Does offering test retakes help or enable students.....? | Edutopia
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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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Jeff Albrecht's picture
Jeff Albrecht
6th grade math teacher Bay City, MI

In my district we are adopting a new method of teaching, assessing, and grading. We are using the SBL (standards based learning) model that GLCEs (grade level content expectations) to drive lessons. The idea directs material to be higher level thinking with alternative strategies and assessments. The model is awesome in my opinion. It also calls for assessment retakes. The idea is that students can show that they master material any which way they can. As long as they can master it using a project, showing or explaining it, writing a pencil paper test, etc. they can move on. If they cannot show mastery the first time, they need to show it in some other manner after reviewing the material. I have found it to be very effective. The only issue is that some kids will not take the first assessment seriously so that they know what is expected in order to do well on the retake.

Laura Sibert's picture
Laura Sibert
High School Algebra teacher

After reading several of the post I feel that offering the retest with a limit on the score is great. I have never thought of that myself. I also am a math teacher and have never offered a retake option for my students. I give a sample test with each unit and then take a day to go over questions and then give my test. Many departments in my school offer retake tests but they also do all their testing online. Therefore, they do not have to manual grade all the retake tests. I am worried about all the grading that offering retakes would put on my shoulders. I currently have 120 students each day with all four sections. So I am grading 120 tests each time I give them. I can only imagine the number of hours I would have to put in if I offered retakes. Do you make the retake less questions? I do give what I call wrap around tests, 80% over material we just covered and 20% over material we have previously covered. Which holds them accountable to rememered things we have done. This is also something that my entire department would have to offer. I teach with some very "well seasoned" teachers. They are still using worksheets and test that they used five years ago. How do I sell them on the retake?

Lindsay White's picture
Lindsay White
High school physics teacher from Alberta, Canada

I too am struggling with this issue in my high school physics classes. The school I teach at is currently in the process of developing a school wide assessment plan to implement the fall which could make offering re-tests mandatory for all teachers. Several posts provided me with some very valuable insight into this complicated issue.
I think to make something like this mandatory for all teachers will cause quite a bit of conflict. If teachers decide to implement a re-take policy it should be because they truly believe it will improve student learning versus implementing it because they are forced to. I have experimented with this idea a bit over the last few months with my grade 11 class and have found that it really does encourage and motivate students to continue to learn. In my limited experience I have found it works best if students have to complete a pre-requisite task or assignment in order to earn a re-write. Having them earn a re-write filters out those students who aren't really serious about it as well as promotes further learning for those who are.

JenniferSmithpacdodeaedu - 254896's picture

What was wrong with the assessment or instruction that created a situation where the student could/would/did not demonstrate mastery of the concept? Either they were not motivated to learn or they were not instructed properly. Either way, the question is not what we should allow the student to do, but what we need to change in ourselves.

Janet K. Cook's picture
Janet K. Cook
STEM Chair, Computer Applications and Business Teacher in Ansbach, Germany

What about giving a practice test for homework credit, which they can then look at and correct mistakes and then a 'real' test?

julie dunkin's picture
julie dunkin
high school Spanish

I teach Spanish at the high school level. I offer retakes on tests for those students who earn a D+ or below. However, in order for a student to take a retake, s/he must come in to see me at least twice for 20 minutes a piece to review and practice. I, then, average the two test grades. I have found that usually only the students who really want to do better are willing to put in the extra time. I do give them a time limit of 2 weeks from when I pass back the tests to accomplish the 3 (at least) meetings. It can be a lot of work sometimes but I think it's worth my time.

Maura Ollo's picture
Maura Ollo
Middle School Math Teacher from New Jersey

I like the idea of giving them another chance but I also want them to get better at being prepared for the first test. So, after giving back graded tests/quizzes and going over the answers, students are required to do corrections for a homework grade. This involves completely re-doing any problem they got wrong and creating and solving a duplicate problem with different numbers. They begin in class so I can help anyone who needs it and finish for homework. I also just started offering them points back for any question they can "teach" by writing an explanation, rhyme, slideshow, picture with labels, etc. They must teach how to solve this type of problem. This is an optional extra credit assignment, must be done for questions they got wrong on the test, and is due one week after the test. Number of points is based on the quality of their explanation.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Hey there -

I thought this was a really interesting question so I asked our community on Twitter. We mostly got educators that do offer re-takes of some sort and love it. Surprisingly, we only got one or two people that didn't offer it.

** Many offered re-takes for 70% and below.
** One educator raised a good point and said: "It's about mastering the topic. Not about the deadline." One educator said she offered it but many students usually don't take advantage of it.

Here's a storify (an accumulation of the answers on Twitter):

Hope this helps and good luck!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

I think it really comes to down the question of what exactly you're hoping to teach and/or learn with the assessment and the related unit. If it's just about "do you know this content?" then I think you have to do what you have to do to find out if they really know it (or if they are just not able to demonstrate what they know if they form you required). If you want them to learn to be organized and meet deadlines, then name that. Teach it all through the unit- heck, teach it all year!- and then assess that SEPARATE from the content. Skills/ dispositions (like organization) are different from content, so don't lump them together into one thing. As one of the other respondents has already said, look at what's causing the need for the re-take instead of making a blanket policy that doesn't really get to the underlying cause of the problem.

Brian Quinlan's picture

I allow my students the opportunity to correct their mistakes on tests for half credit. It makes them look at mistakes and figure out how to correct them. I always felt bad allowing retakes for a new grade. I never felt it was fair to students that excelled the first time. This way, my students can improve their grade to help themselves, and it's more fair to those who did well the first time. All corrected tests are due the next day or not at all.

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