This is the psychological effect standardized testing has on children
Some parents are so angry with the testing regime facing their children that they have come together in an attempt to boycott primary school exams.
Preparation by teachers for these standardized achievement tests (SATs) in England have involved a narrowing of the curriculum, including a specific focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Parents believe that their children should be stimulated instead by more enriching activities and projects. There is also a worry that the tests may cause undue stress and pressure on their young children to perform well. These beliefs are widespread: more than 49,000 parents have signed a petition to abolish SATs altogether.
An awareness of pressure
Teachers are under considerable pressure for pupils to perform well on SATs. Performance-related pay and position in school league tables depend on test results. Parents believe that exam results will have a bearing on their young child’s future and understandably want them to do well.
But the children are also well-aware that their performance on the SATs is important to their teachers and parents. Teachers may unwittingly transmit the stress they are under to their pupils. Children can also pick up on their parents’ attitudes and associated behavior and feelunder pressure to make them proud.
This pressure from parents is perhaps the largest source of stress for children aged ten to 11 who are working towards their Key Stage 2 exams. One Year 6 pupil my colleagues and I interviewed described the source of the pressure he felt:
You want to get them [SATS questions] right because other people want you to get them right and, like, you don’t want to disappoint people.
Stress and pressure about forthcoming exams can result in what education researchers have termed “test anxiety”. This can present itself via a number of symptoms.
Children can suffer from negative thoughts such as: “If I don’t pass this test, I will never get a good job”. They can also suffer physiological symptoms such as tight muscles or trembling and distracting behaviors such as playing with a pencil. The effects of anxiety during a test can influence the child’s ability to process and understand test questions and perform at their best.
It is well established that pupils with high levels of test anxiety perform more poorly in their exams. The overall prevalence of test anxiety in primary school children is on the increase and it is fairly common for children at the end of primary school. Year 6 pupils report experiencing anxiety either some or most of the time when asked two weeks prior to their exams.
But there are differences in how SATs are viewed by different children. Some perceive them to be stressful, while others view them as a challenge. As well as pressure from parents, pupils in Year 6 have cited the demands of the testing situation as a cause of stress. This includesEffect of standardized testing on children - Business Insider: