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What Effect Does Standardized Testing Have on Students' Minds?

by Shyla Rosario

Photo taken by Savannah Torres.

Disappointed looks from your parents. Your phone, iPad, computer, everything is taken from you. You aren’t even allowed to hang out with your friends which may be the only time you can truly be yourself and have a good laugh. And, it is all because you got a 65% on a test you spent all night studying for. You tell your parents, “But I tried the best that I could! I was confused, none of the material we learned was on the test! I’ve gotten all 90’s and 100’s throughout the year! Why are you being so harsh just because I got one 65% on a stupid test?”

As tears fill your eyes and you run to your room you start to wish you could never take a test again, you question your knowledge and your intelligence. You call yourself dumb, but in reality you were just nervous so you flunked a test. It was not your fault, you tried your best.

Getting Less Than the Best

Standardized testing is a pain for students everywhere. Studying for hours and hours just to get a question you spent the most time studying on wrong, makes you feel like a failure. The overwhelming butterflies you get in your stomach the night before the test or as soon as you're about to get your test back are unbearable. Or when you get a not so good grade, especially if you have super strict parents, it can be terrifying to show them your score.

Ending standardized testing is important to me because the first time I took the state test

Photo taken by Savannah Torres.

was in third grade. I was nine years old staring at the ceiling of my bedroom the night before while my stomach was doing cartwheels because I couldn't bear doing the test in the morning. I couldn't bear the thought of failing or not meeting my standards, especially since I’ve always been a perfectionist. I knew if I were to get less than my best I would be super disappointed in myself and question how smart I was, which is something a third grader should not have to think about. Failing tests has been frowned upon for decades, and even when students get 90/100 they feel as if they didn’t work up to the best of their abilities even if they got a passing grade.

Factors Of Failing

I believe standardized testing should be banned from all schools all around the globe because there are many factors to testing that could cause you to fail even if you’re a straight A student or have a great understanding of everything you’ve learned throughout the year. Or if you’re not a straight A student, and you’re struggling with the material you’ve learned throughout the year, but you're trying your best to understand, taking a standardized test could hurt you tremendously in many ways. For example, you could be super nervous and forget everything you’ve learned throughout the year because of all the pressure and then you fail because of some silly mistakes— choosing A and not B, choosing C and not A.

Some parents care so much about test scores that if their child doesn't get a 90 or even a 100 they punish their child for something they can’t control which affects their relationship with their child and their child's relationship to school. Other parents even recognize how much testing affects students' mental health and want it to end too.

The Effects Of The Test

Standardized testing affects students' mental health enormously, giving many kids who are in school awful anxiety or depression. I believe students' mental health matters way more than a percentage on a sheet. As a student, I always get super anxious before tests, butterflies flutter all around my stomach, I get really cold, I start shaking my leg, and maybe even biting my nails. I question myself a lot wondering if I'm going to know all the material on the test and I think about how I’m going to feel if I fail. I get so scared. Students should

be learning in school because school is a learning environment not staying up at night until 12am or later studying and stressing over a test that won’t matter in 10 years.

Many other students feel the same way too, such as my friends and fellow students Gabby Rosario and Kacey Torres. I came to them because I knew they would come to me with the truth about how they felt about testing. Plus, they’re students so they could totally get the stress and pressure of taking tests. Gabby told me, “Tests make me feel nervous sometimes because they always make it seem like it affects so much of your grade, your grade might go down so much if you don’t do well. It just gets stressful at times. I end up learning from the mistakes I made on the tests, but it still bothers me.”

Teachers always tell us to try our best on tests and as long as you try your hardest it doesn't matter what you get, but like Gabby said regardless if you try your best or not, tests still affect the way other schools view you and your school tremendously.

Kacey then explained to me her disliking of tests by saying, “I feel nervous when taking tests

because I just feel like I'm never ready for the test. Tests can be scary if you don’t study, also stressful. Sometimes to make me feel better I drink water or bite my nails which is not a very good thing to do but it’s just something that helps. Things I do when I get nervous I start to sweat and feel scared to turn in my work. Personally I don’t like tests, it just makes me anxious which makes me not like tests.”

Kacey felt as if she was never ready for tests. Many students never feel ready for test taking regardless of spending a couple months learning the material. The things you learned at the beginning of certain units begins to become blurry and makes tests 10 times harder.

Students’ Stats

Christina Simpson who is a Harvard Graduate School of Education scholar wrote in “Effects of Standardized Testing on Students’ Well-Being about experts’ opinions on testing,” “Educators expressed concerns about the impact of standardized testing on students’ well-being in the press as well. Toppo (2007) described a director of testing and accountability in North Carolina who, ‘told the American School Board Journal in 2003 that administrators

Photo taken by Savannah Torres.

discard as many as 20 test booklets on exam days because children vomit on them’ (para. 19). A letter from principals in New York even goes so far as to say, ‘We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up’ (Fougner et al., 2014).” This shows that a lot of students fail tests because they just give up because of how tired, stressed, and lost they are. Many students' tests get disregarded because students end up throwing up on them because of how nervous they are. Kids shouldn't be crying and throwing up all because of a test.

Heiser et al. (2015) reported that “61 percent of responding school psychologists in New York feel that levels of test anxiety have risen since the advent of Common Core aligned assessments. The New York State Parent Teacher Association (PTA) surveyed parents and teachers and found that respondents reported that 75 percent of students, those who do not receive additional educational support, were more stressed about testing than they had been in previous years (Klein, 2014).” Many students who don't get the extra help that is needed for these tests, so they feel as if they can’t pass the test. Many students can't get extra help, or can't afford it. Because if a student has to be home as soon as school gets out because of personal family reasons or is tight on money, the student is not gonna have extra time to study or get help with studying. This is what causes many students to fail so many tests, even when they're truly trying their best.

Mental health > Test scores

This is why I believe students should no longer have to do standardized testing because it mentally and emotionally damages students by stressing them out, causes depression, anxiety, and even things like vomiting, crying, etc. Students' mental health matters more than test scores.

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