I was never really bothered until today

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Bumble, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    We are taking our state assessments this week and next week. One of my students was crying because of the stress. I felt guilty and really bad for her. I am sure other students are feeling the same during these tests. I told her that she is smart and can do it. What do you do in these situations?
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    My 4th grade daughter cried herself to sleep one night over state testing.

    My husband basicallly told her:

    Julia, we're not worried about how you'll do. You're a straight A student; there's no reason to think you won't ace the test. If we're not worried, you shouldn't be worried.

    What I would have loved to add was this: If, somehow, you don't do well on the test, it's no reflection on you. If you can master what's taught in class to the extent where your grades are good, then those grades should be matched on the tests. If they aren't, then that's the school's problem.

    But I didn't.
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I'm probably in the minority on A to Z in believing that there's nothing inherently wrong with standardized tests... but that they should be occasioning this angst in a kid who's bound to be plenty bright for them grieves me beyond words.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm fine with standardized tests.

    But I do have a huge problem with all the stress put on them. In 4th grade, Brian received a 48 page packet (nope, not a typo) to do over February break. The teacher called it "optional." He, of course, accidentally left it in school. So I borrowed a neighbor's, typed up 20 or so pages of it, and he spent his vacation doing math.

    Oh, and the teacher never checked it.

    Julia last year had "math camp" where it was all math, all the time, in the weeks preceding the math test.

    The tests themselves aren't the issue. The way they're approached can be.
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The way they're approached makes all the difference in the world. 'Course, you and I have had discussions like this before...
     
  7. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Honestly, if I were a student today and wasn't an exceptional student earning proficients and distinguishes, I would feel like an absolute loser as the those who do succeed are treated like royalty. Not only special education students, but those certainly come to mind...they have to hear all of the following year about how, essentially, they failed. Their names are not on the posters adorning the walls, not on the announcements, not scrolling on the information flat screen in the lobby, they're not asked to stand up at the state test rally to be recognized...sad. I know it's a reality of their learning disability, in the case of special education students, and I want those who succeed to be proud and to be recognized, but still...
     
  8. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    And recess was canceled!!!!
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Why??
     
  10. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    We were never told exactly why...I was so mad.
     
  11. Toak

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    I've seen a lot of kids literally shaking in fear, but I'm also with third graders. Some of the questions I've seen on their tests are what I would expect to have on my university exams - they've made no attempt to phrase anything in child-friendly terminology. Students who know how to do the task they are being asked are getting the answers wrong because they are lost in the lengthy, big-word terminology
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    How insane!!! Those kids NEED that time to run around and work off steam, especially during times of high stress.
     
  13. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Do you have the 30 seconds to lead them in a quick round of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in between sections of the test? That could be a great tension-buster.
     
  14. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    We do yoga on a daily basis. I even play soothing music, like rain forest sounds or tribal stuff. catnfiddle, great idea!
     
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oh, GOOD! I'm glad you approve of the suggestion. I'm proctoring elementary students taking the state exam this month and I have NO idea how to help them (I'm strictly 7-12), so I'm glad that's not a dumb idea.
     
  16. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    Usually the silliest things work best with the lower grades.
     
  17. kickchick2000

    kickchick2000 Rookie

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    My sister is a high school senior and my parents always ask about test anxiety tips. My sister is a a straight A student yet panics every year over testing to the point were she makes herself sick. My parents have said many times they are thankful my brothers and I never had anything like this when we were in school.
     
  18. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    I was in high school when they first started testing students.
     
  19. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I read the other day that having students drink a full glass of water 20 minutes before testing improves brain function.

    'Course, it also speeds up bladder functions too...
     
  20. noreenk

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    In Texas, fifth is now the only elementary grade subject to the Student Success Initiative where students must pass reading and math state tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. That's what I tell parents. But my students get told this: It is my job to teach you everything you need to know to be successful on these tests. All year long we practice everything that will be on the tests. If you've done your homework, pay attention in class, and do your best, you'll be fine. All my students show progress over the course of the year, which we track and discuss. The days before the test, I let them know that I'm not worried and we review content in as many different, fun ways as possible. The day of, we have breakfast in the classroom and I play music before we get started. We take stress-relief breaks as needed and they get to chew gum and eat "brain food".

    I also tell my kids that there are three chances to take the test. I let them know that when I took my driving test as a teenager, I failed the first two times and passed the third. Just like they can redo quizzes in class, they can retake the test if they need to. No shame in that. But it's not fun, and if we can avoid spending a whole day testing in silence (not to mention the month of extra tutoring), let's aim for that. I've had kids in my class who are notorious for having test-related freak-outs in the past. The teacher sets the tone; I can't imagine how difficult it must be as a parent trying to fix that if the teacher/school is creating stress instead of calm.
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

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    Or how difficult it is in later years to settle the student down (witness kickchick2000's sister).

