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Survey: Parents Say State Testing is Hurting Young Kids

Many said the pressure to do well on state exams caused their kids to feel physically ill.

A recent survey distributed by New York principals asked 8,000 parents across the state how their kids in grades 3-8 felt about the English Language Arts and Mathematics state assessments and the response was overwhelming: it's hurting them in more ways than one.

The state recently passed legislation — the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) — that uses state test scores to evaluate not only students, but teachers as well. Parents said the stress of prepping for these exams for a large chunk of the school year compounded with the results impacting their teachers is overwhelming for young kids. During the exams, kids undergo six days of testing.

According to the survey, 75 percent reported their child was more anxious in the month before the test; nearly 80 percent said that test prep prevented their child from engaging in meaningful school activities, and 70 percent reported that the increased emphasis on high stakes testing has had a negative impact on their child’s school.

In addition to taking the survey, more than 4,000 parents left comments on how testing has affected their kids, and many of them said the test as well as the prep leading up to it has caused a variety of problems like:

  • Physical symptoms caused by test anxiety, including tics, asthma attacks, acid reflux, vomiting.
  • Sleep disruption, crying
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Feelings of failure, increasing as the tests progresses
  • Complaints of severe boredom and restlessness from students who finished early and were required to sit still for the full 90 minutes of each test.

One parent who commented in the survey said: "Last night's comment by my son, Max, who is in fifth grade. 'I feel too much pressure to do well on the ELA test. I have to do well to show that I know what I am supposed to know. I also have to do really well for my teachers. I really like and respect my reading and writing teachers. If all of their students don't do well, they'll get bad grades. I don't want to be responsible for making my teachers fail!'"

We went to the East Meadow Patch Facebook page to ask residents what they thought, and here's what they said.

  • Beth Markowitz Holmes: Totally agree...way too much pressure for kids and if you arent a good test taker to begin with it's terrible.
  • Susan Weiss: Totally agree.
  • Alexie Moskowski: That's me right now.
  • Robert Ingordo: My nine-year old was stressed. The only thing that was taught to them all year was for these tests. No science or history nothing. The school only cares about making their numbers look good. They don't care if these kids learn anything else.
  • Kristin Pappas: I would get physically sick the morning of the weekly spelling retest. Sure, (during the dark ages) my grade did not determine my college acceptance, nor did it affect the teacher's performance level. However, when you are in third grade..it IS a big deal. There are so many other ways to assess a child's progress! Sadly, the "bubble scan-tron sheet" has become the tool of assessing excellence.
  • Kim Jensen Nacionales: When we lived in Queens, my son got so stressed in third grade because of a teacher that put so much emphasis on the tests, that he got sick every day. He stopped getting sick the day we moved here.
  • Maxine Pollack Ahmed: Yes, I am a mom from great neck, my nine-year-old has stomach pains.
  • Jodi Zuckerman Luce: We had kids vomiting on exams because of stress this year!

What do you think of testing's impact on the stress levels of children? Tell us in the comments.

Bill Alderman June 07, 2012 at 04:29 PM
The short term affects for many children are terrible, the long term affects can be worse. But theses are illnesses and conditions that are due to the mandates on a federal and state level, which they could give a flying fig about . So long as the published numbers are solid they could care less about the detrimental effects. I believe it can cause Scanorexia- a desire to avoid scan-tron tests at all costs.
Jon L. June 08, 2012 at 12:31 PM
What Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch don't understand is that you can't measure the quality of the education or the quality of the educator by the test a 3rd grader takes. I told my daughter that a man named Mr. King who works for the State is trying to see how good her teacher is by testing her. Her response was, "Well why isn't Mr. King just testing my teacher instead?" From the mouths of babes... Best part of this mess is Tisch is now exploring a run for Mayor of NYC. I can't wait to see her educational policies called out in a public forum, she will never survive. She will be embarrassed and sent back to to SUNY and keep trying to hold public teachers to private school standards (How happy are the parents? How are the numbers? etc.). As for Mr. King, he should do the people of New York a service and resign from his post. Maybe he can go work for Dole and sell.... wait for it.... PINEAPPLES! This year's tests were a debacle and with a guy like King steering the ship it's only going to get worse!
susan bennett June 09, 2012 at 12:40 AM
my daughter is in special ed and is still expected to take these stupid tests and prep for them instead of using the time to learn the basics that she struggles with. she reads on a second grade level but has to take a 4th grade ELA. a state administrator told me that the test can help them assess what her weaknesses are. what a crock of garbage. we already know her weaknesses, and are working on them. where is the sense in that? what i don't understand is why we parents accept this testing. we are also part of the problem. before next year's tests, we should be flooding our legislators with complaint letters and a demand that the law be repealed. we also should consider a massive "sick-out" on the days when the tests are going to be administered. why are we such sheep? we elected these people.
Deb R June 09, 2012 at 02:32 AM
i consider myself lucky that, so far, my own children don't get too stressed out over these tests, so i dont mind the tests themselves, for us. (i was a special ed teacher for years, i do know what many many students go through on test days and it's a crime.) ...so, although i dont mind him having to suck it up for a few days a year, i do have a huuuuuge problem with the fact that my son has an excellent, creative, dynamic teacher who had to spend about a third of the school year teaching to the tests. fill in the bubbles over and over and over. these kids are being cheated. and for what??? i would definitely be on board for a sick out in order to make a statement, but it wouldn't give them back those months of wasted time.

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