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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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69 Replies 15373 Views

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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Brandon Knapp's picture

Becky,

My situtation is much like yours except I teach 8th grade math. I too struggled with the concept of retakes. I always give out a chapter test form A as a study guide and then form B as the test. They are identical except different numbers. My philosophy was that if you opted to study the study guide, there was not way to fail. If the students chose not to look at the study guide, they were choosing to possibly receive a poor grade. I am trying to teach responsibility to the students and leave it up to them to take the iniative.

The problem I ran into was that students could bomb the tests and still pass my class because of the quantity of homework and class projects. That is when I decided to force retakes. If a student fails, I have them correct their mistakes and get a parent signature. (to avoid any forgery I had the parents sign a code of conduct for my class in the beginning of the year for future reference) The parents are well aware of my study guides so they become very upset when their child fails. I then average the 2 scores together for a maximum of 60%. I will let them get a passing score but nothing more. Otherwise I would have students getting better the second time around than some did the first. If a students doesn't return the signed and corrected test within 3 days, their score stands and I call home explainig the lack of effort on the student's part. The parents are really good at handling it from there since they were given the opportunity to pass the assessment.

Hope this helps!

Becky Cudini's picture

Thanks, Brandon! You have great suggestions, so nice to hear another persons perspective! I too am a big supporter of fostering responsibility!

David Roepcke's picture

No Choice but Success by Corbett, Wilson, and Williams (2005), gives an example of a teacher that made their students correct anything less than a C (likely not very practical with tests or quizzes though). However, I tweaked the strategy a bit and just have every student make their corrections but not for any credit back. It is just to set the standard of what they need to know. For the students not motivated by a letter grade then they have an incentive to do well on the tests just to avoid an extra assigment. It is forces the students to consider what they did wrong more than if I just breezed through the answers after passing the tests back.

I realize the purpose of giving credit back in order to give a student an opportunity to pass if he or she really bombed a test. In that case the exception would be a thorough extra-credit assignment (see how bad they really want to avoid failing).

Pam's picture

I understand where you all are coming from and I too agree that the students need to learn responsibility. I feel that that is taught. If students are always given a way out then they will live their adult lives the same way.
David I read an article/excerpt from that book too. I though that it wasm a great idea to demand her students to make nothing under
"c." The teacher seemed to hold her students responsible for their actions, but I feel that her expectations does not fit the "real world." In the real world students will not be able to have mutilple chances to get their job done. I say teach responsibility or set them up for mfailure.

Heidi Teel's picture

Pam, I agree 100% with you. I am a seventh grade math teacher and when I started teaching last year I felt that my county was insane for letting the students take retakes. My supervisors in math highly suggest it and I do not agree with them at all. Now, my school has finally just met AYP since the last five years so I am told. This shows me that we are truly setting up our students not to care to do their best the first time around. Their state scores prove it! My only exception to retakes would be for my students with disabilities, reason being because they have accomations and needs that need to be met and I am only one person so it sometimes makes it difficult to monitor all of my students with these needs in one class.

Overall, I feel that retakes are a waste of my time and the students. We spend time grading one test and then recreating another one so the student doesn't just memorize answers. I have to allow students to stay after school to retake so it takes away from my personal time. Finally, it does not teach students one thing about the real world and how it is very rare to get second chances.

Becky Cudini's picture

Thanks everyone for your great comments and suggestions. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who feels this way. I am so scared to see what the next generation is going to be like as adults, it is really scary! Life is about growing from mistakes and building/learning from them, you don't always get a second chance. :)

Bernard Jones's picture

I have some similar feelings regarding test retakes. We are a Professional Learning Community that believes in focusing on student learning, data, students that are not getting the material, and students that do get it. We also have plans in place to meet the individual needs of every child. I do see some students taking advantage of this by not doing their best the first time around considering they will have a second chance. What helps our school is that we look for patterns to determine if the students are doing this. Sometimes we can tell based on the number of poor first tests they take in comparison to the second exam. I also feel that sometimes we are doing them a disservice because this isn't how the real world works. We are supposed to be preparing these young learners for the world of work and tomorrows challenges. Perhaps we could retest them, but just count the first test and still hold them accountable for mastering the material. It may help to keep parents happy as well.

Bernard Jones's picture

I have some similar feelings regarding test retakes. We are a Professional Learning Community that believes in focusing on student learning, data, students that are not getting the material, and students that do get it. We also have plans in place to meet the individual needs of every child. I do see some students taking advantage of this by not doing their best the first time around considering they will have a second chance. What helps our school is that we look for patterns to determine if the students are doing this. Sometimes we can tell based on the number of poor first tests they take in comparison to the second exam. I also feel that sometimes we are doing them a disservice because this isn't how the real world works. We are supposed to be preparing these young learners for the world of work and tomorrows challenges. Perhaps we could retest them, but just count the first test and still hold them accountable for mastering the material. It may help to keep parents happy as well.

kimberly's picture
kimberly
2nd grade

I have often wondered if allowing a child to go back and correct their answers for a better grade is beneficial or not. I teach second graders and have mixed views on this topic. What I have noticed the most is that many children know the material, but they are not good test takers. They seem to get stressed out and each time they do poorly on quizzes and test. Sometimes many of the mistakes are careless errors that they do know and just need to be reminded to go back and read it clearly and take their time. I have been very grateful to the teachers that have given me second chances in my education and feel certain that this has improved me in my career.
Someone stated that they need to be prepared for being in the real world, don't we all receive second chances in life? I know it is frustrating when you have students who don't care and nor do the parents, but some of these children are trying their hardest and still seem to find it impossible to pass (even with a study guide).

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