Statement of the Problem Testing is a common way to measure a students’ learning, where his/her strengths are and where he/she may need more help. A standardized test is defined as a test developed by a state that is designed to measure achievement or performance (Mulvenon, Stegman, & Ritter, 2005). Standardized testing in the United States has increased in the past decade and has become a normal part of schooling.
Therefore, the number of students with test anxiety has increased. No Child Left Behind, a federal law which was signed by President George Bush in 2001, stated that it was mandatory for 3rd through 8th graders to take annual reading and math tests. The federal legislation was based on the belief that standardized testing would improve a student’s motivation and raise achievement levels; assuming that with the rewards and repercussions that come with the tests will motivate the students to do well and study. Test anxiety is defined as a feeling of uneasiness or apprehension before, during, or after a test because of worry or fear (Sapp, 1999). Students who have test anxiety feel fearful, helpless, powerless, have low self esteem, and worry about the negative repercussion of not performing well on the test. Hill and Sarason (1996) claim that in a typical classroom between one and three students are at risk for developing test anxiety, including students of average intelligence, students with learning disabilities, and even gifted students. Students are told of the positives and negatives of the standardized testing and researchers have determined that when rewards are connected to test performance, students may become less motivated to learn and performance on tests is lowered.
Anxiety can be a positive aspect in a student’s academic life because it can be motivation but when it gets to be too overwhelming for a student it can lead to a variety of negative effects. For example, students who have test anxiety go through flight or fight responses. This is when the student feels anxious and the brain connects it to being in danger and the body reacts to a test as if the student was being attacked. This reaction, in turn, triggers a run faster or flee mentality. Fight or flight mentality can lead to attitude changes, fatigue, loss of effort, and loss of interest in school. Too much test anxiety can lead to a student not being able to concentrate on questions, lead to poor test performance, and the student may not perform to the best of his/her ability. Students rush through tests to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings of worry, fear and stress, some may refuse to do parts or the test as whole, have a hard time understanding questions, or some may just finish a handful of problems and stop because they find the test to be too overwhelming. Hill and Easton (1977) found that under time pressure, anxious children perform poorly and they take twice as much time and make three times as many errors as low-anxious students.
When a students’ stress level rises it becomes counterproductive and can reduce the potential to function and when a student has a negative experience with test anxiety his/her performance will decrease (Casbarro, 2005).In my opinion school should be a place where students feel safe, welcomed, and able to leave their worries and fears out of the classroom. The classroom is a safe place students’ can be themselves and grow into the best person they can be. School is a place where teachers and staff motivate and guide students to learn in their own way and excel in everything they do. It is crucial for students to get assistance for test anxiety at a young age because test anxiety can lead to more behavioral, mental health, academic, and emotional issues as they get older.
Anxiety can cause students to complain of headaches, stomach aches, rapid heartbeat, loss of sleep and become physically sick.Purpose of The Study The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of test anxiety on third graders in California on the standardized math test scores. Standardized tests are regularly used to evaluate student’s level of academic success.
Increases in the number of standardized tests students must take increase test anxiety, therefore, lowering their test results. This study can help change elementary school curriculum or instruction so students are provided with more adequate preparation for standardized testing. The study can also help create programs to help students cope, lower, or possibly prevent testing anxiety.
Standardized tests are regularly used to evaluate student’s level of academic success. Test anxiety affects students of all genders, grade levels, socio-economic status, and ethnicity. The results from the study are important to teachers, parents, and school administrators because they may help them better understand the influences anxiety and fear have on standardized test performance. Teachers play a critical role helping a student succeed. Classes that have poor test scores are seen to have a teacher who is ineffective and in turn, promotions and tenure can be affected, contracts can be terminated or not renewed, or school funding can be pulled or decreased (Mulvenon, Stegman, & Ritter, 2005). A calm, comfortable, positive, bright, and welcoming environment will set the students up for success on tests and in the classroom.
When a classroom is calm, bright, comfortable and welcoming students feel at ease and do not feel intimidated from the new material they are learning. When the teacher is stressed and anxious about standardized tests the students will become anxious and stressed as well (Hernandez, Menchaca, & Huerta, 2011). Teachers can teach the test material in a fun, entertaining way so students feel comfortable and prepared for any material on the test regardless of the student’s learning style.
