VHS fails to escape test anxiety epidemic
By Mackenzie Guadagno, Reporter
According to the Pew Research Center, test anxiety tops the list of major problems faced by teens today, placing higher than drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the pressure to fit in socially. 61 percent of teens report feeling overwhelming pressure to get good grades. The National Education Association called test anxiety among today’s students the “mental-health tsunami” of their generation. And according to the Pew
Research Center the problem is getting increasingly worse.
Vashon is no exception, and VHS counselor Jeffrey Jones notes the impact on Vashon students.
“… there’s a lot of things we see here,” Jones said. “Students self-report that they’re feeling stressed out. They’re not coming to school, not coming to class. [On] test day … it can feel so overwhelming that [the students are] like, ‘why bother trying’, and they shut down [and] become isolated. It can lead to depression.”
Freshman Sailor Frith says she feels the pressure of getting good grades at school before a test.
“I get a lot of anxiety from [big tests I have to study for] and the days before [the test] I can feel a little nauseous and get nervous. I think everyone does that,” Frith said.
Students and teachers alike recognize the problem, and VHS has resources for students with test anxiety.
“… [there is] tutoring Tuesdays and Thursdays and that’s a great way for students to be prepared and to utilize that,” Jones said. “Our staff is always open to a student reaching out… whether it’s about test anxiety, or something completely unrelated… I would say counselors are available as a resource for students as well… And with standards based grading, as a school we’ve embraced the whole philosophy that students are going to learn skills at different points in time.”
Even with VHS’s resources, however, some students suggest the school can do more.
“No one understands my 504 plan [and usually] I have to say I have one. I think it would just help if the teachers know your 504 plan [ahead of time],” sophomore Shai Gefkovicz said.
Frith suggests more open notes testing would reduce test anxiety.
“It would help if I was able to use notes during testing. Or at least allowed to have something to go back on. [For example, on math tests, allowing students to refer to formulas] would definitely help because on the last math test I messed up because I forgot the formula,” Frith said.
Frith’s idea has some support with teachers.
“I let my tests be open notes because I think in the real world when you’re doing work on stuff you get to reference your notes, you get to go to research, so I don’t think that’s an unrealistic experience. And if you take good notes you’re prepared for the test,” chemistry teacher Kathleen Regovich said.