Carolina Biological OSE - June 2024


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Evaluation and Assessment

Retaking Tests

Author Post
Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Retakes have been a hot button issue at my school lately. I saw the grading scale questions which of course has been a big discussion lately. I was looking for peoples positions on retakes. I don't allow retaking tests in my class. This stems from a belief that students won't bother to try the first time, if they know they can retake it. On the first test of the year, I had at least 1 kid in each of my 5 classes come up to turn in their test about 10 minutes after it was passed out, hand it to me, and ask, "When will I be able to retake this?" When I told them they can't, they were very upset. I know all the arguments that people will give for allowing retakes...and I disagree with most of them. The only time I consider a retake is when the class as a whole does bad. Obviously at that point, I failed at teaching them the material correctly, I reteach concepts and test again. Our principal was talking to the science department who in general is anti-retake. He told us that he was just in a PD session where they discussed how Penn State University is now formulating a late work and retake policy. He claimed that if the colleges are starting to do it, then we should be open to the idea. Several of us in the room had the opposite thought. Schools have failed kids so bad at allowing 2nd and 3rd chances that now the colleges have to alter their worlds to accomodate the lazy, unmotivated kids that high schools are putting out now. We constantly hear that America is falling behind in education, and intelligence of our people. I always think of this when discussing these things. Kids in China don't get retakes. They know if they don't don't work hard and learn, then they will not be successful later in life. I don't think our kids understand that. I'm having trouble formulating my final thoughts. But this should get the discussion going.

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

I allow my students to retest on any test or quiz. However, they MUST come in for TWO remedial sessions. We have a 20 minute period at the end of each day where students must go to the classes where they have work outstanding or need extra help. Once the students have shown that they have put effort into learning the material then I allow them to retest. The new test grade replaces the old one. My opinion is that my goal is that student master the material and the test is the way that I determine that they have done that. If they require remedial work to master the material, then so be it. I have considered requiring students who get below a C on a test to retake, but I haven't done that yet. I'm seriously considering it for next year however. When I implemented my retesting policy last year I was afraid of just what you mentioned, that students would "blow off" the first test because they knew they could retake it. However, this has not been an issue. I think the remedial work is key because it requires students to put in some extra work before retesting. The retest covers the same material that the original test does, but it is a different test. It does require extra work on my part to have a retesting policy. The one benefit that I see with the retesting policy is that there appears to be much less test anxiety. Students know that there is a safety net if they bomb and that, with effort, they can fix their failures. I have 65 chemistry students and 4 of them retested for the last unit test. So, its not a great proportion of students who actually need, or take advantage of, the policy. I could see if you have many more students, or did not have a mechanism for monitoring remedial work, that this policy could be difficult to manage.

Cynthia Zind Cynthia Zind 10 Points

Requiring the student to do some remedial work is a great idea! I'm going to use that. In my classroom, if I allow a retake, it is only for the entire class, no matter their grade. I have done this when the grades as a whole were very low.

 Robin LEE 775 Points

I think this is a wonderful solution to this whole retaking issue. As long as students show that they had put in initial effort and are continuing to show efforts towards understanding I think they should be given the opportunity to retake. Even allowing the students 1 or two retake passes is a great way to minimize the students who are slacking then expecting to be able to retake the exam every time. Or another way is to just provide the students with a practice test as homework and then not allow retakes. The students will be acclimated to the information and how they will be expected to respond so there will really not be a huge need for retakes.

