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Opinion | How are Michigan kids doing amid COVID? Standardized tests will tell

Alexa Kramer
Alexa Kramer is director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce (courtesy photo)

Michigan’s leading business organizations recently sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Education and our United States Department of Education opposing a waiver to dismiss this year’s state summative assessment. The letter focuses on the importance of data during this unprecedented time.

 Data collection is a key step in driving necessary reforms. The Grand Rapids Chamber supports clear and transparent data collection to inform our policy efforts, especially when it comes to the education of Michigan’s students. In fact, our legislative priorities specifically call for transparent accountability and the use of a consistent state assessment that is cost efficient, equitable, rigorous, aligned to the Michigan state standards and comparable to other states.

 Without this critical information, we cannot accurately take action to support the areas of greatest need. Michigan cannot move forward if we don’t know where we stand.

 The Chamber’s Education & Workforce Development Committee has approached this issue like we always do – with an equity lens. We are continuously failing our most vulnerable students and we cannot continue down this path.

 The fact is, if we keep delaying the results of these assessments, we are only delaying the deployment of appropriate interventions and resources to address growing achievement gaps. And without data, we will simply be guessing. The Grand Rapids Chamber stands ready to rally with our educational system for the best outcomes for all students.

 After a uniquely challenging year, the results of these assessments may be disheartening, but we need those results to move forward in the most effective way. Losing this data doesn’t mean we are serving our most vulnerable students any better – it means we are simply turning a blind eye to those who most need our help. We need to be honest with ourselves and our students.  We can’t get better without data. And we NEED to do better. 

 Given the challenges this year presents, the data itself may not be perfect. It likely never is, but that is OK. As the mathematician Charles Babbag said, “Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”  To do better and achieve more, we owe this to kids.


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