Outcomes related to the wellbeing of students are increasingly being recognized as valuable objectives for education systems. In this study, we ask if high-stakes testing affects school-related stress among students and if there are gender differences in these effects.
We combine macro-level data on high-stakes testing with survey data on more than 300,000 students aged 10-16 years in 31 European countries, from three waves (2002, 2006 and 2010) of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. With variation in high-stakes testing across countries, years and grade levels, we use a quasi-experimental difference-in-differences (DD) design for identification of causal effects.
We find that high-stakes testing increases self-reported school-related stress by almost 10 % of a standard deviation. This is primarily driven by a strong effect for girls, meaning that high-stakes testing increases the gender gap in school-related stress. The results are robust to a range of sensitivity analyses.