Beth Cates Bethany Dixon 1650 Points

Our school has a mastery-based grading policy where students are allowed an unlimited amount of retakes. The idea is that all students learn at different rates, which we know, and that it really doesn't matter if they know the answers on Tuesday or on Thursday, as long as they're actually learning the information and retaining it. My favorite part of this is that students are no longer afraid of academic failure: they can take big academic risks (creative thinking, analysis that might not have been perfectly linked, etc.)and if they don't pay off, it doesn't permanently ruin their grades or hurt their chances at getting into a good college. I would rather teach my students resilience and dedication than continue to value precocity. I think a student who earns a "B" the first time and is satisfied with it is much less likely to succeed in college (and in life) than the student who earns a "C" and studies and works until they've earned an "A." Yes, China is killing us in standardized tests, but we should play to our strengths: let's give our students the ability to cultivate ingenuity and perseverance. Also, I think that it's a bit silly to never allow retakes: the so-called real-world is full of retakes. If you fail the board as a lawyer, you wait and RETAKE it. If you don't pass your MCATs? Drivers license test? Praxis? You can retake everything, it just takes time. Also, why should the penalty for not understanding something be that you are not allowed the chance to understand it ever again? If a child doesn't clean their room effectively, do we say, "Now you may NEVER clean your room! You failed! This room will be dirty forever!?" No, we point out what went wrong and help the child until the room is cleaned to our satisfaction. Not allowing retakes is a crutch that teachers have held for too long. It makes it easier on us, but is it really best for students? Now before you think I'm completely gung-ho, there are some issues we're still working through. Here's what we do and how we're trying to fix things. Here are some caveats to our grading system: Students must demonstrate a valiant "first effort," which generally means that they have to have completed the required in-class assignments and homework as well as taken the first exam wholeheartedly. Students must complete an "Application to Resubmit" which includes going over their work line-by-line and assessing their preparation and misconceptions. Students must attend re-teaching sessions equivalent to their misunderstandings (our school has a 30-minute period and a 45-minute period built into every day where students can come in for help). Students must complete their retakes in a timely fashion: i.e. no waiting six weeks and then deciding that you must retake a first-quarter exam unless you have extraordinary circumstances. Overall, I really think the policy does whats best for students, especially since our grading policy is 90% assessment, 10% other. There are some students who attempt to abuse it, but they are few and far between (and quickly caught and counseled). The only issue that I have with the policy is that there isn't a time-bound element to this; I have students from last year coming to me and asking what they can do to clear an incomplete grade. It also creates a paperwork nightmare in that when I get to the bottom of my grading stack and have everything passes back, I can expect to have at least 1/3 of the students immediately correcting what was wrong with their assignments (especially essays) and turning them back in for a higher grade. This is excellent in that they want to do well, but can be frustrating at times. It also completely changes motivation in class: it isn't "this is for a grade," it's "this is something you will need to know," and then a performance assessment will call on students to use those [b]skills[/b] rather than regurgitate the information. Traditional penalties for not doing homework (lowered grades) are also minimal, so keeping assignments relevant is a really high priority. What would you do if you taught in an environment like this? Does your school have a policy like this? What issues have you had and how do you solve them? Thanks!

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

I agree with your reasoning and I have had only positive results from implementing retesting. I'd love to move to a mastery model in my chemistry classes. We have a 1:1 program and much of my curriculum lends itself to some degree of self-pacing. However, we also have a zero zero policy and policy where late work is handled as a disciplinary issue. We have a grading scale set by the BOE. We have to update gradebooks at least weekly. This system doesn't make implementing a true mastery model very easy. How do you deal with grading and pacing? I'd love to hear more.

Beth Cates Bethany Dixon 1650 Points

Pacing is interesting with our model. There isn't a truly mastery-based model in our system where all students are in different places. In my class there's a central lesson and then students work on their independent investigations (science fair is a required assessment for their grade, so they all have science fair projects to work on and research, and they vary in complexity). I have the ability to meet with students who are behind twice a day, but with the actual number of students that I serve, it ends up being about once a week to get through to each of them. Our grading scale is also based on the idea that a student cannot pass the class if they fail to master a standard: so if you have an A-student who failed an assessment piece they still don't pass the class until they "clear" that incomplete (the grade shows up as IA--incomplete but other work is an "A". Our grading scale is A, B, C, I, and NC. NC is no credit and is an extreme case of non-participation, any grade can also show an incomplete IB, IA, IC, etc. in one area but show an overall look at the students' work. I like the scale because it doesn't show an A-student with a "C" in the class and then let them "off the hook" as passing (All As and one F makes a C...guess I passed anyway): it shows that they're missing an assessment and they have to take it and pass it to complete the course. If they don't clear it, their transcripts aren't released. I update grades regularly (about once a week) but I only record summative assessments and I record formative work and classwork as a conglomeration of assignments into one (First 20 homework assignments 1 point each, stamped in class and recorded and entered that way). I have at least two major summative assessments per quarter, all equally weighted. What do you grade and upload once a week? How often do you give exams?

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

I generally provide a grade for each formative or interim assessment - labs, problem sets, inquiry activities, projects, collaborative team assignments, interactive quiz, etc. We are expected to do this. These are generally worth 5-15 pts each depending on their scope. They get a summative assessment about every 3-5 weeks that generally covers 2-3 standards, depending on the unit. The summative assessment may be a traditional exam, a performance evaluation, or a major project, or some combination of these. They are worth 100 pts each. However, since they get so many more of formative and interim assessments, it is possible for them to do well on these (just by doing the work, or even to copy the work in some cases) and still not have mastery over the material. They can fail a unit test and still do reasonably well, say a B, in the class. If the object is for students to master the material, then there is something wrong with this system.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

From a teacher with an elementary background "What is the purpose of the test?" Isn't it one of the many tools in the tool bag used to enhance/document student learning? I do think retakes should be allowed because the end goal is learning. Does it really make a difference when the learning occurs? I also know student need to learn to be responsible and accountable for their behavior.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

I am really enjoying this discussion thread. Thanks to all of you who are sharing your insights and how you have been handling the issue of test retakes. Perhaps there is a middle ground here. Where does formative assessment fit in before students are thrust into the summative (end of the unit) arena? In our school, the CFAs (Common Formative Assessments) are only allowed to be taken once. The data collected from these exams are used by the school district to determine if our students are learning the targeted objectives from school to school. Every science class takes the same test during the same week. However, leading up to this summative (one-time-only) test, each class has a variety of formative assessments that inform the teachers of how each of their students are grasping the content/concepts for each portion of the unit. These (chapter) tests can be taken over with additional tutoring as many times as the students need/want to... up until the CFA is administered. What are other teachers', schools' and districts' policies on retests? Carolyn

