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Do Standardized Tests Create Too Much Pressure to Perform?

Students are burdened with the pressure of "high stakes testing," especially if they love their school and teachers, argues one op-ed writer quoting a Martinez 5th grader.

An opinion article published on the Huffington Post Wednesday argues that students are being urged to excel on standardised tests in order to prevent school closures. The author, Kevin P. Chavous, quotes a 10-year-old Martinez girl who claims that her teacher pulled her aside on the playground before the end of year test to remind her that her "school needs you to do well."

Chavous says that this incident in Martinez is not an isolated one, and that it represents an increased "pressure to perform" by holding schools accountable for poor, or stagnant, test scores.

But anxiety about dwindling test scores becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, Chavous argues, as students "may exhibit extreme emotional and physical stress" under pressure. Such high stakes can also encourage cheating — by both students and teachers alike.

Add to this the fact that No Child Left Behind requirements are constantly increasing, and more and more schools are failing to meet them, and the atmosphere becomes very dire and desperate. Like many other school districts, Martinez has struggled to meet its Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) in English and Math for the past few years, only inching above the ever-moving targets in the 2011-12 school year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made his thoughts clear on the topic of the NCLB objectives, telling the Washington Post: "I just think the current No Child Left Behind Law is fundamentally flawed and, frankly, broken. It is far too punitive, it is far too prescriptive, top down from Washington. It led to a dumbing down of standards in states around the country, and it led to a narrowing of the curriculum."

Has your child experienced a "pressure to perform" on behalf of his or her school? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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