The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How anxious are kids about taking standardized tests? This anxious.

If you have any doubt that kids feel pressure to do well on high-stakes standardized tests, consider this.

A counselor at an El Paso elementary school, in an effort to allay student fears about having to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests this week, held conversations with students in grades 3 through 5 to see exactly what they were worried about. According to the Dallas Morning News, the counselor made a list of comments kids had made during these discussions and gave it to students.

What is interesting is what students said they feared. Here are some of their comments:

Your teacher will feel bad because you didn’t try. She gets paid for teaching you. She wants her boss to see what a good teacher she is, but if you don’t try, her boss won’t know what a good teacher she is.
You won’t learn how to work hard. You will be lazy!
The test will take you much longer than it takes the other kids. They’ll be finished and you’ll still be working.
You won’t pass the STARR — More tutoring!!!
You will be wasting that good brain that God gave you.
You won’t feel proud of yourself. You can’t say, ‘Good job,’ to yourself.
Teacher will be upset. Mom and Dad will be upset. Mrs. Martinez and Mrs. Aguilera will be upset. You’ll be upset because everyone is upset with you!

(Bertha Martinez is the principal of Lamar Elementary School, and Lilia Aguilera is the assistant principal)

The kids must have felt pressure from somewhere to do well on these tests. And this school is hardly the only one where students feel enormous pressure to do well on high-stakes standardized tests, the results of which are now being used to evaluate teachers, as well as students and schools.

The Dallas paper quoted Manuel Castruita, the school district’s director of guidance services, as saying that kids reported that the counseling session had helped ease some of their anxiety.

(Incidentally, a report on this by KFOX14 mistakenly said that the list was a handout students were given to take home, and some parents complained that their kids were being threatened. They weren’t.)