Senate Republicans introduce education recovery plan

Helping students, educators recover from a year lost to COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Republicans on Thursday introduced a comprehensive plan to begin helping the state’s K-12 education system recover from a year of academic losses brought on by COVID-19.

The plan provides tools and resources to help parents, teachers and administrators get students back on track and implements changes to improve the state’s educational system.

“Michigan’s K-12 education system was completely disrupted by the coronavirus,” said Senate Education and Career Readiness Chairwoman Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton. “Through no fault of their own, students, parents, teachers and school administrators were thrown into an extraordinarily difficult situation due to the virus. This disruption has unfortunately caused too many students to struggle academically and fall behind on their grades, and some have even stopped participating in school altogether. The wide-ranging plan we are announcing is a positive step that will help our students recover academically and make Michigan a better place to teach and learn.”

To help students recover academically, the plan requires school districts to offer individual academic assessment and recovery plans by May 15. Schools would leverage existing benchmark assessment data and compare students’ current year academic performance against where they are expected to be. Individual plans would then be developed to help students get back to where they need to be — teachers would be asked to develop learning recovery plans for students in every subject for parental review no later than Aug. 14.

The legislation also would provide parents the express authority to retain a child to retake this year’s grade next year. The Senate plan would require certain benchmark data to be made public to help improve transparency and accountability and improve academic performance.

“The first step toward getting students and schools back on track after a difficult year is to assess learning loss and provide the necessary tools to help our children recover academically,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “This plan would address these needs and allow collaboration between parents and the education community to help reverse the negative impacts the coronavirus has left on society as we work toward a safe transition back to normal life.”

The Senate plan would help provide flexibility to address learning loss by delaying implementation of the third grade reading loss retention law until next school year, along with temporarily suspending the state’s M-STEP standardized test for the current academic year with a goal of eventually replacing it with a more broadly accepted exam. Districts would not be required to administer the Michigan Merit Exam but would still be required to offer traditional college entrance exams, such as the PSAT, SAT and ACT.

To help teachers and administrators, the plan makes significant changes to the evaluation process, recognizing the incredible challenge every Michigan educator has had to take on this academic year. Tracking student growth would be simplified for this year and it would not count as much toward a teacher’s or administrator’s overall performance rating.

Additionally, districts would have greater flexibility in hiring substitute teachers to help ensure more students receive in-person instruction in classrooms more often from now until the end of the summer.

“I’ve been working on issues surrounding our teacher and administrator evaluations for a few years now. It’s clear that M-STEP is absolutely the wrong way to evaluate student growth and teacher effectiveness,” said state Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “It’s even more imperative that we make changes this year as schools continue to deal with the extreme challenges created by the pandemic and don’t have M-STEP data from last year. I appreciate Chairwoman Theis’ dedication to listening to all voices across the state when developing these reforms.”

The 11-bill Senate Republican plan was referred to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee for consideration.

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