The emotional effects of high-stakes testing on students with learning differences

This study explored the emotional effects of high-stakes testing on students with learning differences. The research was conducted at a non-public school that specializes in a college preparatory curriculum for students with learning disabilities. Twenty-three students participated in two separate surveys regarding student emotional responses to the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR). Seven categories were measured including test anxiety, test apathy, test preparedness, test-taking skills, coping strategies, test fairness, and motivation. The goal of the study was to determine factors impacting student test performance. The results of study confirmed that a majority of the students have a negative opinion of their high-stakes test experiences. Nearly half of the students demonstrated test anxiety on one or both of the assessments. Results suggest student scores on the STAR may be invalid, as students demonstrated a strong sense of test apathy and lack of motivation. These results indicated a need for teachers to continue integrating test preparation skills and testtaking strategies into the general curriculum. The data also confirmed the necessity of adopting alternative assessments for students with learning disabilities in order to more accurately measure their levels of achievement. Finally, the results spoke of the critical need for educational reformers to revise the narrowly focused expectations outlined in No Child Left Behind. Key words: High-stakes tests, test anxiety, test apathy, California High School Exit Exam, California, standardized testing and reporting