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NCLB Outrages

Does testing cause baldness?

Ohanian Comment: I post this blog and reactions as a reminder that a substantial number of people connected with education

a) view test resisters with contempt
b) are not touched by student distress
c) choose sarcasm as the answer to student distress
d) have unrelenting faith in the State and the tests they inflict on children
e) will defend G. B. Bush, no matter what
f) think test stress is good because it prepares kids for life
g) All of the above

I don't know where to start with this one, from a Boston advice column:

Dear Chatters: LAMBERMOM said her 10-year old daughter began pulling her hair because she was worried about the MCAS. She asked Chatters for advice and support.

ANTI-MCAS MOM: Maybe the problem isn't with your daughter. Maybe it's with the state education leaders thinking they have to scare 10-year-olds into preparing for a test to the extent that kids literally pull their hair out...Believe me, your daughter is not alone in her nervousness and extreme anxiety...

To find out about tens of thousands of other parents who are working to change things so our kids won't have to pull their hair out over the MCAS, go to the MassCARE website, www.caremass.org, and join us. Education reform shouldn't be about giving our children nervous habits they didn't have before.

Nervous habits like literacy and numeracy?

I shouldn't be mean. A 10-year-old who is this nervous is not a good thing. However, I'm not convinced that the mother's first response should be to eradicate anything that is causing this nervousness. This may be the first test her daughter is facing, but it won't be the last. Wouldn't it be more useful to help the daughter prepare for the exams? Talk with her about the anxiety and let her know that it's pretty much a part of everyday life? Perhaps hire a tutor or even (I can't believe I'm saying this) a test prep instructor?

Thanks to Reginleif for the link; she sent it to me with a subject line that read, simply, "Oy." I have to agree.

Posted by kswygert at April 17, 2005 12:30 PM | TrackBack


I had a similar experience today. A teacher friend of mine was blaming her school's troubles on NCLB, when in fact it's the district administration's decisions on how to implement NCLB (on top of her school being one with a lot of migrant students) that are causing all the problems. My mom teaches in the same district and told me about the guy they've got in charge. By all accounts he is a real jerk and treats people unprofessionally, insists that they have to do things his way and doesn't value input from the boots-on-the-ground teachers. How this guy is supposed to be George Bush's fault is beyond me, because Bush didn't hire him.
Posted by: Wacky Hermit at April 17, 2005 04:16 PM

I would say that the child's extreme nervousness needs further investigation and possibly therapy.
Posted by: Peter at April 17, 2005 05:57 PM

Any kid who's extremely nervous and anxious about a test needs some help. It's far more likely that the test is merely a trigger for an anxiety condition, not the cause. Of course, since (most) anti-testing advocates view tests as the root of all evil, they'll claim that this child would have been perfectly happy without the test.

Posted by: Quincy at April 17, 2005 10:03 PM

Ooooh, yes. Which is more treatable, standardized testing or anxiety-based hair pulling? Probably the child did really well, all things considered. though this is probably blaming the victim, I wish some more of MY students had hair-pulling fits because a number of them seemed completely blase about our Florida FCAT testing; hell, ONE kid actually FELL ASLEEP!!

...wish I was able to have pulled HIS hair...
Posted by: Big Orange at April 18, 2005 07:53 AM

As if the kid's never going to encounter anything more stressful than a standardized test in her life...I say, let the kids have a taste of stress early, so they can cope with adulthood and having three bosses telling them contradictory things and having to schedule meetings when everyone's schedule is so busy and dealing with difficult personalities and and and....I don't have to pull my hair out from stress, it's falling out on its own....
Posted by: ricki at April 18, 2005 08:40 AM

ricki has a good point. I teach chemistry at one of the University of xxxxx. I normally give a nationally standardized American Chemical Exams as a final which causes numerous complaints and anxiety attacks. So, up here in higher ed the 20-year olds still complain. I always remind them of ricki's scenarios and as professionals they'll be subject to all sorts of accreditation exams. Those would be take-no-prisoner exams that come every 2-5 years.
Posted by: Frank at April 18, 2005 01:36 PM

"My child is so nervous about a test that she's pulling her hair out. What can I do?"

"Join a political campaign that might possibly eradicate that test for other children several years from now."

As it happens, I approve of moderate testing. (I'm British and don't know enough to have a detailed opinion on particular US tests.) But even if I loathed testing I would think that "Anti MCAS Mom" is not giving helpful advice.
Posted by: Natalie Solent at April 18, 2005 01:48 PM

Now Natalie, just when did being British ever stop you from having an opinion on anything? :)
Posted by: Rex at April 18, 2005 03:41 PM

It's called trichotillomania - and the tone of the columnist suggest to me that she isn't taking it at all seriously.

I've had mild trich since I was about 13 - yes, anxiety makes the hair-pulling impulse worse, but so what?
Posted by: Atlantic at April 18, 2005 05:14 PM

— Kimberly Swygert blog
No. 2 Pencil


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