Assessing The Stress Of Testing

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 08, 2006
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The state Department of Education has a big project under way. It involves more than 100,000 Hawaii public school students who will be taking the Hawaii State Assessment exam. The results will show how well - or not - the students are doing, and how well the schools are doing in teaching them. Third- through eighth-graders will be tested, along with high school sophomores.

These types of exams create a great deal of stress for the students and teachers, and also the parents, who receive the difficult-to-understand results.


This is nothing new. It’s been going on for as long as there have been school systems. Furthermore, just about all civilized countries have these types of “assessment” tests to separate students by ability. In some countries the pressure is so great some students break out in a rash, or worse.

The DOE, especially the testing division, is well aware of the stress the testing procedure causes and tries different tactics to lessen it. There are a couple of things they are going to try that have me wondering where student rights and responsibilities are headed.

The first thing that happens at a testing site is heightened security. The last time I went to one of these, it looked like the school officials were expecting a riot. It’s one of those experiences where everyone is looking over some-one’s shoulder. Students being tested are warned to not pick up their pencils until given permission, keep their eyes on their own paper and keep all books, purses and loose items on the floor under their chairs.

The first day of testing is probably the most stressful - the dreaded Stanford Achievement Test, which compares Hawaii students to their Mainland counterparts. The last three days of testing are pretty simple and involve Hawaii standards. The assessment test is conducted over 10 grueling days between March 1 and 10. After that, waiting for the results begins.

Oddly enough, one of the big problems is class management. The teachers worry about getting the students in the designated test sites on time and in the mood for testing. You can’t believe to what extremes they are going to accomplish this simple requirement.


In the good old days, the school’s officials would tell you where to be at the proper time armed with the proper equipment and a good attitude. It was kind of a “be there on time or else” mandate.

I guess I got a little jealous when I heard some schools were going to have pep rallies to fire up the youngsters, and give them free breakfast so they would show up on time. In some cases, the parents can also get involved by encouraging students and offering support before the tests. When I went through the assessment testing period I don’t remember anyone trying to lure us to school on time. I don’t remember soothing music or a free breakfast. Going late to any school function seemed inconceivable back then.

Being at the proper place at the proper time is a really good lesson to learn. The sooner one learns it the better. I don’t believe dangling incentives like soothing music and free breakfasts in front of students, or their parents, is an appropriate message.

It’s a tough time for students. Hopefully they will learn that their test scores will follow them around like a bad disease. Students have to learn how to prepare for important tests and do well on them. There is no easy way to get by a test, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. The educational system gives a test and rates the best; it’s the name of the game.

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