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

One big thing I saw in the first two responses is the "we have these periods of time when kids come to us." This makes your model easier. I don't have that time and I'm already spread to thin. Someone said that in order to retake they have to have put a valiant effort in in the first place. So if a person gets a 76% you let them retake, but if they get a 20% you don't? How does that work out? These are mainly the responses that I was expecting as it is the same argument that comes up in our meetings. The general consesus being that if they have to do work in order to retake the test, students generally don't bother. How is late work handled?

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

I agree that if you don't have administration buying in and supporting this model it is very difficult to implement. As for late work, I deduct points if an assignment is late. I send out e-mails listing late assignments, generally on Monday morning. The student's parent (if they signed up) and the principal and vice principal are copied. After sending our emails, I usually get a few messages back from parents immediately, followed shortly by a student with his work. If the student has 2 or more assignments out they are pulled out of their non-core classes (gym, art, shop, lunch, ...) and put in the office to finish their work. I don't have to handle that part of it. The administrators handle missing work as a disciplinary issue. Having a school culture that demands student responsibility makes managing this model much easier.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Our admin is only concerned with kids getting good grades. They want us to accept assignments late, let them retake tests as many times as needed so that kids get good grades and parents are happy...regardless of whether or not the student is learning. I don't approve of this...probably part of the reason I'm so strict on things like late work and retesting. I've let kids retake a test on occasion...however these are generally kids who have high grades and randomly scored low on a test.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

Arizona's standards are actually..."by the end of ___ grade" up until high school. Then they just have high school standards. I think WI was the same way when I was back there. A lot of kids don't hit all the standards. For example...Earth Science is a junior/senior elective that really only the lower level kids take as their "3rd science" So at least half the kids never touch the Earth Science standards unless they take that class.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

This is a fantastic conversation. Thanks so much to everyone who shared information about your school's policy on last work and retesting. Bethany, I'm very interested in the system your school has in place. I like the idea of competency based grading and agree that the end goal should be that the kids have mastered the material, not mastered the material in a specific period of time. I'm curious about how you structure your lessons to meet the needs of all your students? Do you let the students who have already mastered skills go on or does your class move at the pace of the kids who are furthest back? Also, how do you ensure you are meeting all of the standards for each grade level? If the students do not master all of the skills by the end of the year, what is the consequence? I'm really torn on this topic. I definitely see some advantage to allowing students to retake test or re-submit work. I also tend to accept late work until the end of the grading period. While I do let students retake tests and quizzes, I do not give students full credit for the retake. Students who retake the test get half credit for each corrected answer. Bethany has a great point that we allow professionals retake the Bar, MCAT, PRAXIS, etc. I hadn't really thought about retakes from that perspective. Maureen

