Retaking Assessments: Many math teachers are late to the party!

The standard protocol in mathematics classes is that teachers do not allow students the opportunity to redo an assessment for a revised grade. Here, an assessment refers to any activity for which the student will receive a grade, such quizzes, tests and cumulative exams. There are a variety of factors regarding why teachers hold this belief and they are not beneficial to student learning or their mindset.

Not all students will perform well at any given time on any given topic. Because mathematics builds on itself, good teachers believe that all assessments are formative up until students take a state mandated end-of-course exam or an end-of-year comprehensive test, both of which are intended to be truly summative.

Students tend to look at graded assessments superficially rather than seeing them as additional opportunities to learn from their mistakes. To most, spending time understanding their mistakes feels like a futile effort because what is done is done and they cannot get additional points for it. However, students are more likely become invested when there is a reward for their effort. Teachers tend to leave it up to the students to take advantage of additional learning opportunities, but if we are trying to create lifelong learners, it is important that teachers create prospects for students to continue the learning process beyond an assessment.

To do this, a policy needs to be in place. The first step is requiring a reflection ticket as to why the incorrect answers were made on the assessment. Was it a careless mistake or a lack of preparation? Were there social emotional issues in play that prevented focus?

Retaking of Assessment Policy

Next, the student is required to attend some form of extra help for support. Depending on when the teacher offers the sessions, the student must be present prior to being allowed to retake the assessment. Finally, regardless of receiving credit, all missing assignments must be completed. To be able to have a redo of an assessment, all class and homework must be up to date.

When each of these steps are completed, any student can retake their assessment, regardless if they scored a 20% of 90% on the first try. If a student is motivated to learn and show perseverance, we must encourage it! Finally, whatever the new grade is on the retake, that is the new grade for the student. The idea of averaging is antiquated and without regard for learning. If a student now shows mastery of a standard or skill, it should be accurately reported on their term grade.

Although I believe this policy to be the ideal, there are variations that I have observed to be successful such as counting the retake twice as much as the original score or allowing retakes on quizzes but not tests. The bottom line is that we need promote the continual learning of our students and not limit it. Allowing retakes is very much in line with a growth mindset, while preventing it is very much a fixed mindset.

A policy of assessment corrections also requires that we, as educators, evaluate our own assessments to determine whether there is ambiguity in the questioning and whether the questions reflect what was instructed based on the objective. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that students are learning, and that learning doesn’t end with each assessment.

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