During her testimony in front of a state budget committee today, Chancellor Carmen Fariña gave a window into her thoughts on test anxiety, citing examples of student distress typically highlighted by testing critics.
She was responding to John DeFrancisco, a Republican state senator who represents Syracuse. “As far as the anxiety level of kids, everybody has anxiety,” DeFrancisco said. “Obviously, the worst anxiety is when you get out of school and you can’t find a job because you can’t read. So, life is full of anxiety. I hope everyone can lead a full life without any anxiety, and maybe we could pay for that somehow with some program.”
DeFrancisco continued, saying his plea to Fariña was for her to set the expectation for a “get-these-kids-learning” tone in school buildings and to replace administrators at low-performing schools.
“I don’t want anyone thinking that I don’t believe in high standards and holding kids accountable — because I do — and holding adults accountable,” Fariña responded. “But I draw the line when kids in younger grades or even upper grades throw up in the classroom because of the stress factor, start urinating because of the stress factor. We have to understand that there is a childhood time when kids should want to go to school, that coming into school and a friendly atmosphere makes them better learners and that when they leave at end of the day they say, ‘Gee, I can’t wait to come back tomorrow.’ So we have to separate what we hold kids to and how we do it.”
Ramon Gonzalez, principal of M.S. 223 in the South Bronx—the first school Fariña visited as chancellor—said in a meeting last spring that some of his students cried, and one vomited, from test stress.