Michigan Offers To Waive Online Testing Requirement for Some Schools

By Sam Atkeson — October 10, 2014 2 min read
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Online standardized testing aligned to the Common Core State Standards is set to begin this spring, but as Education Week’s Catherine Gewertz recently reported, many schools are still scrambling to prepare. In Michigan, some administrators are expressing last-minute concerns about the technological readiness of their schools.

The Michigan Department of Education is giving schools until November 7 to request waivers for online testing, which would allow them to continue to use paper and pencil exams for one year, the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to the state’s education department, 12 schools have requested waivers for the spring summative assessments.

The logistical challenges posed by large-scale online testing implementation have been a source of anxiety, and even frustration, for many states since the adoption of the Common Core State Standards began in 2010. Schools have faced a range of issues including poor connectivity, insufficient hardware, and software glitches.

Education Week reporter Sean Cavanagh reported this past June that roughly 60 percent of about 1,000 K-12 officials surveyed nationwide by the Software & Information Industry Association did not feel their schools had the bandwidth or devices to make them ready for online testing.

In Michigan, a report released earlier this year found that while nearly 80 percent of schools did meet the “minimum” technology-readiness standards put forward by Smarter Balanced—one of the two main consortia creating online assessments aligned to the common core—far fewer school systems met the consortium’s “recommended” specification.

And even the recommended standards represented a lower tech threshold than what state officials believed would be necessary, director of the state’s office of standards and assessment Vince Dean told Cavanagh in an interview following the report’s release.

Over the past two years, Michigan has spent more than $100 million to support district technology improvements and professional development efforts, including those surrounding the transition to online testing.

But with the spring 2015 deadline drawing near, Judie Pritchett, chief academic officer for Michigan’s Macomb Intermediate School District, told the Free Press that some schools are reporting a shortage of laptops, tablets, and other devices necessary to administer the tests.

Jan Ellis, a spokesperson for Michigan’s education department, told Education Week that schools have lingering questions about what exactly the implementation of online testing will require.

Ellis said the department plans to speak with those schools that have submitted a waiver request in an effort to address their concerns and provide what assistance they can. Afterwards, schools may or may not decide to follow through with their decision to opt out of online testing this spring.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.