Next year, the retake policy will be changing in my classroom. Why? First, I’m recognizing some changes that need to be made in the current procedures I use. Second, Dylan Kane provided a thought provoking post (as always) that you should check out. Third, retakes are a controversial topic, and many people believe that retakes are the downfall of education. This view has good points that need to be considered, and it reveals that policies must be investigated. In addition, it’s important to be careful with the language and procedures we use because retakes can certainly be detrimental if utilized incorrectly.
A student may retake a quiz, possibly multiple times, before the end of the grading period. We’d prefer for all students to retake quizzes because we believe all students can continue to pursue deeper learning even after concepts are formally assessed. However, the goal of retakes is not to create a crutch for students. The goal is for students to take learning seriously and in turn be provided with an encouraging classroom environment that welcomes mistakes and allows for growth from mistakes.
Therefore, students will first be allowed to retake a quiz on the day we take a quiz over the next concept in our curriculum. It’s preferable for students to wait for this day (usually 7-10 class days) in order to allow time for error analysis, practice, and other efforts to pursue further learning.
In addition, if a student would like to retake a quiz a 3rd time (or more), then he or she must fill out a quiz analysis form that asks the student to analyze previous quizzes and write out questions he or she still has. From there, the student may receive tutoring, other outside help, or a video-guided handout to continue learning. Finally, after those conditions are met, the student may retake the quiz a 3rd time. All additional retakes will follow the same process.
The highest grade achieved by the end of the grading period will be placed in the gradebook. This approach is used because it allows students to pursue learning without penalty and be rewarded for perseverance. We want students to keep working until mastery is demonstrated no matter how long it takes.
What does it mean that, “students will first be allowed to retake a quiz on the day we take a quiz over the next concept in our curriculum?” Here’s an example. In Geometry this year, we took a quiz over special right triangles one day. Then, 10 days later we took a quiz over Trigonometry. In the new policy, the students will not be allowed to retake the special right triangles quiz until the day of the Trigonometry quiz. On that day, students will be offered an opportunity to retake the special right triangles quiz after completing the trigonometry quiz.
I like this because it gives time to analyze errors and put those errors in front of the kids. Then, we can practice more on those misconceptions through spiraling assignments before the retake day arrives. This prevents students from rushing too quickly to correct a grade and instead focus on what they need to improve in order to achieve deeper learning.
Also, I think it’s important that all students be given one in-class opportunity to retake in order to promote a culture of valuing mistakes and the pursuit of growing from mistakes. If this isn’t offered, then it potentially compromises that message. Exceptions can be made to this rule though, and that’s up to teacher discretion. For example, if a student turns in a blank original quiz and says, “I’ll just wait until the retake,” then it would be appropriate to have a meeting with that student and potentially his or her guardian(s) to discuss the issue. A retake may be delayed or not offered in special situations like this. By the way, I haven’t had a student do this in 4 years.
As for the policy on a 3rd retake (or more), it’s important to have the analysis handout procedure in place in order to prevent kids from just doing a Hail Mary retake to get extra points. Retakes are detrimental when kids are allowed to retake without making efforts to improve. Here’s an example of what I’m envisioning for an analysis handout. It’s nothing fancy and simply asks students to show they’re serious about learning and improving.
Also, what’s a “video-guided handout?” Here’s an example from Algebra 1. It’s a handout with links to videos followed by problems related to the video. In addition, students may be asked to attempt higher level challenges to push understanding. The goal of the handout is to provide an opportunity for growth if they are unable to make it into a face-to-face tutoring session.
What happens if a student scores lower on a retake?
The highest score is kept no matter when it was achieved. Although the hope is that this won’t happen, I think the message that mistakes are a good thing in math can be compromised if the highest score is not honored. I’m willing to be lenient in this situation in order to build trust and continue to change student mindsets about the value of mistakes in math.
When do students retake quizzes? Before or after school? On specified days?
Students are allowed to come in before school, after school, or during lunch. After the first retake opportunity in class, students may come in any day assuming they have met the 3rd retake (or more) requirements detailed above.
Do retakes become increasingly more difficult?
The questions are different on each retake, but the proficient, advanced, mastery format remains the same. Therefore, the difficulty level is relatively similar.
Do you have an endless supply of retake quizzes?
Most of the time, students will not retake more than once. Therefore, usually only 1 retake needs to be prepared. For additional retakes, now that the new policy is in place, there should be sufficient time to create a new retake because students will have to declare in advance that they want a retake (and complete the 3rd retake prep procedure).
Also, if you’re short on time, another option is to make up some problems on the spot if a student comes in outside of class. From there, you can have him or her work these problems on a whiteboard. After they work it out, have them explain their thought process. Through all of this, it’s possible to get a feel for their level of understanding and in turn provide a rating.