Teacher Professor

March 9, 2010

Test Anxiety

Filed under: Schools — Teacher Professor @ 9:13 am

My son is frozen with test anxiety- and when Ray gets anxious, he gets anxious!

There is a “post-test language arts benchmark” today at their school.  Every nine weeks, the school tests the children to see if they’ve met the goals for that nine weeks.  In a few days, they will “pre-test” the children to see where they are for the next nine weeks and how much of the next nine weeks’ material they will need to teach the child.  They then re-group children every nine weeks.  All of the teachers in grades 2-5 teach all subjects, but during math and language arts time, kids get shuffled around. For example, everyone in second grade teaches math from 10:00-11:30.  The teacher with a background in gifted often works with the high group, the teacher with background in special ed gets the lowest group, and there are the middle groups.  The children go back to their heterogeneously grouped “home room” for science/social studies and art/music/PE.  It’s a wonderful, flexible, whole-school form of differentiation, with lots of grouping and regrouping that occurs.  Although it’s theoretically tough on the children to be moving classrooms and to have three teachers, both of mine have rolled right along with it.  I love that they’re getting targeted instruction for some of the day, and interact with a wide variety of kids.  They understand the pre-and post-testing process and have been very proud of the growth that they have made each nine weeks.  “Look Mama- see how I went from 43% to 86%!”

But THE test is coming- THE monster state test upon which all things ride- teachers’ jobs, passing their grade level, funding, and well- everything.  All on one test.  It’s absolutely ludicrous to me that we put everything on one test when you’re 7.  But like the theme from Jaws, the test is coming.  April.  April 12-20th.

So, the school upped the ante this post-test.  If a kid gets a 75% or better on this post-test, they can have “Fun in the Sun” this coming Friday.  The only classes being held on Friday will be the remedial classes for kids who need some “extra” help.

I’m so angry about this.  As if ONE day, a day when all of your friends are out playing and you’re missing it, is going to make the difference between passing and failing the state test.  When kids are in danger of failing the test, EVERY day is important and EVERY day has to focus on skills and appropriate instruction.  And kids who are passing the test should not be given the message that “today- today we don’t learn”.  EVERY day is for learning for EVERY kid!

Schools only have 180 days to get a tremendous amount done.  Compared to other schools around the world, that is shockingly low.  Between interruptions, six hours in school, various activities, and transitions, that number of 180 is drastically reduced.  Now, “school time” doesn’t have to be bland, sit in your seat and be bored out of your mind time.  That’s a whole ‘nother rant.  But we tend to see “school” as a place where “When you’ve made this level, you’re done”.  What if businesses felt that way?  “Well, you’ve made a car.  You can stop thinking about how to improve cars now”.  Learning, no matter what your industry, IS your job.

And that’s my thinking, from my idealistic, theoretical, “School is my job” professor mind.

And my mommy mind is LIVID!  My son was almost gabbling in fear last night- “Mommy, what if I don’t get the 75%?  I’m going to miss Fun in the Sun!  I can’t take this test… ” and a little later “Mommy, it’s 30 questions- they’re LONG, I can’t answer 30 questions!”, and a little later, “Mommy, I don’t feel good.  I can’t breathe.  I NEED to stay home and rest.  Mommy, I can’t BREATHE!”.  He was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.

I sat with him most of last evening.  He took the practice tests (which he got 90s on).  We practiced deep breathing.  I taught him self- affirmations.  I talked test strategy.  We read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” that normally makes him laugh.  I gave him extra snuggles.  And he looked at me while I chanted “I can do this.  I have been taught this.  I remember this”, with fear-glazed eyes, trying to hold it together.  I fed him cereal with SUGAR this morning trying to get some food down him, but his throat was so closed, that even the lure of sugar wouldn’t let him swallow.

So, I sent him to school today, hungry, stressed, and sliding into the place where if he just doesn’t pay attention, it won’t hurt as much.  I watched him use lack of attention as a way of handling the anxiety.  If he can withdraw into “that place”, the anxiety dampens down.  It’s an autism trick that looks like ADHD.  And it ruins how he’ll do on the test- all because he’s afraid of missing “Fun in the Sun”.

Part of me wanted to relieve the pressure- tell him that it didn’t matter- that he should do his best and if he didn’t get the 75%, he could stay home with me and have our own “Fun in the Sun” day.  Part of me doesn’t want to reward him for using that safe place of inattention.  Part of me wants to call the school and blast them for this inane idea of “Fun in the Sun”.

Most of me will just wait and see what happens- and I’ll fret.  And to cope, I’ll use my own autism trick of sliding into inattention and spaciness to relieve my worries about my son.  Not his actual test performance– but watching him retreat into his safe place, watching him slip into ADHD because the stress is too much, watching him lose what he’s learned.  All because of one stupid test.

And we haven’t even come up on the monster one yet.

Da dum.  Da dum..and the theme from “Jaws” comes closer.


  1. I don’t like these activities either. Our principal recently flew the idea by us to have “Attack the TAKS” day the day before our state testing. Essentially, the entire school would be decked out in camo and we would have what amounted to a field day. That idea went over like a lead balloon. We just can’t afford to lose an entire day of instruction. Besides that, there is the fact that there are so many “Rays” in the room. At our last benchmark kids asked me if everyone got over a 70 could we have an extra 15 minutes at recess. I said yes, but then one little guy announced that he could not work under that kind of pressure. He felt was sure to fail and let the class down and he began to cry.

    Hello Rock and Hard Place. My name is Mrs. Phipps.

    I managed to assure him that there would be no extra recess or other rewards to pressure him, while assuring the rest of the class that we really would if everyone passed. The latter was accomplished with quite a bit of hand gesturing and facial expressions. It’s a good thing young children understand body language. My little guy did not feel pressured and the kids did not hate him for taking away their potential reward. I won’t make that particular mistake again.

    Comment by Elizabeth Phipps — March 14, 2010 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  2. […] Anxiety- Update Filed under: Schools, Tourette's Syndrome — profmother @ 3:26 am As you remember, I was livid that the school had upped the ante on their test score attainment, had come up with […]

    Pingback by Test Anxiety- Update « Professor Mother Blog — March 15, 2010 @ 3:34 am | Reply

  3. […] The school had pep rallies.  The school had CRCT practice sessions.  The school had ”Fun in the Sun” games for children passing their benchmark tests.   And on the last benchmark, which Fun […]

    Pingback by Relief on the Homefront « Professor Mother Blog — May 13, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

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