    It's worth pointing out that SOME fluttery feeling is normal: it's a pre-performance adrenaline surge like the ones that athletes get, and I guarantee you that good test takers get them too. But good test takers consciously or subconsciously know to wait it out, and once the test starts they settle down and do what lies before them.
     
  22. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Absolutely, TG...when I took my Praxis exams and GRE you can bet I had those nerves, and those came from no one except myself. It was because I cared. I don't want my students to be balls of nervous energy, crying, having mental breakdowns...but I don't want them to be blasé about the test either.
     
  23. Grover

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    The state tests that I'm aware of don't really have direct consequences for the individual student- they have consequences for schools and teachers. If students are terrified of these tests teachers and administrators are pressuring them. I think that's unforgivable. It's also stupid, because that pressure doesn't lead to higher scores- if anything, it lowers them.
     
  24. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Grover, I believe some state tests do directly impact students, but ours do not. But you're right in that much of the time the students feel pressure because of the HUGE EVENT the test is made out to be by teachers and schools. At the same time, teachers are in a difficult position precisely because the tests don't impact students...the teachers have to answer to poor test scores, which may or may not indicate their effectiveness as a teacher. Too many factors go into whether or not someone succeeds on the test. Parents fighting the night before, adolescence rebellion... Do the scores sometimes accurately indicate that, yes, a teacher sucks? Sure. But not always, and this is a stressful fact for teachers.

    Personally, I don't feel the need to stress...
     
  25. Grover

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    JustMe, you listed many reasons why the tests are just not a good idea, and I agree with all of them. They certainly are unfair to teachers, but even so, it's both unfair and counter-productive for teachers to pass that stress on to their students.
     
  26. KinderCowgirl

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    If students don't pass ours in 3rd-reading, math, 4th-reading, math, writing and 5th-reading, math, science they have to be retained. Our kids also take a different standardized test in January k-5th that affects promotion standards-the score is ridiculously low (for example they have to score a k.4 to move to 1st) but it's still something that hangs over their heads as they take the test.

    Bumble-the test we give in Kinder is their first standardized test ever. I spend a lot of time pumping them up for it. When test day actually comes we say "Bring It On". Maybe because they really don't realize the gravity of it yet, but I rarely have a response other than maybe a child saying they are nervous as we begin.
     
  27. beatlebug731

    beatlebug731 Comrade

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    Me too! I don't remember there being all of this pressure. But that just goes to show you that things change :unsure:.

    In high school, we were always told that our PSSA scores were going to follow us and affect whether or not we graduate and get in to college, etc. The funny part is NEVER passed the writing portion of my PSSA and I ended up graduating and now I just graduated college.

    btw: PSSA remediation=not fun!!:dizzy:
     
  28. Grover

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    Wow, you Texans are a tough bunch. Pink panties for prisoners, big death-penalty fans, and high-stakes testing in kindergarten. You know, the scores in 1st grade would really go up if you applied the death penalty to those indolent kindergartners that don't keep up!
     
  29. 3Sons

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    Well, that glosses over things a little -- most research has found there is an optimal band of stress someone needs to perform well. Too little, and the person won't pay attention to their own performance, too much and they'll get nervous and make mistakes.

    But yes, it's stupid for teachers to just pass on pressure wholesale without relating it to how their class is actually approaching the test (ideally on an individual-student level).

    I'm not entirely sympathetic with the "anything may have affected performance" idea because it is an individual measure -- and the pressure on teachers and administrators is to get high aggregate scores. A single student scoring a little less well on a test than they could have isn't really going to change the aggregates much.

    I'd be a lot more sympathetic to global factors, though -- differences in when districts are testing could be huge. I know my district was happy last year because their testing was in May, unlike the year before when it was in March. A two-month difference for all the students could have enormous effects.

    Despite all this, I'm not against standardized tests per se. Their use and implementation are usually the problem, not that it's a standardized test.
     
  30. Grover

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    3sons- I think you're conflating stress with attentiveness. If we say that anything above the baseline of sound sleep is stress, I suppose there is an optimal level of stress for performance, and that it would involve consciousness. However, the studies I'm aware of stress that performance tends to be inhibited rather sharply by what most people would define as stress, such as kids crying about having to take a test. High stress invokes a fight/flight response, and when neither is possible, as in most testing situations, withdrawal. The ability to focus stress into a productive response is largely a matter of training, and simply stressing people does not constitute such training any more than throwing people into the sea constitutes instruction in swimming.
    Even at that, most training to cope with high-stress situations results in improved response in a narrow range. If the situation goes outside the bounds of training, it's likely to result in inappropriate responses. Stressing students about testing may, under very special circumstances, result in improved test taking, but it's likely to result in a reduced ability to use related skills outside the test taking circumstance, as well as aversion to the entire process of which testing is a part. If all we care about is how well children take tests, this may be acceptable, but if we care about continued growth in their overall intellectual capacity, this is a poor approach.
     