Beth Cates Bethany Dixon 1650 Points

Hi all, what a cool conversation: thanks for keeping it going! Chris, the "valiant effort" piece has to do with whether the student is actually putting in the classwork. I have a 90/10 split between grading for assessments and anything else (classwork, homework, you name it: 10% of their grade and formative). Students who come in to retake anything MUST have all of their classwork and homework completed for EVERY section before they are allowed to retake and submit an "Application to retake" that shows that they've corrected each problem on their test that they missed, taken NEW notes on the section, completed additional assignments to help them review either online or in the book, and generally re-learned the material. Students who "don't bother" don't really benefit from the retakes because they aren't willing to do the work. I like our model because it says that as long as you're willing to do the work, I'm willing to help you learn the material. Rebecca, I would love to hear how your administration handles the homework piece, that sounds amazing! I think that Chris has a great point about grades; they've become the tail wagging the dog. Instead of looking at them as an INDICATOR of success, it seems that many parents, students, and even faculty see grades as the success. To me, the ability to teach tenacity and help students develop resilience through repeated trials and failures is much more important than the head-patting that comes from grade-chasing. Right now the difficulty that we have is implementing a skills-based system and then quantifying the skills so that they fit traditional high school transcripts. Maureen, that's something I'm working with. I read [i]Mastery Learning in the Science Classroom[/i] by Kelly Morgan, and she has a classroom where students are all in different places. My classroom isn't there, yet! I have a mixed biology group with some advanced juniors who have had Chemistry and are currently enrolled in AP Calculus in the same class with freshmen who are taking their first high school science class and Algebra I. I use BSCS: A Human Approach for Biology, and it has a lot of jumping-off points where my advanced students can sink their teeth in more deeply while their peers catch up. My lessons are generally structured in the 5E model, and because each student is also required to do a science fair project (as an assessment grade for inquiry)they always have background research to read or experiments to check on. In terms of standards, we're tied to the California End-of-course Biology Exam and the 10th Grade Life Science exam (which students take regardless of if they're in life science...). BSCS' curriculum is above and beyond what our standards call for; I'm excited to see what the new standards will look like, though. If students don't pass every assessment by the end of the year they earn an Incomplete grade. They may only "clear" the incomplete by passing the assessment and meeting the standards. This ends up looking like this: if Sally is a straight-A student in your class and misses an assessment her grade is an I-A (Incomplete, other than that averages to an A). As soon as she takes the assessment, if she earns an A on the assessment she has an "A," (or if she pulls a "C" it might drop to a "B" like a regular test grade would). If Jimmy has not completed a single assignment or exam, his grade is an "NC" and he doesn't earn credit and has to repeat the course. If Johnny does every single assessment but scores below a 70 overall, his grade is an "I" and he will have to re-take assessments until he can show that he can master the material at a higher level. There are no "D" or "F" grades given, it's either a "C" or No Credit. If this happens after my course is over, I write instructions as to how the student can clear their incomplete and it goes into the clearinghouse (administration). This has been good for some students; I've seen them mature over the summer and then dive into their long-term data collection projects (the most frequently failed assignment; yes, you do have to collect 90 data points, yes, you do have to analyze your data). Once students get the idea that not doing something doesn't make it "go away," I've seen them step up and actually accomplish things I didn't think they were capable of. I feel mean holding their grades until they've finished their work, and parents can be downright nasty about my insistence that the only way out is through DOING THE WORK. I make sure the expectations are clear and so far it's a pain-in-the booty and I have two GIGANTIC stacks to grade of resubmissions from this quarter (and last quarter) that magically appear two days before break. This part is horrible, but by the end of the process, I know they're getting it. I tell my kids: if you are determined to learn this and you don't give up on it and you do the work, I promise that you will learn biology. Four re-submits on one essay exam gets harsh, but when it final

Beth Cates Bethany Dixon 1650 Points

*when it's final and something "clicks" for a student on their fourth retake and they say, "Thanks..." I always get to say, "That was you; that was your hard work."

Meaghan Cells Meaghan Cells 250 Points

Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences! It is a lot of food for thought and there were some great ideas posted that I may try out! I'm currently a "no-retake" teacher for unit exams, but provide retake type situations for other types of assessments. I teach non-honors Juniors, and am trying to impress upon them the importance of learning studying strategies. Before each exam, the last homework assignment is to create a study tool (which I review and give back so they can use them to study). The majority of students who do poorly on exams have neglected to do this assignment. I have remained a non-retake teacher for exams is that my students will typically not prepare as well if they know there is a second chance. It is hard to see a typically successful student who bombs an exam, but I have seen increased motivation in class and some great gains in their next exam for those students who DO want to improve. An idea that I borrowed from an NSTA listserve or New Teachers Academy participant is to photocopy the exams before you grade them and allow students to correct and grade their own exam. If a student corrects their exam to the same grade as the teacher, they get 3 extra points; within 1 point they get 2 extra points; and within 2 points they get 1 extra point. I had a decent number of students try it during the last test; they seemed to like it and I liked that they had to evaluate and make corrections to their own work. The two areas I do allow retakes are in quizzes and lab reports. Once every 6 day cycle, I give a 10 point quiz that assesses information recently covered and practiced. There are usually between 3 and 5 questions. When students score a 5 or lower on these quizzes, I write "see me" on it. Much of the time, the student ignores the comment. However, when a student comes to see me with their quiz I have them make corrections in front of me using their notes. It allows me to connect with the student and have a mini-lesson about specific topics that may confuse a student. I give them up to a 7/10 depending on the quality of their corrections. This is not something I advertise, but rather I reward those who actually come to "see me". For lab reports, I have students write a full lab report (we work through the first one piece by piece together) and sell it as the "essay of chemistry class". Since I want them to improve the quality of their work, I allow as many rewrites as they want before end of term for an average of the grades. I do not start the averaging of rewrites until the first passing score, since if a report doesn't pass it usually means there is a section missing or a lot of confusion on the experiment. Lab reports are the area that I tell students and parents that have the most control over improving their grade once something has been passed in.

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

My policy is similar to others posted here, but with just a few differences. First, there is no district policy regarding late work or re-takes. I, however, believe that even in correcting mistakes, learning can occur. And since it is my goal for all students to learn, I try to offer numerous opportunities for learning to occur.

My policy for tests and quizzes is as follows: If you passed with a 'B' or 'A,' test corrections are optional. If you did not pass, or passed with a 'C' or lower, test corrections are mandatory.

Test corrections:
1. Completed on separate paper.
2. Must write out the complete question along with the complete correct answer.
3. Must tell me where you found the correct answer - page number in the textbook or where in their notes.
4. Must tell me why they got it wrong - what were they confused about, didn't understand the term etc...

All work is completed in class the day tests are returned (usually the next day).

