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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Does offering test retakes help or enable students.....?

Does offering test retakes help or enable students.....?

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I am teaching eighth grade science and working in a middle school setting for the first time. My school is big on students mastering material, as a result many teachers offer students the opportunity to retake tests/quizzes. At the beginning I did not offer my students that opportunity but then began to feel pressure from students colleagues, and parents. Of course, being new to the grade level and building, I caved! I want all my students to be successful but sometimes I feel like some of the students take advantage of the it. I personally am worried that it will set them up for future failure when they are not able to have such opportunities. Some students do better, some do worse, and some do the same. I do make them do corrections in order to do a retake but still some do terrible or don't come to see me for help. I also feel like parents and students are always looking for an exception, extra credit, etc. instead of working towards being better students, learning through consequences and preparing to be self-sufficient adults! I would love to hear input from other educators.

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Mary Ellen's picture

I retired two years ago from 29 years of high school math. I learned about re-evaluating quizzes At a Virginia math conference years ago. To re-evaluate a quiz a student must do three things: 1 Redo the incorrect problem correctly showing all work; 2 Write a sentence explaining what their mistake was; 3. Do another problem of the same type. They can make up the problem; they can get it from a textbook; they can get it from me.
I then award the students half the points they lost . e.g. a 70 becomes an 85, a 90 becomes a 95. The students and parents are happy with the new grade and I am happy that the student has learned the concept they didn't know before the quiz. I only do re-evaluations for quizzes, not for tests. If they re-evaluated their quizzes, they would know the concepts by the time they had a quiz. If all 3 components are not there, I don't accept the re-evaluation.

Jacque Green's picture

Retesting can help with students with a real FEAR FACTOR for testing. Sometimes the 2nd time is alot less stressful. Knowing what you are up against.
This is really true for math.

Glori H. Smith's picture

I have long resisted retakes, but I offered "1/2 points back" on corrections. The key for me was to make them explain why their answer was wrong, what the right answer is, why it is correct, and how/where they found it. Also, I didn't want the tests to leave my room, so I made them come in before/after school or at lunch to do this. I started giving full points back when a colleague of mine, an AP psychology teacher, told me this story. He had a student in AP psych who loved the class, but failed every test. He came in and did the "test make up" work for every single test. At the end of the year, he passed the AP test. It sounds like that student just needed more time to learn.

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Holly Willis
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Kelly's picture

I allow students to re-take tests if they received a grade below a 70%. The re-take is not going to be the same test but it may be very similiar. Sometimes I will simply rearrange the questions and other times I will give them a different way to take the test. If the first test is a multiple choice test, I may rearrange the retake into a matching test or even a short answer. Sometimes it may even be a essay question or two. Occasionally, it is easier for a student to explain what they know in an essay rather than just a mulitple choice test.

Teresa's picture

This should just be a part of the testing cycle. Correct your mistakes and learn from them.If you had an especially low score, then schedule a retake after you have corrected.Correcting our mistakes is a life skill, so is asking when you are uncertain, relearning when you don't get it the first time etc.
I truly think thought that ALL students need to have the option. An A student doesn't look at a B and celebrate the learning they did to get there. They want and deserve to correct for points if they choose to. Those who score under the set level should have this as a demand but those who did well shouldn't be limited either. They need to correct mistakes and look at them so they can clarify their own misconceptions.

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Kudos to you for implementing parent communication. That is important support for the student. I agree that their grades should not be more than 60% Why try the first time if the retake will cause you to get a great grade?
I have seen retakes implemented in math classes more than ELA. Why is that, do you think?

tmsmath's picture
middle school math teacher, bergen county, nj

I agree with you; I am not a proponent of re-takes. It seems that it reduces the need to prepare timely for scheduled events. In real life, how many of us get a chance to do a re-take? I fear that this strategy is going to create a generation of learned helplessness.

Glori H. Smith's picture

In real life how many situations are there when you are told "do your own work, don't look at anyone else's work, don't ask a neighbor for help, don't help your coworker, don't use any extra resources besides your memory, and if you get something wrong, your pay will be docked and there will be no second chance?"

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