I’ve heard teachers debate whether learners should be allowed to redo, retake, or revise summative assessments. The camp is highly divided.
There are those who say that learners need to be held accountable. If they do not take the time to study for the assessment then it is apparent that the student does not care and should be penalized for their lack of responsibility. Students need to learn how to deal with failure because failure is part of life.
The problem with the no retake policy is it does not allow learners to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes it isn’t until later they fully understand the material. Some times they need more time or more practice to grasp a concept. Just because it takes four weeks to teach a unit doesn’t mean all will understand a unit in four weeks.
Most assessments that are worthwhile in life are not “get it on the first try.” Drivers license tests, National Boards Certification, and the Bar Exam are examples of high stakes assessments that allow for multiple retakes. Automotive engineers test their designs over and over before the car reaches the showroom. Software developers create Beta versions for testing prior to the official release. Reassessment is built into the system of most manufacturers.
However, the biggest problem with a No Retake policy is it tells learners the material is not worth learning. If a learner cannot reassess they will not go back over the material and they can often pass a class despite the fact they did not meet all learning targets.
Partial Credit Retakes
Some feel that students should be allowed to reassess, but given an average of the two scores or a portion of the improved score. That learners should be recognized for their efforts, but should make a more earnest attempt the first time. Partial credit retakes policies are better than a no retake policy, but they come up way short.
The problem with partial credit retakes is it does not accurately report learning. Let’s say Jimmy earns a 50/100 on a test. Then goes home and studies really hard and comes back and earns a 90/100 on the redo. If a teacher averages, it goes in the gradebook as a 70/100. So the gradebook is suggesting that Jimmy only understands 70% of the material when, in fact, he actually understands 90% of it. This is a misrepresentation of what he knows.
Opportunity to Retake
Some feel students should be allowed to retake any assessment for full credit. Teachers should take into account the fact that not everyone learns at the same pace, learners may need more time to understand the material or master the skills, and teachers should report the most current evidence demonstrating what a learner can do or knows.
This policy is almost there. Allowing learners to retake assessments at any time acknowledges learners do learn at different rates, it makes an attempt to value the learning, and it can ultimately report an accurate picture of what a learner knows.
The problem with the opportunity to retake is that it assumes all will take advantage of the opportunity. It also suggests that it is acceptable to not learn the material. Just because it is offered does not mean they will come in to do it. This policy is great for those who are mature enough to come in, but what about those who lack the organizational skills or maturity to come in on their own time? Are they exempt from demonstrating learning?
Required Redos and Revisions
I believe that whatever a teacher assesses is important. And if it is important, then learners should demonstrate understanding. In my class, my assessments are pass/fail. There is no partial credit for understanding. I expect everyone in my class to meet proficiency in ALL learning targets to pass my class. And because of this, I expect them to either revise or redo until they meet standards.
I do not understand why it is acceptable to allow learners to pass a class without meeting ALL learning criteria. If including a thesis statement in an essay or accurately graphing a function is essential, then why not require revision until it is done? Why not reteach and have her make the revisions? If we expect learners to learn something then they should learn it. If it is important the make it important by requiring revision.
The automotive and software industries understand this concept. They want a quality product and, therefore, establish criteria for their products and require their designers and developers to test, revise, retest the product until it meets or exceeds standards. If this is the philosophy of major manufacturers, shouldn’t it be that of educators preparing learners who will go into those careers?