Overall I agree with this sentiment from TMAO – if kids are freaked out by standardized tests it’s generally because the adults in the school have let them down by transferring their own professional anxiety onto students. And it’s stunning that our national education media have never bothered to connect those dots and helped confused parents understand what is and is not, no pun intended, at stake with these tests.
However, isn’t there is an important caveat that TMAO leaves out? Namely, whether the tests are high-stakes or low-stakes and for whom? Student anxiety around tests with stakes for students is understandable and a different kettle of fish. I remain pretty ambivalent about a lot of testing policies in that regard. Yet right now, in the No Child Left Behind era, its critics have successfully blurred the meaning of “high stakes” so that it’s applied equally across different kinds of tests. They’re all “high stakes” the rhetoric goes. It’s become an almost ubiquitous modifier of the word “test.” Of course, from a technical standpoint, any test with a consequence attached to the results can be considered high stakes but in practice we should be able to agree that stakes for kids and stakes for adults are different.
And, in fact, the tests No Child requires carry no stakes for children. They don’t matter to promotion, grades, graduation, etc…Some states have elected to attach consequences for students to their state tests but, thankfully in my view, nothing in NCLB requires or even encourages this. These and similar tests only matter to adults in terms of school accountability and so forth. Meanwhile, it seems everyone on all sides, at least rhetorically, believes children should be insulated from that. Too bad they too often aren’t.
Shouldn’t the anti-testing crowd be coming down as hard on schools and teachers that freak kids out about tests as they are on the actual tests?