Each correct answer earns them 1/2 credit back. So the incentive to do well the first time is the not having to do all of the work required for test corrections to earn back credit. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

I have mixed emotions on test retakes, etc... Both our middle schools share a common grading policy that is established in our Student Handbooks. There must be a minimum of 2 major Test grades & 1 major Project per 9-week grading term. We, as teachers, have found that 2 tests and 1 project (those being the major % of students grade) is risky. Young middle school students have not learned to study properly and often do poorly on tests because of "test anxiety" as their parents put it. Therefor, if they do poorly on any of the 3 major grades, their overall average suffers. This,poor grades, our administration does not allow. We generally offer about 3 major exams, sometimes 2 projects per 9-weeks. We allow re-tests to be taken within the next 1-2 weeks, depending upon many factors that appear throughout the year. Projects may be redone within one week. All of these will allow a maximum grade of 70%. Activity & HW grades are "flexible". (School Policy states: 1-day late student can earn a maximum of 70% and 2-days late is a zero.) Teachers are allowed their own discretion for enforcement-as long as every teacher in their grade level & content department follows the same standards. I have found this to be beneficial for both student and teacher. To earn back their points, students must retake a similar test within a given period, keeping the teacher from being over loaded with grading the final week of the grading period (which in the past used to happen) and it requires the student to relearn the material in a timely fashion. If they choose not to retest, a quick e-mail home seems to fix that problem. We have after school HW Hall(complete with a Late Bus)with teachers on duty to help any student needing help and we have a 20 min. break in the afternoon for student to receive additional help. It seems to work the best that I have encountered...nothing is perfect, but this seems to be one of the best compromises that I have used. Final comment, yes retests are allowed under conditions determined by teachers/school/and district.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

I teach at a community college where the students in my class range from dual credit high schoolers to returning professionals. In an introductory class, one of my objectives is to establish a firm foundation for actual college credit classes. This being the case my goals are more mastery than normative assessment. That said, what I do is layer these approaches together by allowing retakes to 90% maximum credit. This I hope provides a strong incentive to achieve on round 1 and also allows "extra" time and study for those who are on a longer journey. I like the idea above of requiring remedial help. I am fortunate in that we have "free" tutoring for students on campus.

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

We are now being evaluated based on student growth. Michigan has yet to adopt a policy of requiring that districts must base student growth on standardized tests. Currently we are using pre and post course summative assessments as our indicator. I would love to have the time to allow for retaking of tests to pursue greater student mastery, but doing so would sacrifice the time needed to "cover" the content on the pre and post tests.

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

Part of our new teacher evaluation this year is also based on student growth (school wide, measured by annual standardized test in RLA and Math). We also had to create two student learning goals with measurable outcomes (pre- and post-testing) as an additional part of our evaluation. Students are tested annually in science as well, but that doesn't count toward our evaluations, which is a bit crazy for us science teachers, but that's another story. As far as retesting goes in my classroom, it does not affect the pacing of the class. Of course, formative assessment does to some degree affects pacing, but retesting for individual students does not. Remedial work followed by retesting is voluntary for students and they must prepare and test outside of class (our extra help sessions at the end of the day, lunch, during elective class period, etc). it does take time on my part (that's why I require effort on the part of students), but the fact that they will be tested for "mastery" at the end of the year just makes the remedial work and retesting option more important in my view. Now, it helps that we have some mechanisms for getting students to do make up work (extra help sessions) and an administration that requires student responsibility (zero zero policy, will pull kids out of "fun" classes to do work, etc). Implementing retesting under less supportive conditions could be a real problem.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Rebecca, While I recognize that I might be picking up on a tangent, I am becoming more and more concerned with the focus in standardized testing. My main fear is that these tests are focused on lower levels of Bloom's taxonomy and thus do not measure what I would consider key skills essential to long term college and career readiness. On the one had we say we want critical thinkers capable of contributing to the 21st century economy and then test students and judge teachers on their ability to operate at "algorithmic" cognitive levels. :( and just as I posted, this came through on my email Pam

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

Pam, I agree wholeheartedly with you about the content of standardized tests, or what I assume is the content of the standardized tests we have to give our students. I have never seen the contents of the tests we give our students as we are not allowed to look at it. Students are told not to discuss the test with anyone, including teachers, so to be honest, I don't know what our state sanctioned test includes. I know what our standards are and I build my curriculum around them. If my earlier response seemed to indicate that I was advocated preparing students specifically for the standardized tests, then I was unclear. I was just meaning that in allowing individual students to relearn/retest until they could show mastery didn't affect the pacing of the whole class, and in the end worked to my goal, which was that students master certain skills. Some of my students have a difficult time in the beginning in my class because being good at rote memorization does little to help them on my tests (or other assessments). I want them to be able to think through problems. I think the problem is that to truly test student's critical thinking skills we'd have to give a more (real) open-ended test, none of this fill in the circle stuff. We'd have to allow students to explain thought process, something I hope we're all doing in the classroom. They might need to produce a product, work collaboratively, design a solution, ... And those are the skills we are trying to teach them, but its so much easier (and cheaper) to sit them down once a year and make them answer lower level content questions. The sheets can be run through an automatic scorer and compared with each other. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I agree that there has to be a better way.

