The Effects of Standardized Testing on Students’ Mental Health

As stated by the BusinessDictionary, economic stability describes the financial system of a nation that only displays minor fluctuations in output growth and exhibits a consistently low inflation rate. Economic stability has been affecting students since their very first day of school. It slowly gets worse, though when the achievement gap between the two classes starts to widen; It starts to widen due to the economic advantages and disadvantages which affects lower and higher income students and their scores on standardized tests. Standardized education in the US is negatively affecting the mental health of high-school students and is a catalyst for depression, stress, anxiety, and several other mental health related issues.

Standardized testing has been causing high school students in the US to have mental health problems ever since passing standardized tests became more important than the well being of the students . Having to take standardized tests is enough of a stressor ,but when struggling with a wage gap from an early age as well that just puts the lower income high school students at more of risk for receiving a mental health issue.

Research has been done that proves the fact that socioeconomics does affect a child’s brain structure. This research was performed on April 17, 2015, at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the data found showed that the academic achievement gap between the higher and lower class students is reflected in brain anatomy. The study that was performed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Harvard was a study including 58 students; 23 of the students were from lower-income families and the other 35 were from higher-income families.

The study states on MIT News that “ low-income students were defined as those who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch.” The researchers compared the tested students’ scores on the MCAS ( Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) within the research they found differences in the thickness of parts of the cortex; The cortex is a major factor in functions such as thoughts, sensory perception, and language. To find these differences in thickness the researchers used a MRI which allowed them to discover the differences in the cortex were in the temporal and occipital lobes. The MRI showed that higher- income students had a thicker cortex while lower- income students had thinner cortices. Following the research the experimenters noticed the differences did have a correlation to differences in family income and test scores. It states on MIT News that “differences in cortical thickness in these brain regions could explain as much as 44 percent of the income achievement gap found in this study.”

Another important reason economic income affects students with their standardized testing, is class size. Classes over the years have slowly become more and more crowded with an estimate of 30-40 students in each classroom. This applies to the economic lense because it is the lower- income schools who are overcrowded while the higher- income students have the smaller classes which gives them the opportunity for a more personal-learning environment. This allows the higher-income students to grasp the provided education easier, and if they don’t understand the provided information the teachers have small enough classes that they could easily address the needs of each student. It applies to the thesis because as it states in the Washington Post “small classes have been found to have positive impacts not only on test scores during the duration of the class-size reduction experiment, but also on life outcomes in the years after the experiment ended.”

However the lower-income schools will continue to have over-packed schools because smaller classes can not be made without increasing the amount of money spent on teachers. What makes the situation with the lower- income schools worse is that when the already small budget gets smaller the already over- packed classes get more and more packed. These over packed classrooms double the amount of stress already put on the students from the standardized test, making them more vulnerable for mental health issues to form.

Studies posted in the Washington Post show that “students who were originally assigned to smaller classes did better than their schoolmates who were assigned to regular-sized classes across a variety of outcomes, including juvenile criminal behavior, teen pregnancy etc…” The research that was done proves that lower class population helps increase mental health and overall behavior, but to have smaller class sizes the school’s yearly income must be taken into account. The lower the budget the bigger the classes. The bigger the budget the smaller the classes.