School superintendents release pandemic-related legislative priorities

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Posted at 9:58 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 09:58:49-05

WEST MICHIGAN — School superintendents across West Michigan released on Wednesday their COVID-19 pandemic legislative priorities, which they say are designed to mitigate the academic, social, emotional and physical challenges stemming from the pandemic.

They’re calling for adequate funding to schools, along with relief from what they call “burdensome” state and federal laws.

“We know the pandemic will require schools to provide additional services to meet the needs of students, staff and families,” said Kyle Mayer, superintendent of Ottawa Area ISD. “We require continued financial support from our federal and state governments in the coming years.”

Another priority is pausing the state’s federally-mandated standardized test, M-STEP, this spring.

The superintendents say education experts around the country agree data collected this year would not be considered valid or reliable because of the upheaval caused by the pandemic – and time is better spent on teaching and learning.

“School districts are already assessing students on an ongoing basis,” said Bob Szymoniak, superintendent of Fruitport Community Schools. “We need to focus our energy on meeting children’s academic and social-emotional needs, not spending the better part of the spring on redundant standardized testing.”

Superintendents are also calling for adjustments to the state’s teacher evaluation laws.

Current law requires 40% of evaluations to be based on standardized test scores.

“The laws governing teacher evaluations were not passed with a pandemic in mind,” said John Severson, superintendent of Muskegon Area ISD. “It’s unfair to our educators to have a significant portion of their evaluation be based on old standardized test scores that aren’t reflective of their current job performance.”

The final priority calls for greater expediency in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to educators and staff, which they say will also support the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population.

“We are beginning to make progress on the vaccination front, but there are far too many educators still waiting,” said Andy Ingall, superintendent of Grand Haven Area Public Schools. “Expanding vaccine access will ensure safe learning environments for our staff and students.”

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