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 (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!’”
The State’s new APPR requires school districts to test children in order to assess teachers. According to Mineola Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler, the exams are designed to be given during multiple times during the year in order to demonstrate growth. “Therefore the traditional end of year summative exam is really 2 – 3 exams per subject,” he said in an e-mail.
The new laws allow for the State exam to be used for 40 percent of a teachers grade but also requires the APPR agreement to be locally negotiated as part of the teachers’ contract.
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“This can lead to an additional “local’ exam that children must sit for,” Dr. Nagler explained. “If you add exams for subjects that have never been assessed, like art, music and physical education the number of exams students will sit for go easily reach 12-15 per year. Add the fact that these are high stakes exams because teachers will be graded on the results – it makes sense that kids are stressed out.”