As a School Social Worker, I am used to students coming into my office in tears due to test anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. However, when teachers started coming into my office having mini-breakdowns stemming from added pressure for student test proficiency, I knew there was a problem. I was reading an article in the New York State Union of Professionals (NYSUT) magazine titled ”NYSUT Board takes unprecedented vote against failed SED policies” where it spoke about how NYSUT members are taking on the State Education Department in regards to their forced implementation of Common Core standardized testing and state’s obsession with testing.
Testing, Testing, Testing. In my elementary school, the students are required to take the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) computer-based tests three times a year, the AIMS web timed-computer testing three times a year, MAZE comprehension testing, the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark testing, and the NYS exams in math and English and some grades also have science. All the testing is done to collect data and to see where students are academically. Aside from all the official testing, there is also practice tests given in the beginning of the year to prepare students for the real exams. As a person who had strong grades but had test anxiety, I do not think I would have faired well with this new system.
Pressure. During exam week, I pushed into the special needs class, who were still expected to take these exams, I had one student wet their pants, and three students break down in class and have to go home due to test anxiety. Even in the regular education class, there were two students who vomited during their exams. NYS is under pressure from the federal government for high scores, which puts pressure on school superintendents, who pressure school principals, who pressure teachers, whose stress cannot be hidden from the students. Students come to my office and ask me why they have to take so many tests and express that they do not want to do it any more. As a student, I loved school and I was able to let my creativity shine. With so much test prep, how can innovation and students express themselves to develop skills other than how to take a standardized test.
Am I good enough? State testing was held the week after the week off in April. There was stress from teachers that students would forget information and need a refresher before the exam. Our principal decided to offer an option school day during the week off, with free breakfast and test prep in the morning, lunch and a fun activity such as a movie and popcorn in the afternoon. The turn-out was high and the students worked really hard during the morning section of test preparation. Many of my students were from lower socioeconomic status and started the school year not at grade level academically. They made such progress during the year; however, when their test results came back they were not at the level that the state deemed proficient. What does that say to our students, when they work hard and improve yet are still considered not good enough. Much needs to be done to bring the fun back into learning and make our students be proud of their improvement.