When I was taking graduate education classes at Texas Tech University about five years ago, I helped create a short video documentary about “test anxiety” as a final project for one of my classes with others. Unfortunately we could not get releases from the parents of all the kids we interviewed, so we couldn’t (and I still can’t) publish and share that video online. I think that short video would communicate in multiple voices and from diverse perspectives the test anxiety issues my middle daughter has been experiencing this week.

Molly: A Dog With A Lot On Her Mind
Creative Commons License photo credit: miscpix

Two nights ago, Sarah wrote a post on our family learning blog about the impending 3rd grade state mandated tests without prompting from anyone. That night at dinner, and again last night, it was apparent she was upset and really feeling anxious. We discussed her feelings and how she could deal with those feelings. Her brother reminded her that “It’s a just a test of the minimums that everyone should be able to do.” I think that is a good perspective to have, but it didn’t seem to help Sarah.

Today at school, Sarah called in the morning that her stomach was hurting. She ended up coming home and spending the day there. She actually threw up shortly after she got home, but she didn’t run a fever or show any other subsequent, outward signs of being ill. She stated she thought the problem was her worries about the test. Unfortunately, the tests aren’t given for another two weeks. I actually go into school in the morning for parent volunteer training as a test monitor. Sarah is going to have to deal with these anxieties, but so far I don’t think we’re providing her with very good suggestions for how to do that besides giving her love, support, and encouragement.

Some kids have test anxiety, and some kids don’t, or at least some show few if any outward signs of their anxieties. Sarah has a wonderful teacher, and my wife visited with her today after school about the situation. I am confident Sarah is going to receive some extra support and TLC at school, and hopefully that will help. We all need to have high expectations for our kids when it comes to their achievement at school and their learning, but it is unfortunate that our current climate of high stakes testing can become operationalized in the lives of children with anxiety that leads to things like today.

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On this day..

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3 Responses to Test Anxiety Woes

  1. Kent Chesnut says:

    I’m thankful my kids and I were spared this sort of anxiety.
    Sarah’s post makes it clear that they are being told (or warned) about how few problems they can afford to miss and still be considered “advanced”.

    But Wes, what are the ramifications of the test to the child (besides the stress)? Is this just the NCLB nonsense needed by the school to show adequate yearly progress? Or does it somehow affect the child? Does it affect their movement on to the fourth grade?

    I think you’re on track with the help you’re providing; love, support, encouragement. If the test makes no real difference to her, that info might help a little. If she’s a perfectionist, there might be nothing you can do but to make sure she knows that it’s OK to be not perfect (as a parent, I know we all can come up with examples of our imperfections to share with our kids… and if we can’t, we could always just ask them).

    Best of luck over the next couple of weeks,

  2. […] Test Anxiety Woes « Moving at the Speed of Creativity […]

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Kent: The test result doesn’t have an impact on a student’s actual advancement to the next grade at the 3rd grade level. If students do not pass in 5th grade, they receive formal remediation in math and/or reading in 6th grade. If they do not pass in 8th grade, they are not allowed to get a driver’s license. I’m not sure about testing in grades beyond 8.

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