Author: Amy Giesler, LCSW

Standardized testing occurs in virtually all elementary and secondary educational programs across our nation. The purpose of this testing is to assess student learning and measure the acquisition of grade level skills in all content areas. NJ schools anticipate the implementation of statewide PARCC (Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Careers) testing for K-12 next year. Recognizing that standardized testing can heighten stress and anxiety for students, educators must consider what can be done to help students prepare not just educationally, but emotionally as well.

Anxiety can impact special needs students in a wide variety of ways. Symptoms of anxiety can be manifested both internally and externally. School personnel may notice changes in children’s mood and behavior. In addition, many children may exhibit an increase in somatic complaints, including headache, stomach ache, and fatigue. While these symptoms can certainly interfere with test performance, in the worst cases they may even prevent a child from attending school on testing days.

As educators, we are well aware of the stress and pressure involved with standardized testing. But what makes this kind of test administration so anxiety provoking for special needs students? Many of these students struggle with transition; test time is certainly a deviation from the norm. Schedules may be changed, seats rearranged, different materials are used, and regulations may prohibit teachers from providing the same delivery of instruction the student has come to expect from the supportive classroom environment. These factors, combined with pre-existing learning disabilities, skill deficits, ADHD, and/or anxiety issues can make test time extremely challenging for both students and school personnel.

Windsor Academy and Windsor Prep staff is dedicated to ensuring that test anxiety can be minimized for children. Each child receives the accommodations he/she requires in a warm, supportive environment conducive to testing. Windsor counseling staff is readily available to help students who may be experiencing anxiety related to testing. Students are encouraged to verbalize their apprehension and work with their counselor to develop relaxation strategies that help them maintain focus and facilitate test taking. At Windsor Academy and Windsor Prep, small class sizes and student-to-staff ratios promote an atmosphere that allows for individualized attention and positive reinforcement of behavior. Together, we strive to minimize the anxiety students may experience related to testing so they may have the best possible outcomes that truly reflect their abilities.

To learn more about how Windsor Academy and Windsor Prep can meet the unique learning needs of students, visit our website at www.thewindsorschools.com.