  31. heavens54

    heavens54 Connoisseur

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    I want to share this; last December I took the RICA in CA. As we all were standing outside, waiting to go into the building and the testing room, a lady, one of the proctors, stood up and a bench and yelled out, "I feel it deep in my heart that all of you are going to pass this test today!" WOW, what an icebreaker. I was amazed by how much it calmed down my nerves and put me in a positive frame of mind, so desireable a mood to have when taking such a test. Why not believe that we were going to pass? Would it be so wrong for us to put our energy in believing that we would ACE the test?

    I made a note to myself to remember this strategy when proctoring any test in a classroom, being a weekly, unit or state test. Give the kids a break and let them have some belief in themselves that they can do it. This attitude could make a difference on whether they do well on the tests.

    And yes, I did pass the RICA. I felt positive and confident while taking the test. Her words made all the fear go away and my energy was focused on all the work and studying I had done to prepare to do well that day...it works. Try it.
     
  32. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    The reactions you indicate suggest high stress, Grover, which would be outside the band of peak performance stress. Obviously, when stressors reduce someone to tears they're experiencing more stress than aids their performance. And I'd completely agree, that if by "stress" you mean "stress high enough so that it degrades performance", I'd agree it degrades performance. But that's sort of begging the question.

    Your other point -- that if testing is a stressful situation it may become aversive -- is an interesting one. I'd agree to a certain extent, I suppose, but I'm not sure it concerns me. Are we trying to create children who like tests?

    [​IMG]

    and similarly:

    http://www.eoslifework.co.uk/gturmap.htm
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

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    (insert here TeacherGroupie doing happy dance)

    Attitude is huuuuge, heavens54.
     
  34. Grover

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    3- I see here that you are referencing 'arousal stress' which, as I mentioned, is basically a way of putting attentiveness on the stress spectrum. I referenced the level of stress of tears, because that's the kind of stress many students are exhibiting about testing, and which other posters were concerned with. It's only begging the question if no one believes it's okay to allow or promote that level of stress and if everyone is aware of it's consequences, but it seems clear to me from the high stress levels students are experiencing that this is not the case.

    Are we trying to create children who like tests? Well, if we are going to test them all the time and it significantly impacts their lives, we probably should- or change our testing regime. Even if you believe that testing stress is okay or actually beneficial in itself, the problem is that students are not so cooperative as to limit their learned aversion to the test itself, but generally extend it to schooling in general, and even learning, the products of learning, activities (such as reading or calculation) associated with school, and, big surprise, teachers. If for no other reason than self-interest, people in a profession increasingly dependent on tax-payer referendums might want to consider whether activities that can be observed to generate widespread hostility are really necessary, and to what degree. I would want to have significant evidence that there is no reasonably equivalent approach to the fundamental problems of education before I adopted one that I know will erode public support for my job.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

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    The model of stress as continuum is in fact well attested, and I think most of us can supply anecdotal evidence for it as well; as noted earlier, it's quite normal - even in well-prepared students who are good test takers - to feel some of what I called "flutters" but which are in fact an instantiation of good stress. One sees this across test types, and in other areas of life (one thinks of preparing for a date). That's a different phenomenon than "attentiveness", it seems to me. And I think we serve our students better by helping them understand degrees of stress and develop coping mechanisms that are appropriate to the stress they feel than we do by acting as though it's either possible or desirable to eliminate all stress.
     
  36. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I'm enjoying this discussion and somehow agree with everyone. :)

    As far what you have stated above, students with scores that do not increase when an increase was expected, and certainly if they drop from the previous year's score...trust me when I tell you we know who that student had for the subject area or areas in question. We make charts and the whole nine yards. Does the commissioner of education know? Of course not. Do you feel fingers being pointed at you on a school level? Sometimes.
     
  37. Grover

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    TG, my point was that the term 'stress' was used by the OP and others in it's 'general usage' rather than as an element in the phrase 'arousal stress' which is a term of art. I quote the OP:

    We are taking our state assessments this week and next week. One of my students was crying because of the stress. I felt guilty and really bad for her. I am sure other students are feeling the same during these tests. I told her that she is smart and can do it. What do you do in these situations?

    I was referencing this in my original remarks.
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

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    Apr 9, 2010

    I see.
     
  39. Grover

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    (Insert here Grover doing happy dance)
     
  40. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Of course, I didn't specify what I see.
     
  41. Grover

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    Apr 9, 2010

    Yet I am happy for you. Sight is such a wonderful thing.
     

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