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State tests and stress: They're really just a moment in time

by Michelle Sutherlin Modified: April 9, 2014 at 9:38 am •  Published: April 7, 2014
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photo - Photo via Thinkstock.com
Photo via Thinkstock.com

A day not long ago, my third-grade son seemed especially stressed out about school. I don't know about you, but a third grader having stress about school is something I didn't expect or like very much.

I asked him lots of questions: Was it a certain subject? His upcoming book report? A problem with a friend? A bully?

Nope. He was stressed out because he knew state testing was coming up and he was worried about passing. I didn't know whether to be happy that he cared, sad that he was so worried or mad that testing has come to this.

As a parent, it's difficult to watch your child stress out about school.

This week, the state testing window opens. I am all too aware of this, not just because my third and sixth-grade children will be taking tests, but because my work as a school counselor comes to a screeching halt in order to prepare for and give these tests.

Schools, specifically school counselors in most districts, put enormous amounts of time into planning, preparing and giving these tests. Paper and pencil tests require counting, counting again, labeling, bubbling and sorting. Online tests require test tickets and creating a hardwired infrastructure that some schools don't have the wiring to support.

Our school's building test coordinator, who is also a counselor, has been working on testing since August. Literally August. Running reports. Sorting students. Planning small groups. Verifying data. Coordinating the circus that will soon commence.

Starting this week, every adult in our building will start giving these tests and most every student will start taking them. It is impossible to not be stressed. It is a major ordeal.

It is like this in every school. The pressure is palpable, so much so that my third-grade son is worried about it.

What I told him, and what I tell all students worried about testing is this: All you have to do is your best. Some people are really good test takers and some people aren't. Some people have learning issues that don't allow a test to measure their abilities. Some people are sick the day of testing and don't do well. Some people didn't get a good night's sleep or a healthy breakfast. Some people didn't go to a school where learning standards were completed in time for the test. Even though the tests are standardized, there are many variables that go into each student's test.


by Michelle Sutherlin
NewsOK Contributor
Michelle Sutherlin is a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. She loves middle school students so...
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