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Schools examine causes of anxiety

Educators and psychologists propose a host of explanations for the apparent uptick in student anxiety. Some point to public events – terrorism, school shootings, opioid addiction, the coarsening of political discourse in the age of Trump.

Others blame technology—devices that substitute electronic contact for face-to-face interaction, and social media that transform school-hours drama into a 24-7 preoccupation.

Still others look to family dysfunction, or pressure to match parental achievements. “The anxiety comes from so many different sources.


Link to main story: How K12 is outwitting anxiety


What’s interesting is it’s not restricted to any one socioeconomic group,” says Richard Scaletta, superintendent of the General McLane School District in rural northwestern Pennsylvania. “The basic underlying issue is families are not there for the kids like they used to be.”

But while these contributors to student anxiety lie largely outside schools’ control, others fall squarely in the academic wheelhouse: testing schedules, homework loads, grade pressures and the intense competition for admission to elite colleges.

“We’re tops in the area in terms of some of our achievement numbers, but kids are really stressing over those,” says Paul Mielke, superintendent of the 4,800-student Hamilton School District, west of Milwaukee. “Before, that might have been the case in high school. Now, the test anxiety has gotten down to middle school.”


Deborah Yaffe is a freelance writer in New Jersey.