Schools aim to ease students” test stress

COLUMBIA, Pa. – Asia Pearson and her fifth-grade classmates enjoyed a taste of summer as a reward for enduring a battery of state math and reading tests.

Beach Day capped a week of activities that also included Pajama Day.

“The test was hard, but the activities were the fun part,” said Asia, 11, as she sat on a chair draped with a rainbow-colored Mickey Mouse beach towel.

Across the nation, educators are trying a variety of methods – including beach days, barbecues, flute music and fun hats – to ease test anxiety as schools face pressure to improve scores under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“We need to somehow take the stress off the kids, and somehow make those days as normal as possible,” said Brent Swartzmiller, principal of Wayne Trail Elementary School in suburban Toledo, Ohio.

At Swartzmiller’s school, one teacher helps students with mental and physical exercises before tests.

Joseph Pisacano, a fifth-grade teacher in the Philadelphia suburb of Warminster, uses use tai chi as a stress-relief activity after he saw how it relaxed students during an Asian culture celebration at his school.

Other schools target students’ stomachs.

At Memorial High School in Madison, Wis., teacher prepare a buffet-style breakfast for sophomores on the mornings of their state tests, which take place in the fall.

The K-8 Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center in Phoenix kicks off its state testing period with a barbecue.

This year, the school asked students to make “thinking caps” to wear on the day of the event, said Principal Carolyn Repp, who donned a student-designed paper hat festooned with curly ribbons for the occasion last week.

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