COVID-19 conditions. Data gathered from standardized testing helps to guide data-driven decision making by school districts and educational bodies for the purpose of improving outcomes. Leaders in educational organizations agree that closing the gap from instructional delays due to COVID-19 disruptions may take years to attain reasonable expectations for on grade-level achievement. The epidemic hasn’t even resolved, yet punitive consequences are still in place. These bills would prevent students, educators, administrators and schools from being penalized due to standardized testing scores administered during COVID-19.
“Our students are struggling with increased mental health stressors like anxiety and depression, adjusting to returning to person instruction, and working to meet accelerated instructional approaches. Students have already been through so much during the last two years,” said Stone, sponsor of HB 5991. “Let alone the stress of sitting down to take assessments designed to measure academic achievement that exceed reasonable expectations. We should be commending them, not subjecting them to standards that even under ideal circumstances are questionable.”
“Measuring Michigan schools against the same standards and expectations under ideal instructional conditions. The A-F school grading model is the last thing our school boards and administrators need to be thinking about as they move forward,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), sponsor of HB 5995. “We have a responsibility to ensure that schools have the resources they need to educate and support our students as they adjust and accelerate instruction. Waiving letter grades for schools for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years is a good place to start.”
“As the sister of an educator, I know just how challenging the COVID-19 pandemic has been on our teachers, students, administrators and schools,” said state Rep. Julie M. Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), sponsor of HB 5994. “To say this situation has been disruptive is an understatement. We should not be penalizing those who have been on front lines helping our children navigate these unprecedented circumstances. I am proud to sponsor this legislation and will continue to advocate for it to advance.”
“Even under the best circumstances, tying teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores was dubious,” said state Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park), sponsor of HB 5993. “To continue the practice this year after everything our students and teachers have been through would be cruel and counterproductive. Our educators need to be focused on teaching our students the skills they need to be successful, not how to take a test.”
The legislation has been referred to the House Education Committee and is awaiting a hearing. The package includes House Bills 5991-5995:
- HB 5991 (Stone) would waive the Third-Grade Reading Retention Law for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.
- HB 5992 & 5993 (Rep. Bronna Kahle & Weiss) would waive the student data from teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.
- HB 5994 (Rogers) would waive the student data from administrator evaluations for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years.
- HB 5995 (Carter) would waive letter grades for schools for 2020, 2021 and 2022 school years.