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Wow, this is a powerful and heated discussion. As I read through the posts I found myself finding strengths and weaknesses to everyone’s arguments and I generally don’t find myself in that position. I am a middle school teacher that teaches Design and Engineering which is a STEM course. I think we really have to look partially at what we as teachers can live with and won’t kill us. I know, we are always supposed to be doing what is right for kids, but after 21 years of teaching, there really is a line I draw in the sand. There are only so many hours in a day, and I can’t keep making new assessments to give over and over to students, I really don’t have the time nor the energy to create them and then score them. At some point, enough is enough and you have to move on. I abhor late work. Our middle school is comprised of 7th and 8th graders. I can have my students two years in a row as I am considered an elective. From the moment they step into my classroom, I am working on teaching them not only the STEM concepts, but also how to get organized, meet due dates and accept responsibility for their learning. I am tough. The kids will tell you I am tough, but they will also tell you I am fair and many come back from high school and thank me for holding them accountable for their learning and due dates. Now, is it easy? No. Most of my assessments are performance and project based. There are scaffolded steps along the way to make sure the students are making progress toward their end goal. I am a mastery learning standards based kind of gal, so it’s okay for my students to have a 1 or 2 out of 4 as an initial score. That means I have some teaching to do and they have some learning to acquire. It’s not okay for students to stay at that level. Let me step back a second and clarify what mastery looks like in my scoring. A 4 means you are exceeding standards for learning based on state/national standards. A 4 is not perfect. 3 means you are meeting standards, but are not going beyond your grade level. A 2 means you lack details and have some basic concepts, but there is a lot of meat missing from the bone. 1 means you might have a small idea of the concept, but can’t really describe it, put it into words or apply it to a given situation. A 0 means that you have no real clue what is going on. You might be able to identify some of the very basic ideas or skills, but have no idea how to apply them. When using a mastery model, students are given numerous opportunities to show their learning over time. I never replace one grade with another, instead I leave it in place and record the next activity or task showing the new score attained from that opportunity. This is really useful because once you get the parents trained to stop doing percentages and averages, they can really begin to understand how their child has progressed over time. With each task or project we do, the complexity increases where students have to incorporate a number of previously taught learning into the new situation or scenario. Through genuine use, students learn more quickly and the skills/learning become permanent. The problem I have is our reporting system loves to average everything, so even though I report the scores as 2 out of 4, the program says they flunked. I can’t eliminate the column from the grading program, and even though I’ve told the parents over and over to ignore the column with the letter grade based on the programs percent calculations, they just can’t let it go. Eventually by third quarter they get it because they have seen their student’s grade on their final report card is not what the online grade program says it is. There is a significant amount of training in getting parents to understand, but once they see how their child begins to take risks and push themselves to more complex learning, they are amazed at what their child can accomplish. Ultimately, you have to make the decision of what is best for you, your students and the curriculum you are working with. I tell my students, you don’t always have to understand everything. It would be nice, but in reality, there are some things that will come with time and maturity. I didn’t understand Algebra until I was in my 30’s. It just didn’t click. Now I teach it to my students and am an adjunct Math professor at a local college. Tenacity, perseverance and becoming a lifelong learner is what it’s all about in the long run.

Eric Carlson Eric Carlson 30050 Points

Wow--lots to think about and process from here. I'm currently in the process of overhauling my grades to be standards based, which is something I've wanted to do since I started teaching two years ago, but have not had a good idea of how to proceed. The comments here are giving me some great insights--thanks everyone.

Catherine VonGarlem Catherine VonGarlem 1315 Points

When I started taking my education courses in college I was always against re-taking test. Mostly because in grade school I was that student who didn’t try on the first test and waited for the second try. It was always about procrastinating until the last possible moment, test two. I knew that I needed to work ahead of time and study, but when I wasn’t in school I could not motivate myself enough to get things done. The first test was always a practice for me. It would get my head in the game for what to study. With this knowledge I would cram for the re-take and hope for the best. In hind sight, I realized that in working hard to avoid trying on the first test, I was in result learning the material. Spending time on the first test helped me prepare and I could focus on what I was supposed to know. When the test came back I would try as hard as I could to memorize the answers and a little more knowing the test would change the second time around. It is silly to look back on, but I realize that if the main goal was to learn the material, which I did through my hassle of avoiding the first test, does it really matter that I learned the material a week or two later?

