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Testing frustrations

The struggles and stress from standardized testing

Holly Whaley, Staff Reporter

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“It always is that extra thing where it’s midnight and you have test in an AP test the next day, and you’re stressed out and hungry and tired.””

— Stephanie Monson

A student goes to school for eight hours a day. After school, they may have an extracurricular activity or sport. They may have a job. They may have both. After many daunting hours on their feet, a student does not want to go home and study for a test until bedtime. Unfortunately, however, this is the reality for most high school students. Students would rather be doing anything else, but why would someone waste their precious time on something that won’t get them into college? After all, it seems as though that is all that matters.

  These days, school is very test-focused. School serves a completely different purpose in this generation than it did ten or twenty years ago. While testing is important to a certain extent, it is often relied on by teachers to measure a student’s understanding of the material. Principal Dr. Sonny Arnel has noticed problems with standardized testing at FHC.

  Arnel said, “We try to encourage teachers to get an idea of student’s understanding of the material in more unconventional ways, not just testing.”

  While it’s great that this idea is being put into place, not every educator follows through with it. Not everyone can test well, and students with that problem tend to not enjoy school as much because of this. Dr. Arnel recognizes that all students learn differently and strives to help every student achieve their goals.

Inconsistent results

   A student’s test results are often too focused on by both high schools and colleges.

   Ms. Wendy Ahearn, a counselor here at FHC, says “I think that part is unfair and biased, and that is a way it is not an accurate reflection of what they actually know.”

  This struggle with accurate test reflection doesn’t just stop outside of the classroom either. Big tests such as the ACT and SAT are also frustrating for students to succeed on.

  “Lots of kids are disappointed in their lack of improvements in their ACT score, when they studied hard in hopes of getting better,” Ahearn said.

  She talked about how the ACT has unreasonable time limits, as opposed to most of the tests that students have to take in school.

  “Tests like the ACT are very high stakes tests, and lots of money is invested in taking the ACT. There are lots of tutoring opportunities for the ACT. There are lots of things about the ACT that I don’t agree with, mostly the time factor. In most school settings, we don’t have time limits to taking tests,” said Ahearn.

 To not see results for your hard work is incredibly disheartening, especially when it happens over and over again. Like Ms. Ahearn said, many kids try their best and still do not get better scores.

  “Testing is definitely difficult for anyone,” says Monson. “It always is that extra thing where it’s midnight and you have test in an AP test the next day, and you’re stressed out and hungry and tired.”

 After putting in all of the studying and effort, some kids still do not see the results that they worked for.   

Stress and Testing Anxiety Issues

 Another contributing factor to testing stress problem is study techniques.

  “Lots of our kids don’t know how to study,” said Ahearn.

   This issue can be helped with by counseling here at FHC; test strategy sessions with Mrs. Harding are used to help students learn techniques in order to help them with test-taking.

  “She [Harding] holds sessions in the library to help students with anxiety overall, but

also with test anxiety,” says Arnel. “We try to find ways in order to help students who need testing support.”

   Healthline.com, which discusses the statistics of testing anxiety in young people, states that according to a 2010 study, test anxiety can affect between 10-40 percent of students.

  Though these supports at Central are good for students with testing anxiety, they can be used by any student that is in need of testing help. Even for students that do not officially have testing anxiety, testing can be extraordinarily stressful because of how important they are for getting into college. When asked if he noticed any stress amongst his peers, FHC student Kyle Bryan gave words of wisdom.

 Bryan said “A lot of kids freak out a lot over tests, but it’s a matter of tuning out that stress and knowing that you did all that you can to get a good grade.” Kyle is a junior this year, and takes one pre-AP class and four AP classes.

  He says “I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘natural test taker’. I just practice a lot and have taken a lot of tests over the past couple years.” Bryan is a great example of someone who manages to succeed on tests despite not considering himself to be a natural at it. Hard work is not always as rewarding as it is cracked up to be.

  Many students, whether it comes easy to them or not, do well on standardized tests here at Central, and in our district. In the FHSD school district, 72.5% of students score either a 3 or above on AP exams at the end of the year. The average ACT score at our school is 22. These scores are good, but really aren’t worth all of the stress that students and teachers face because of the preparation.

The True Value of School

   Being a senior this year, Stephanie Monson is quite used to testing by now. She got a perfect score on the ACT, and is an excellent test taker.

When asked if the over-emphasis of testing takes away from the value of school, Monson said, “I think it does, in a way, because the whole point of standardized testing is that it is the national standard. It’s prominent so that you can really be compared to other kids across the nation. The whole focus on comparison really degrades from the pursuit of knowledge, because people in class just try to memorize the vocab words for tests, or study exactly what’s going to be on a reading test, and that’s not really learning.”

  “I just really think the over-emphasis on testing takes away from the experience of school,” said Monson. She got a perfect score on the ACT, and is an excellent test taker.

 Quinn Mulholland of harvardpolitics.com says that “an overemphasis on standardized testing hurts the quality of instruction students receive.”

 

An Overused Necessary Evil

  Testing is important in some circumstances involving getting an idea of a student’s knowledge of the material; however, for these students who do what they’re supposed to academically but do not succeed on tests, they are at an extraordinary disadvantage.

  Seeing from statistics, FHC students, on average, are not bad test takers. Individually, on the other hand, kids who are just as smart as everyone else fall between the cracks in the system because they cannot test well, for one reason or another.

  There are so many creative and intelligent young minds that have a difficult time getting opportunities, academically, until college because they struggle with testing. Testing over class material has gotten better the past few years, because teachers are finding unconventional ways to see if their students know material; however, many teachers still live by the books and hand out bubble sheets every time they want to know how their students are doing. Even when teachers put effort into not focusing too hard on tests, we still can’t escape big standardized tests like the ACT.

  The thought that many standardized tests are so important in college is very scary for most students, but it is important for student’s lives to not revolve completely around these tests. There is only so much time in life to do what we want, like spend time with family, or pursue hobbies. For all anyone knows, the world could explode and everyone could die tomorrow!

  That being said, reevaluate whether or not it’s worth spending so much time out of life studying for tests. If a test in a challenging class is heavy on the mind, do the your best, and just remember what is really important in the big picture.

 

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