Today, PAA sent the following message to the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics, asking for an investigation of growing student test stress:
Parents Across America (PAA) is requesting an investigation into the increase in test anxiety in students across our nation and its effects on children’s mental health and ability to learn.
PAA has gathered a significant amount of research showing that, as high-stakes standardized tests have multiplied, growing percentages of students have begun to report test-related stress. More are seeking test-stress counseling. Media reports of psychological and physiological symptoms tied to testing have increased. Parents, teachers, administrators, and mental health professionals report symptoms that include nausea, dizziness, crying, vomiting, panic attacks, asthma attacks, tantrums, headaches, sleeplessness, refusal to go to school, “freaking out,” meltdowns, depression, suicide threats and suicide attempts.
We have found research demonstrating that prolonged stress can profoundly undermine learning, mental health and brain development in young people. The stress that high-stakes testing creates is thus sabotaging learning for many students.
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).
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.
We are also concerned that testing companies are developing new ways to label, sort and profile students through ongoing, embedded computer-based assessments. This process is leading to a significant increase in the amount of screen time children are exposed to – the AAP recommends a two hour screen time limit for children per day.
A fact sheet we prepared on test stress is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Test-Stress-facts-2-1-16rev.pdf
and our background research paper is here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Test-Stress-Doc-full1-28-16.pdf
We look forward to your response to our request for an investigation of this rising threat to children’s health and well-being.
Interim Executive Director