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Officials: Students didn't show test anxiety

March 01, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Standardized tests + students = test anxiety, right?

Not so, say Washington County Board of Education administrators who claim they saw few, if any, students having problems with anxiety while taking Maryland School Assessment reading tests last week.

The students are prepared for the tests by taking sample tests and answering sample questions, administrators said.

Joetta Palkovitz-Brown, executive director of elementary education for the school system, compared the preparations to athletes getting ready for a big game.

Students took Maryland School Assessment reading tests last Wednesday and Thursday and are scheduled to take Maryland School Assessment math tests Wednesday and Thursday, according to the school system calendar.

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On Wednesday, Palkovitz-Brown said she and other administrators observed elementary school students, who were relaxed and working hard, she said.

"They did not see any children exhibiting test anxiety," she said.

Instead the students smiled and looked at people coming in, she said.

Some of the schools made sure students had snacks, water and breaks at appropriate times, she said.

"For most children, test anxiety does not seem to be a big issue," she said.

Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education, said test anxiety did not appear to be a problem in the middle and high schools, either. Some students may have anxiety problems, but that is not the norm, he said.

Patricia Abernathy, deputy superintendent for the system, said the students she observed in the schools last Wednesday and Thursday were relaxed and attentive.

"There have been practice timed sessions in schools that have prepared students for the timed tests, which can be a bit different than the regular classroom if they are not part of a routine," she said. Teachers make the tests part of a routine, which helps the students, she said.

"So, teaching how to read with attention, respond to a variety of questions with thought and checking again to be sure nothing was missed are just great skills in class and on tests," she said.

The comments may seem to come in contrast with an article, "Helping Kids with Test Anxiety," published in the September 2003 publication "Helping Hand." The publication has Washington County Public Schools' name on it.

"With testing of all sorts on the rise in schools, it's natural that a corresponding increase in cases of test anxiety would result," the article began. "Most young people (and adults) experience some level of nervousness before taking a test. Feeling some jitters is normal and even helps us focus our attention on the task at hand."

The publication can be found in the lobby of the school system's central office and at some schools. The September issue was in the central office in January.

Bonnie Forsyth, coordinator of the school system's office of safe and drug-free schools, said the school system chooses to distribute the newsletter provided by a Michigan company to meet a government mandate. The newsletter, which contains information and articles discouraging drug use, is a good resource, she said.

The newsletters come with a blank space where the school systems put their names, she said. The system does not control or endorse the newsletter's content, she said.

The stories in the publication are not about schools in this region, but instead are national stories that sometimes do not apply to local students, she said.

The newsletter is helpful because it lets system employees know about national issues, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said Sunday.

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