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I gave a 10 question stoichiometry test last Thursday. By the end of class on Thursday, hardly any students had finished and a majority were about half done, therefore the test carried over until Friday. I asked the students to write in the top corner of their papers how much time, they had spent studying for the test Thursday night after they had seen the questions and knew where they were coming up short. Of the 130 kids I have 3 said they spent more than 20 minutes looking over there notes...100 of them said 0. Two of the students who had spent 3+ hours going over everything, because they had borderline D's and needed to pass to be eligible for sports and one of them got an 88% and the other a 102%. This fuels my continued belief in the no retake policy. At this point you know the questions, you know what you don't know how to do and you still can't bother to study the material and figure out your shortcomings...I had 79 F's on the test...35 A's. I'm obviously going to have to spend time reteaching stoich, but I'm strongly considering giving a replacement test, but having this test still count toward their grades.

Apartment Patino Mario Patino 1295 Points

It has been valuable to look over the many posts on the subject. To address some of the concerns posed in this thread, I'll share some strategies which have been effective with me.

  • retest-address the same standards yet may be another format. For example, I have given oral, performance, projects, etc when students needed to redo substandard performances.
  • retest-have to take place within an agreed upon certain period of time and only after some 1:1 intervention has taken place.

    Most students learn quickly that its better for them to do well on major assessments than to have to go through the retesting process. Retesting is not common for me since using formative data is critical when administering a summative assessment. Students who are not close to meeting standards are not assessed until they reflect readiness.
  • Elizabeth Penn-Jones Elizabeth Penn-Jones 1280 Points

    I see the pros and cons of retaking tests. After allowing my students to attend "reteach sessions" and administering alternative assessments, I have found that students actively learned the material the second time when they took the time to focus and study. When I have a huge amount of students fail an assessment, pull the brakes and go back. Now by doing this I know I run the risk of not covering every topic by the end of the year, but I like to think that my goal is mastery of the content and not coverage. I have seen our state assessments in science and its focus is on the application of the concept which requires mastery. I want students to be able to build on the concepts learned so that they can take the thinking to the next level and if that requires a "take two" then maybe if anything it will teach students to make an effort the first time....I know wishful thinking.

    Samantha McCubbins Samantha Johnson 895 Points

    Wow this is a great thread. My school requires us to allow retakes. I'm not very fond of the idea, but after reading some of your thoughts, I think I have some ideas on how to implement this better next year. I love the idea of having students explain why they missed what they missed, and having to get approval to retake a test. I do agree that the purpose is for students to learn, so it shouldn't matter how long it takes them to learn. My school requires retakes, but students can only earn up to a 70, just so that they don't fail. I often have students who bomb the first test, but then make well higher than a 70 the second time around. It's a shame to see, and it makes me wonder how I could encourage them to study harder the first time. I like the idea of making them prove they're studying or trying harder for the second test. It would encourage them to just study the first time so they don't have to do all the extra work for another try. I also think changing the format might help as well. If the first test is a multiple choice test, but the second is an essay, students might study harder the first time so they don't have to write an essay the next time around.

    Nicole Bunger Nicole Bunger 600 Points

    My school just went to standards based grading as well, so we do allow retakes but most of the time it is just doing better on the next assignment that will have parts from previous learnings as well, but sometimes it does involve retaking a different version of a previous test. When students are doing this, it is on their own time before school (and I have 4th graders). If they are willing to come show me they now understand something, why should I say no? And why should they only get a 70? "Grades" should convey what they currently know and understand. If they get a zero on a test one day, but then the lightbulb goes off and they ace a test two weeks later, do they deserve a 50 on the report card? No, they have shown they know the material and their report should reflect that.

    Chelsea Bender Chelsea Bender 1295 Points

    Thanks for all the comments. This was really helpful. At my school I do error analysis. It is always difficult to get the students to take it seriously, but I remind them that it is for a grade and more importantly is helping them to master the material.

    Jessica Minton Jessica Minton 6945 Points

    This is an interesting topic that I loved reading the comments. My school has a no zero policy, but it gets exhausting trying to "make" students do the work they don't want to do or make up work. I have students beg to retake a test because they didn't take it serious, but they will now. They don't seem to care until the standardize test, but it's to late for second chances. I have them come from tutoring and this upcoming semester I'm going to try to target students for small group pullout (though that means loss of planning two days a week).

    Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

    We got a new principal this year and were told that we had to have a consistent retake policy within our department. The science department went to a no retake policy. Pretty much across the board, we saw the kids do horrible on the first test, and many kids came to us about retaking and we all reiterated the no retake policy. By the end of the semester, we had more kids coming in for tutoring, more kids preparing for the test, taking the test seriously and we saw an increase in average grade on tests. We found that by taking that option away, the kids realized that they had to try the first time otherwise they were stuck with their F.

    Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

    I've heard another chemistry teacher in my district (not at my school) handles his test this way. If a student does not score an 80% or better on their test, they automatically get a matter what their grade was on the test (even a 79%). They then have to make test corrections and retake their test to improve their grade. He gives them two retake chances to get over 80% if on the 2nd retake they don't get an 80%, they then get whatever grade they recieved on the third test. WHat are your thoughts on that policy? While it eliminates them blowing off the test because they get to retake, by giving them something to shoot for (the 80%) it seems like a lot more work for the teacher in the long run.

    Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28250 Points

    I think it really depends upon the goal of the testing. We do online Quizzes with the option for Quiz retakes (new question set) as a formative assessment and use it as a learning tool for students to prepare for a formal end of unit quiz. Retakes are not allowed on Unit test (Summative Assessment). Seems a good compromise. The quizzes are good practice for the Unit test. We also have review jeopardy games and reading notes that are focused on "Learning Targets". Students also have other learning pathways open to them to demonstrate their Summative learning (projects, etc.).

    Kathryn Fleegal Kathryn Fleegal 1980 Points

    Chris- Like you, I have struggled developing a stance on this issue and can see the argument from all sides. In my attempt to meet in the middle on this issue, I don't allow students to re-take an assessment, but I do let them complete test corrections to gain some of their points back. The amount of points I will allow students to earn back really depends on the assessment and its purpose. In order for students to earn points back on most questions they need to state why their original answer was incorrect and why the correct answer is indeed the correct answer. On longer response type questions, student simply submit a revised answer based on the feedback they received from me on their original answer. I've attached the sheet students use for this process.


    Julius Dease Julius Dease 830 Points

    This is a very interesting topic. I think that placing the focus on learning of the material in its most general sense is critical when it comes to test taking. I'm a pre-service teacher and have yet to make any decisions about how I will handle such a matter. Going through school, I was always a very good test taker and did well on many tests with not much effort. Many of my peers didn't share my talent and I often found myself helping them study or tutoring them just to see that sometimes their test anxiety would get the best of them and they would do poorly on the test. The importance and permanence of the test itself was a driving force of this anxiety. This leads me to believe that allowing students to retake tests would relieve some of that anxiety. One thing that could combat blowing off the first attempt would be to make the students' final grade for that test be an average of the scores for all of the times they take the test. This helps them boost their score without making them believe the first test has no worth.

    Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

    My biology students did very poorly on their biochemistry classes average was a 57%. I decided to let them retake the test. I spent a day in the computer lab where they completed test corrections, made an new study guide and gave them a day in class to work in groups on that. I went around to each group and talked to them for a few minutes about the issues on the previous test...most of the kids just sat around and did nothing. They then had two days to finish their corrections and work on the review. They were told that their grade on the retake would replace their grade on the original test, even if it were lower. It barely made a difference. Several kids grades went down because they didn't that class the average went from a 57 to a 60. So again, I ask...why bother?

    Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

    You sound incredibly frustrated, and understandably so. Our district policy is to allow test retakes with completed homework (in my case, that is daily homework), completed review packet before the test, another completed (different) review after the initial test, an individual session with me, and test corrections on the original test. Talk about insane levels of record-keeping, in addition to multiple rounds of grading. I have four different preps, plus we are expected to teach reading in our class periods, an article a week, to prepare students for the ACT test, and cover a support period before school. I have a handful of students assigned to a remedial before-school period in addition. Averaging 90 minutes a day for prep, it is an awful lot to squeeze in. Of course, then there are the parents whose "speshul snowflakes" are not achieving (I am not "giving" them high enough grades). I had fifteen parents to follow up with today after last week's conferences. I have two international students this semester, neither of whom expects to attend university on return to their home countries. They are both in the same class, and both achieving top marks, telling me the work is too easy, while their American counterparts are giving me excuses for not showing up to take the retake. (One told me she had to console a friend whose father had taken away her texting privileges, and was grounded. They decided that they needed to contact the police about the matter!) The work is too hard, and after all, aren't we entitled to good grades? I had multiple students who turned in a geometry test today half-finished. Most of the unfinished work had been covered several times in class exactly as presented on the test, and they didn't have a clue where to begin. To make things worse, the concepts were taken from a grade 7 curriculum, and these are "honors" students. I'm pretty sure most will be doing a re-assessment, and with 38 students in each of classes, and an eight-page assessment (district standard) it's going to be a long week I'm afraid! I hate to break it to them, but the world is incredibly competitive these days, and most of us do not have second chances to make first impressions, and bosses are good at drawing instant conclusions. Better to not dig the hole and have to climb out, right?

    Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

    I also have seen little benefit from mandatory class retakes. Most students won't take the second test any more seriously than they took the first one. I allow one retake on a test, but ONLY if the student demonstrates that they have completed all homework and if they take the retest on their own time (before school, at lunch, after school, during an elective with the other teacher's approval). They cannot take another class period (and miss new material) to retest. They need to take the initiative and responsibility for the process. Under those conditions I get a few students each time that take the retest and they always do better - they have to make a real investment in the process and it generally shows. Sadly, this isn't generally the students who fail, but the A/B student who got a B/C/D on the test and want a better grade.

    Lachelle Crowe Lachelle Crowe 240 Points

    Requiring the 20min remedial session is an awesome idea that I would love to incorporate to be qualified for a retake! Great idea :)

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