As Tennessee Schools Stress Testing, Some Students Are Driven To Tears

Usher put on a Gra-Mar Middle School t-shirt to give an encouraging word to students before this week's TCAP tests. Credit: MNPS via YouTube

Usher put on a Gra-Mar Middle School t-shirt to give an encouraging word to students before this week’s TCAP tests. Credit: MNPS via YouTube

TCAP – the state’s high-stakes standardized test – begins this week, and school districts have gone to great lengths to pump kids up. At the same time, the testing has driven some students to tears.

Schools are throwing academic pep rallies, holding cash drawings for attending tutor sessions and receiving encouragement from celebrities. Usher – the global superstar – sent a video to Nashville’s Gra-Mar Middle.

“You can do any and everything you want to do if you put your mind to it,” he says. “So get ready and do your best.”

Schools are going to new lengths to stress the importance of standardized tests now that a teacher’s performance review is riding on the scores. A student even has more riding on TCAP now.

For the last three years, the standardized test accounts for 20 percent of a child’s semester grade.

The pressure is enough to crack some students.

“Her anxiety level is just through the roof,” says Dana Swafford, whose daughter attends Meigs Magnet in Nashville. “At some point, you’ve got to say how much is too much for a child who is only eleven years old to endure?”

Swafford says she might pull her daughter out of TCAP testing this week.

Nashville schools have had more parents than usual opting out of standardized testing, even though it’s only a few dozen. *According to MNPS, only three families have fully opted out of the TCAP tests given this week. There’s a small nationwide movement of parents who say testing now takes up too much time and is a poor measure of a student’s abilities.

A spokesman for Metro Schools says the district recognizes the “emotional needs” of students, which is why pre-TCAP events are meant to be lighthearted and relaxing.

“We have been preparing for a long time,” says Katie Gerding, a 7th grade math teacher at LEAD Academy Middle School. “We teach them test strategies, so how to relax before, how to get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and just take deep breaths to calm any kind of anxiety they do have.”

*8:25 pm The majority of those who opted out of testing pulled their children from taking the TCAP writing assessment earlier in the school year.

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