Education Opinion

Test Anxiety

By Walt Gardner — January 23, 2013 1 min read

It’s presumptuous to advise parents about how to address their children’s test anxiety, but I wonder if they’ve sufficiently thought through the matter (“How test anxiety affected a young boy,” Education News, Jan. 21). By opting out of all testing in order to spare their children, for example, they are inadvertently reinforcing the anxiety, not only for now but for the future.

Long after children graduate from high school, they will be faced with situations in the workplace that are the equivalent of a test, except that the stakes are higher because jobs depend on the evaluations received. If children have never learned how to manage their anxiety in school about this issue, how will they be able to do so at work when they are adults?

That’s where cognitive behavioral techniques come in. Its practitioners frequently treat patients with anxiety in all of its various manifestations. As a result, they’re acutely aware of how painful and crippling the disorder is. Yet they report impressive results when patients are taught skills to confront the anxiety. They rarely counsel patients to absent themselves from situations that have the potential to provoke an anxious reaction unless there is a clear and present danger.

The mother who refused to let her 6th-grade son take the standardized tests mandated by state law rationalized her decision by saying that her son is more positive about learning. I’m sure that he is because he no longer has to take the dreaded tests. But why couldn’t the boy be gently guided to face his fears beforehand? I’m not talking now about toughing it out because sensitive children do not respond well to this approach. Nor am I talking about medication, which is way overused.

Instead, parents can teach their children to challenge and dispute the thinking that triggers their test anxiety. They then can learn alternative ways of thinking and coping. Once these strategies become internalized, students not only feel relief from testing, but they also feel empowered to handle other events that ordinarily would cause them to flee.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read