Any standardized test given on a specific day gives only a snapshot of a student’s abilities and can reflect only a part of the multiple facets of a student’s skills. Students are truly not tested only on specific skills, such as their ability to multiply two numbers together, or comprehend a reading passage, but they are being tested simultaneously on their ability to persevere through a long and grueling series of questions, some with multiple parts. We all know of the research that shows us that children who have experienced trauma often self sabotage their school work, have difficulty sustaining attention or diligence in a task requiring any kind of stamina, and are very quick to give up when presented with a difficult task. Why would we then give them a high stakes assessment such as the NECAP or any other difficult and lengthy test that produces high anxiety in even the most even-tempered of children? Tests which ask 8 year old children to sit SILENTLY for 90 minute blocks for 5 days?
The ability to take a standardized test and keep working in the face of extreme anxiety is a skill that children need to learn in order to succeed in this world. They will need this skill in order to take their SAT, their drivers’ test, and in order to overcome their anxiety and perform well in a job interview. But children who have experienced the hardships of poverty, trauma, and neglect need to overcome larger hurdles than those who don’t. Therefore, the tests themselves are inherently harder for these children. And we know and have seen children from challenging backgrounds simply give up, and say “I won’t!” because it is much less painful than stretching their comfort level and finding out, possibly, that “I can’t.”
I am convinced these tests are damaging our children. Yes, they need the skills, but they need to learn the skills in the comfort and safety of a classroom where mistakes are allowed, encouraged, and acknowledged as a critical component of learning.