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Back to school means back to test-taking: the anxiety is real

Posted: 4:56 PM, Aug 17, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-17 21:30:13-04

It's that time of year again in the Old Pueblo: a new school year. Back to school means school supply shopping, after school activities and homework.

But what it also can bring: test-anxiety. And now, with teachers incorporating more college and career-focused standards into their coursework, the stakes are at an all time high for students across Arizona.

20% of students suffer from high test anxiety, and another 18% suffer from moderate-high test anxiety, according to research done by the American Test Anxieties Association.

The ATAA says test-anxiety can cause confused reasoning and memory loss, leading to more mistakes, causing lower test scores.

"I think that there's a due amount of pressure, nobody likes to look bad," La Paloma Academy South Principal Paul Bummer said. "So if you're the kid who gets a 2-out-of-10 on your spelling test, yeah, that's kind of embarrassing."

Principal Bummer explained that his school is aware of the test-anxiety problem, so the teachers do what they can to make sure kids are as comfortable as possible. One way is by offering them smart test-taking techniques."

When you go down to do it, read the questions first," Bummer said. "You know, get them all done. Read all the answer questions, zero out the ones you know make no sense at all."

He believes that parents play a significant role in both creating and reducing test-anxiety. He hopes more parents can help alleviate test-anxiety by encouraging their children to not necessarily be the best -- but do the best that they can.

"The bottom line is, you know, encourage," Bummer said. "Let them know that education is their only job that they have as a student, and do your best at it. Everything you do, do your best at."

The principal understands some students have a harder time doing the work, but wants to make sure parents are there to help make sure the work gets done.

"Let them go at their pace and encourage them to move up, or do one better the next time," Bummer said. "If you got six right on this week's spelling test, let's go for seven next week, and just take it in baby steps."