Michigan Department of Education announces online schooling will not count as instructional time

MDE not granting seat time waiver requests

(Photo by Klaus Pressberger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images) (Klaus Pressberger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

LANSING, Mich. – Following the closure of all elementary and secondary school buildings on March 16 the Michigan Department of Education has received questions regarding instructional time during the school closure period.

On Friday the MDE issued a memo stating online schooling would not count as instructional time.

This means the online platform schools developed and the lessons they delivered virtually will not count for instructional time and they will have to make up this week and next.

It also might mean going to school until the end of June or even longer, if students cannot return in April.

UPDATE: Online school work won’t count toward curriculum, state officials say

The memo cites the following two frequently asked questions and answers to them.

May an ISD or LEA/PSA offer qualifying professional development for instructional time during this period?

No. ISDs or LEAs may certainly offer professional learning to their employees (while following guidelines regarding crowd size and other considerations). However, this professional learning would not qualify for instructional time during this period of mandated school closure.

If an LEA or PSA can meet all requirements to transition to virtual learning, would the time during the mandated closure be counted as instructional time?

No. There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of mandated school closure. However, schools can and are encouraged to offer supplemental learning opportunities to students using distance learning methods as they see fit. MDE will not be granting seat time waiver requests during this time.

Great Lakes Education Project Executive Director Beth DeShone demanded the MDE immediately reverse course on its decision.

“Public school teachers, parents, and students have worked incredibly hard, night and day, to ensure learning and classwork continues even in the face of a public health crisis,” said DeShone. “MDE just told them to stop trying. Teachers’ and parents’ efforts should be commended, celebrated, and – most importantly – counted, not coldly discounted by bureaucrats in Lansing,” said DeShone.

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice explained the Michigan Department of Education’s decision.

“State law limits us in this situation – not for an individual child in an individual cyber school or an individual virtual course offering, but for children across the state, many of whom have no computers at home, no connectivity, and no adults to monitor their learning and/or technology,” said Dr. Rice.

“The state legislature should change state law to permit days out of school for this public health emergency to be counted as instructional days. Last year, the state legislature took similar action with the polar vortex January 29 through February 2, 2019,” Dr. Rice added. “Under the current conditions, the legislature should make clear in law that the school year will not be extended into the summer.”

Current state law requires schools to have 75 percent student attendance each day in order for a district to receive full state funding for that day. Attendance is impossible to determine and verify when traditional public schools not designed to provide distance learning strategies need to do so, according to the department.

“According to state law governing education delivered in traditional public schools, we can’t count instructional time if we can’t count students,” Dr. Rice said.