Professor Mark NAISON reports on the conclusions of a social worker who is getting large numbers of referrals of students who are sick with test-anxiety and teachers who,now find they work in a hostile environment due to the stress of high-stakes testing.

Here is an excerpt:

“In the fall of 2012, I started to receive an inordinate number of student referrals from several different school districts. I was being referred a large number of honors students—mostly 8th graders.The kids were self-mutilating—cutting themselves with sharp objects and burning themselves with cigarettes. My phone never stopped ringing.

What was prompting this increase in self-mutilating behavior? Why now?

The answer I received from every single teenager was the same. “I can’t handle the pressure. It’s too much work.”

I also started to receive more calls referring elementary school students who were refusing to go to school. They said they felt “stupid” and school was “too hard.” They were throwing tantrums, begging to stay home, and upset even to the point of vomiting.

I was also hearing from parents about kids bringing home homework that the parents didn’t understand and they couldn’t help their children to complete. I was alarmed to hear that in some cases there were no textbooks for the parents to peruse and they had no idea what their children were learning.

My teachers were reporting a startling level of anxiety and depression. For the first time, I heard the term “Common Core” and I became awakened to a new set of standards that all schools were to adhere to—standards that we now say “set the bar so high, anyone can walk right under them.”

Everyone was talking about “The Tests.” As the school year progressed and “The Tests” loomed, my patients began to report increased self-mutilating behaviors, insomnia, panic attacks, loss of appetite, depressed mood, and in one case, suicidal thoughts that resulted in a 2-week hospital stay for an adolescent.

I do not know of any formal studies that connect these symptoms directly to the Common Core, but I do not think we need to sacrifice an entire generation of children just so we can find a correlation.

The Common Core and high stakes testing create a hostile working environment for teachers, thus becoming a hostile learning environment for students. The level of anxiety I am seeing in teachers can only trickle down to the students. Everyone I see is describing a palpable level of tension in the schools.”