Fusion, Feb 10, Parental Anxiety

What Parental Anxiety Does to
Student Test Scores
And what we can do about it
And in the interest of full
• About Susan Micari, BCET, MS. Ed.
• I was an average student in school except for the English and
history classes. My parents trusted me to do my best.
• My SAT scores were average by today’s standard. My parents let
me take them once, and take a Kaplan course, after which my
scores were exactly the same.
• I was a quotidian college student in all subjects but my major,
acting. I had this creative endeavor from an early age to fuel my
sense of self-efficacy, curiosity, and adventure.
How I got here tonight…
• I was unsuccessful in theater in NYC, and bored to death with my
day/night jobs including selling title insurance, selling clothing,
midnight typing at a law firm, and waiting tables in restaurants and
dancing in an illegal Turkish gambling den. I began a volunteer
literacy program at a shelter for women and children in my early 30’s
and loved it.
• My acting union gave me free training in how to teach English as a
Second Language and that job plus a movie voice over in which I
dubbed a blond actress’s voice to Liam Neeson’s Nazi, paid living
expenses and some courses in grad school at Bank Street College of
Education. The scene never made the final cut but I get checks from it
to this day.
thank you, Liam, (sigh)
• It wasn’t until grad school that I became an A
student. I had a goal, I was paying for my own
education, and I was eager to become a good
• I have never stopped learning. My current
credentials include national Board
Certification as an educational therapist, a
certificate in organizational psychology, and
deep involvement in several arts organizations.
What we’ll learn tonight…
Parental Anxiety and Student Test Score
– What the research indicates
Coping with our own anxiety about testing
Helping anxious children build resilience
What research says about learning, stress, the
prefrontal cortex
2004 Study by Osburn, Stegman, Suitt & Ritter,
“Parents Perceptions of Standardized Testing: Its
Relationship and Effect on Student Test Scores.”
• Previous studies found that “parents’ high expectations for and
general monitoring of their children’s performance were
positively related to academic achievement, whereas helping
with homework had negative or no associations with
• New study done with one high achieving school district in
Arkansas, to find out what parents’ perceptions of the value of
achievement testing was, what they thought their role in testing
should be, and whether this related to student achievement on
tests. (79)
Results of the University of Arkansas
• Study of fifth graders and the stress their parents felt
about achievement tests. Researchers used the Stanford
Achievement Test-9 . Fathers and mothers randomly
participated with their children.
• Results: “Children of parents who had most positive or
negative view of the importance of standardized testing
were among the lowest performers on the exam.” (88)
• Children whose parents felt moderate pressure about
and had moderate belief in the value of the tests
averaged 30 points higher on the test. (89)
Results of University of Arkansas
• “Parents who reported feeling pressure to
help their children perform well on exams
had children with the lowest average scaled
scores.” (87)
• Same across reading and math
2007 Study by Thergaonkar and Wadkar in India:
“Relationship between Test Anxiety and Parenting Style”
• Maternal perfectionism correlates with test anxiety
in girls
• Parental worry was associated with negative
outcomes for children on high school board exams
• 200 mothers and 207 children surveyed.
• Parental authoritarianism and control correlated
with negative test outcomes.
• Parental warmth and democratic parenting style
was associated with positive perception of parents
and acceptance of parents by children, and with an
internalization of parental standards.
Part 2
• What we can do at home about test
anxiety in our children:
Home support:
Cooksey and Fondell, 1996 study: “Spending Time with His
Kids: Effects of Family Structure on Father’s and Children’s
• Pre-teens whose fathers spent leisure time
at home and outdoors, shared meals,
helped with homework, and talked to them
earned better grades, on average, than teens
whose fathers spent less time with them.
Vukovic, Roberts and Green-Wright 2013 study at
NYU & Boston College:
“From Parental Involvement to Children’s Mathematical
Performance: The Role of Math Anxiety”
• Parental involvement in the child’s education
and parents’ valence toward school were
negatively correlated with the development of
math skills in 2nd grade, and positively
correlated with math anxiety.
• Subtle aspects of parental involvement include
parent-child communication, and home
support related positively for higher level math
skill development.
