Monday, July 30, 2007

Musings about HSTs Effects on Teachers

Though there is not a lot of research done concerning the effects of High Stakes Testing (HSTs) on teachers, there is growing evidence that it is overwhelming many otherwise good teachers. This baleful effect is bound to have negetive ramifications for our society in the end.

Hanson did a “quantitative cross-sectional study” examining legislated HST “mandates in relation to burnout subscales, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment” (2006, p. iv). This study looked at “second through fifth grade high-stakes reading and mathematics teachers” and compared them to “low-stakes art, music, and physical education teachers” (Hanson, 2006, p. iv). These teachers worked in an urban district and filled out a Maslach Burnout Inventory, Education Survey, and a demographic survey. The results were conclusive: “Data from the study revealed a significant relationship between high-stakes subject area and the burnout subscale, emotional exhaustion, which is considered a key component of the burnout syndrome by some (Maslach et al., 1996)” (2006, p. 180). “Since burnout impedes job performance, results suggest the achievement gap may widen because of the very legislation [NCLB] instituted to close it” (Hanson, 2006, p. iv). As Hanson concludes, she makes this poignant statement:

"The results of the study on No Child Left Behind high-stakes testing and teacher burnout advance the importance of examining the burnout levels of teachers, those charged with making a difference in lives of the nation’s youth. The study advances a call to action on the part of education leaders, be they school, district, teacher association, or teacher leaders. . . . Teachers are, after all, the individuals who make the difference, not just because they help students pass tests, but because they help students experience and love learning" (2006, p. 179).

So, here we have some strong evidence that, in spite of some evidence that a few teachers are faring well (Hanson, 2006; Fedore, 2006; McMillan, 2005; Brimijoin, 2005), there is a significant number who are overwhelmed, feeling depersonalized, and downright depressed over trying to accomplish all that is legislated for them to do (Hanson, 2006). Hanson suggests that district seriously measure not only the students test scores, but also measure the emotional level of their teachers who are in the fray (2006).

There is something insidious here. The teachers are affected in a major way; we already have shortages, especially in special education (Sorrells et al., 2004); now, we are seeing clear evidence that teachers are being overwhelmed by HSTs and NCLB ramifications.
If teachers are affected so seriously, then, they are going to have a direct effect on their students. This effect will be deleterious not only to our youth, but also to our educational system and to our nation as a whole.


Brimijoin, K. (2005). Differentiation and high-stakes testing: An oxymoron? Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 254-261.

Fedore, H. (2006). De-stressing high-stakes testing for NCLB. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 71(6), 23-28.

Hanson, A. (2006). No child left behind: High-stakes testing and teacher burnout in urban elementary schools. Retrieved Friday, July 20, 2007 from the ERIC database.

McMillan, J. (2005). The impact of high-stakes test results on teachers’ instructional and classroom assessment practices. Online Submission, Retrieved Sunday, July 27, 2007 from the ERIC database.

Sorrells, A., Reith, H., & Sindelar, P. (2004). Critical issues in special education. New York, NY: Pearson.


Ella Litchfield said...

Good Job. As a teacher I know about burn-out, and for ESE teachers it is even higher. Teaching is not for "the faint of heart" so dig in and hang on!
Ella Litchfield

Marcia said...

In your post you describe how the very legislation created to ensure every child has equal access to quality education has undermined itself by causing high levels of stress including teacher burnout which damages job performance. The irony of the situation is very clear and strong.