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10th grade MCAS test anxiety and how it relates to student demographics

Peggy McCaleb-Kahan, Johnson & Wales University


The intensification of consequential testing situations is associated with an increase in anxiety among American students (Casbarro, 2005). Test anxiety can have negative effects on student test performance (Everson, Millsap, & Rodriguez, 1991). If test anxiety has the potential to decrease students’ test scores, it becomes a factor that can threaten the validity of any inferences drawn between test scores and student progress (Cizek & Burg, 2006). There are several factors that relate closely to test anxiety (Cizek & Burg, 2006). Variables of key influence include gender, socioeconomic status, and teacher-manifested anxiety (Hembree, 1988). Other influences upon test anxiety include participation in academic support programs to assist students in their preparation for exit examinations. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between 10th grade high school student gender, socioeconomic status, perceived teacher anxiety, and student preparedness with levels of MCAS test anxiety. No research has examined levels of high school test anxiety in regards to a specific impeding, high-stakes testing situation. A two-phase sequential mixed-methods research design was used to survey (N=156) 10th grade students represented by a sampling of (n=80) students with low socioeconomic status and (n=76) students with high socioeconomic status regarding their levels of test anxiety in relation to upcoming MCAS testing. A stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to measure the correlation between the sampled predictor variables (gender, socioeconomic status, perceived teacher anxiety, and student preparedness) with the criterion variable of student test anxiety. Personal interviews with (n=20) volunteer students provided rich explanations of students’ academic self-efficacy, of their perceptions of their performance on the upcoming MCAS exam, and of their use of strategies to reduce their levels of test anxiety. Personal interviews with (n=12) volunteer school administrators and teachers provided descriptions of their perceptions of how test anxiety affected their students’ performance. A major finding of this study is that the variables of student socioeconomic status and student ratings of teacher anxiety accounted for the variance in students’ levels of surveyed test anxiety (R 2 = .06, p = .033, d = small/medium). These results indicate that different student populations vary in their readiness skills to successfully participate in consequential testing situations. Consequently, high-test anxious students would require emotional preparation as well as academic preparation when confronting high-stakes testing. The results have the potential to re-shape the format of schools’ MCAS test preparation efforts, and to help establish staff and parent training to learn ways to reduce test anxiety reactions.

Subject Area

Educational tests & measurements|School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

McCaleb-Kahan, Peggy, "10th grade MCAS test anxiety and how it relates to student demographics" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3359241.