Should schools have to administer all required standardized tests during COVID-19 budget crunch?

Empty classroom covid-19
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 18:25:31-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Schools leaders are hearing that they should expect significant budget cuts next year due to a decrease in tax revenue due to COVID-19. Are there laws that could be changed to save schools money due to this crisis?

“No parent wants their kid to be stuck in front of a computer lab for hours and hours when they get back to school when the kids need face time with their teachers,” said State Senator Dayna Polehanki, D-District 7.

Polehanki says she is working on legislation to waive laws requiring schools to do at least some of the standardized tests they are required to. She knows first hand about standardized tests. She says in her 20 years as a teacher she often administered them.

“I calculated one year that in a typical eleventh grader with an AP class they were doing maybe 31 hours of testing,” she said.

The tests and administering them are expensive.

“I can think of one test, in particular, the WorkKeys test that is administered in 11th grade. I do believe that is a $4 million test a year,” she pointed out.

“The M-STEP alone, the state spends about $25 million dollars a year just in contracting with the companies administering it,” said Robert McCann, Executive Director of Tri-County Alliance for Public Education.

TCA is lobbying the state, on behalf of schools in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties, for flexibility. He says it is hard to say exactly how much money is spent on testing because it is hard to calculate the cost of classroom preparation. But the number is large.

“We are talking tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on just these tests,” said McCann.

One issue is that the MSTEP is used to help the state qualify for federal funding.

The state’s education leaders have called on the federal government to change that due to COVID-19 - but have been told if school is in session in person - the tests are required.

State Senator Polehanki says she is not calling for a waiver of all tests but is working with school leaders to shorten the list to just ones that in our current and unusual environment really help kids.