What to do about test anxiety in our
• Put on your own oxygen mask first before
assisting others.
What to do?
• Mindfulness based stress reduction for us, and
for our children. Kabat-Zinn 1990
• Time Magazine reports in the February 16, 2015
issue that mindfulness meditation exercises
result in fewer ADHD symptoms, improved
focus, less depression, and better 41% of
middle schoolers in study gained one stanine
in standardized math testing.
• Improve quality of our subtle support by
managing our own anxieties for our children.
Improved quality of communication
• When we own our own anxiety children can
detach from our fears and develop healthier
coping mechanisms for their own.
Owning our own anxiety
• Improve quality of our home support by managing
our own.
• By owning our own anxieties. Beardslee, et.al. 2003
study showed that anxious and depressed parents
can reduce the risk that their children will develop
anxiety and depression by improving
communication about, and owning their own
anxieties. Improved communication about their
anxieties with children helped kids detach from
their parents fears, and develop resilience.
When psychological help is needed
• CBT is efficacious for teenagers struggling with
• Therapy for parents about learning issues or
parenting strategies is beneficial.
• Medication is a tool, not a cure-all, nor a
danger if properly prescribed and supervised.
• A psycho-educational evaluation can help
define cognitive sources of anxiety in children,
and educational therapy can help the child
learn new ways to manage stress, test taking,
and study skills.
• Learning how to learn: it’s different than they
told us.
• Learning how to deal with performance
anxiety: what the prefrontal cortex does, and
how to get it going again when it becomes
flooded by worry.
• Putting distance between a history of test
anxiety and the present with many small
successful interventions-building a new reality
Warmth and values at home
• There is time. There is always time for children to grow
up, to find their milieu and to live authentic, vulnerable,
courageous lives. With average SAT scores. With a
college that suits their needs at the moment that they go
away. Think of the children who strive to get into reach
schools and can’t survive academically or socially in
them. There is a good school to suit most children.
There are specialists to help us find them.
• We are our children’s inner security until they can go it
alone. For the secure child, a test is a test. We might
even call it retrieval practice. For the child trying
desperately to please, a test is a field of battle.
Dealing with wounding
• Parents need a safe place to grieve their own
wounds when their children can’t fulfill
either their own dreams or those of the
• These wounds are normal.
• Moving through them helps us to express
our love for the child we have, and free
ourselves to give the right help at the right
time to our families.
Works Cited
Beardslee, WR, TR Gladstone, EJ Wright, and AB Cooper. “A family-based approach to the prevention of depressive
symptoms in children at risk: evidence of parental and child change. Pediatrics 112.2 (2003): E119-31. Web.
<http://ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12897317>.
Osburn, Monica Z., Charles Stegman, Laura D. Suitt, and Gary Ritter. "Parents' Perceptions of Standardized Testing: Its
Relationshipp And Effect on Student Achievement." Journal of Educational Research & Policy Study Spring 4.1 (2004): n.
pag. Web.
Oaklander, Mandy. “Wellness: Mini Meditators. Mindfulness and Meditation Exercises Are Helping Kids Get an Edge in the
Classroom.” Time 16 Feb. 2015: 54. Print.
"Parental Involvement and Children's Well-Being." FamilyFacts.org. N.p., 09 Aug. 2014. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.
Theragaonkar, Neerja R., and AJ Wadkar. "Relationship between Test Anxiety and Parenting Style." J. Indian Association
Child Adolescent Mental Health 2.4 (2007): 10-12. Web.
Vukovic, Rose K., Steven O. Roberts, and Linnie Green Wright. "From Parental Involvement to Children's Mathematical
Performance: The Role of Mathematics Anxiety." Early Education and Development 24 (2013): 446-67. Web.
• CUCARD: Columbia University Clinic for
Anxiety and Related Disorders
• Bielock, Sian. Choke: What the Secrets of the
Brain Reveal about Getting it Right When You
Have To. New York: Free Press, 2010.
• Carey, Benedict. How We Learn: The Surprising
Truth About When, Where, and Why it
Happens. New York: Random House, 2014.

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