Teachers can create games, songs, and hands on activities to show students the lessons first hand and get them interacting. Parents and teachers can work together to share how their child is doing, where they may need more support, and give the children different strategies to study for effectively. Teachers can send out newsletters stating what topics they are covering the following week, attach articles of what test anxiety may look like and how they can see if their child has test anxiety, and how to help students cope, when the standardized testing will take place, and different resources families can use to help students stay motivated and want to learn the material in class. Assistance can be the one factor that can ease students minds and help them perform better on test and feel less anxious. When students suffer from test anxiety the effects might be seen throughout their lives because they may not find school interesting and not want to continue school in the future. Students may decline in their daily school work, regular testing, not keeping up with material being taught, and see themselves as not being good enough as their peers. These behaviors can lead to social and emotional complications. Literature ReviewTest anxiety research is intended to explore the theories about test anxiety and coping mechanism to help students in the classroom.
There is a number of studies that examine how test anxiety connects to learning and attention (Stober & Pekrun, 2004) and how students need more time to complete tests (Mavididi, Hoogerheide, & Paas, 2014). Research conducted by Blankstein and Flett (1992) found that test anxiety is notably related to lack of self confidence in the potential to solve problems. Anxiety may increase if a student senses the test may be too difficult and expects to fail (Ponsoda, Olea, Rodriguez, and Revuelta, 2000).
Students who have test anxiety have a hard time focusing and find it complicated to retrieve the information needed to answer the test questions. When students take tests and suffer from test anxiety their grades may not be a good representation of the students academic knowledge. Standardized testing has been transitioning from paper to computer forms and this may increase test anxiety and affect test performance in certain students. Students who may not be familiar with computers experience more anxiety than experienced computer users. Factors to Test Anxiety GenderGender can be a one of many factors in the development of test anxiety. When comparing the test anxiety levels of males and females, females consistently scored higher than males (Akanbi, 2013).
Research has found that women are more likely to be uncomfortable and uneasy in a testing environment compared to men; but anxiety in women is found more in middle and high school rather than elementary school and college (Cizek & Burg, 2006). Age Test anxiety levels peak in the early grades, level out in middle school, and decrease into high school according to Cizek and Burg (2006). Test anxiety increases during the elementary school years because of increased pressures for high test scores and performance from parents and teachers. Hernandez, Menchaca, and Huerta (2011) found that elementary students get anxious when it comes to the length of the test, not being able to talk or get up during a test, and the period of days it takes to complete the tests. Elementary students are more likely to show the physical signs of test anxiety while middle and high school students tend to show behavioral signs.Socio-economic StatusStudents from lower socio-economic areas whose native language is not English experience more test anxiety than students from middle class whose native language is English (Hodge, McCormick, & Elliott, 1997).
Students from a lower socio-economic status can go through more failure, punishment in the school environment, and frustration. Zeidner suggested that “due to the conflict between school and lower-class minority home cultures, lower socio-economic class students may experience more failure, disappointment, therefore increasing their test anxiety. Parent Expectations Parents expectations can be another factor in a child’s test anxiety. Students may fear not meeting their parents’ expectations and that can result in them to not perform to their best of their abilities on tests. Casbarro (2005) discovered that from a young age parents establish an environment that either raises or lowers their child’s anxiety. Parents can help their children by providing a motivating and loving environment so their children feel positive support rather than expectations.
Teachers and principals are putting pressure on students as well. The more pressure that schools place on students to achieve high test scores, the greater the test anxiety levels will be (Casbarro, 2005). Side Effects of Test Anxiety Some side effects of test anxiety can be crying, getting sick, cheating, unsuitable behavior, loss of motivation, and lowered self esteem. Hill and Sarason (1966) discovered that students with high levels of test anxiety were a year behind national normal levels and students with low levels of test anxiety were a year ahead in math and reading.
Students with test anxiety were two times more likely to be held back and have low grades. Through their research Hill and Sarason found that students with high test anxiety levels show little increases in test performance compared to students who have low levels of test anxiety who perform well on tests; resulting in a negative correlation between test performance and anxiety (Hill & Sarason, 1966). Test anxiety can start at a young age and have effects on the students motivation, self-esteem, behavior, and education for years to come, therefore, it is important to see the signs and help ease students into testing.