PAA has also sent letters to the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics asking that they investigate our concerns that high-stakes standardized testing has become a health hazard for our nation’s public school children.
According to Dr. Isabel Nuñez, Associate Professor in the Center for Policy and Social Justice, Concordia University Chicago:
“High-stakes testing is doing children grievous mental and emotional harm. Parents Across America has gathered overwhelming evidence of the destructive psychological impact of test anxiety. For your children’s sake, read and be outraged!”
Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor in the department of Psychology, Boston College, added:
“The evidence is overwhelming that our national mania for testing–and for so much time in school and at schoolwork–is damaging the physical and psychological health of our children. I appreciate the work of Parents Across America and sincerely hope that the educational powers that be start to listen. What we have today is, essentially, state-mandated child abuse.”
Testing in the early years, which is strongly opposed by early childhood professionals, is taking a toll. According to Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige:
“As we see testing increasingly edge out play and active learning in classrooms for young kids, we also see more and more children who don’t like school, who feel way too much pressure, who don’t want to go to this place that feels so uncomfortable and out of synch with who they are and what they need.”
A research paper recently published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a correlation between the increased academic pressure on young children and the significant increase in ADHD diagnoses (Brosco).
Coping skills, “stealth” assessments not the answer
Much of the literature on test anxiety focuses on how to help children cope with the stress. In contrast, PAA believes the cause of the stress itself must be addressed. No child should be exposed to prolonged, intense stress, which can inhibit brain function and take a toll on mental health.
PAA is not simply asking for an end to high-stakes, one-shot testing. Parents are demanding that no child be harmed in the assessment process. We know that test publishers and education entrepreneurs are already developing new ways to label, sort and profile students through high-tech devices now taking over classrooms. This may not create as much stress but carries other dangers such as:
- Constant collection of student data via online websites, apps, and programs without parental notification.
- Embedded or “stealth” assessments – students will not even be aware if their work is being used for high-stakes purposes.
- A significant increase in the amount of screen time children are exposed to – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a two hour per day screen time limit for children.
PAA has many other concerns about the misuse and overuse of standardized tests which we have detailed in previous position papers and fact sheets (see, for example, “Testing and ESEA,” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/TestingandESEA1-15-15.pdf and “Why More Standardized Tests Won’t Improve Education” http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/09/why-more-standardized-tests-wont-improve-education/.
Our full position paper with recommendations and endorsements can be found here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/educator-endorsements-paa-test-stress-position-paper/
Our one-page fact sheet on test stress is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Test-Stress-facts-2-1-16rev.pdf
and our background paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Test-Stress-Doc-full1-28-16.pdf
A downloadable pdf version of our position paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/TestStressPositionrev2-1-16.pdf
- Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director, Parents Across America, 773-175-3989
- Laura Bowman, leader of PAA-Roanoke Valley (VA), 540-819-6385
- Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, leader of PAA- Suburban Philadelphia (PA), 215-498-2549