Likely cancellation of all state tests would allow Michigan to put third-grade reading law on hold for a year

Michigan students will almost undoubtedly not have to take the M-STEP this year, after the federal government said Friday it would allow states to cancel exams because of widespread school closures.

The cancellation of state exams will mean the end, for at least a year, of Michigan’s Read by Grade 3 law, which required that beginning this year, schools would have to hold back some struggling third-graders whose scores on the M-STEP exam show they are a grade or more behind in reading.

Friday’s announcement comes a week after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all public and private schools in Michigan to shut down for several weeks to hep curb the spread of the coronavirus. And it comes days after several state officials urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to issue a nationwide waiver from testing.

“It’s not the nationwide waiver that we called for, but assuming it provides the level of flexibility we are hoping for, it’s the next best thing,” said Casandra Ulbrich, president of the state Board of Education.

DeVos is requiring states to fill out a streamlined waiver form. Ulbrich said states can expect a response within 24 hours.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to put this to rest very quickly,” Ulbrich said.

As for the third-grade retention law, Ulbrich said an additional year “gives the Legislature some additional time if they want to go back and re-evaluate the law. It gives schools and districts more time to be able to implement best practices and reading instruction they might not have had before.”