Test Retakes May Help Students Succeed

Test Retakes May Help Students Succeed

Do you find test retakes effective?

By Peter Barnes, Teaching Prek-8

Retake tests, when used sparingly, can be a valuable tool to help certain students succeed

Alexandra gasped in horror as I placed the fractions test on her desk.

“D minus! Mr. Barnes, I promised my mom I would raise my math grade this quarter!” I patted Alexandra’s shoulder and moved on, thinking about how hard she had worked and how little support she received at home. Her mom worked long hours and rarely helped Alexandra with homework. Should I let her retake the test?

Rescued by a retake?

Many teachers dislike retake tests because they can devalue grades. How does one make true assessments of a students’ learning if they’re allowed to retake tests when they do poorly? Teachers worry that students will not work their hardest if they count on being rescued by a retake if they fail. Finally, allowing retakes is seen as opening Pandora’s Box, creating a cloud of whining students and pleading parents demanding second chances whenever they dislike a grade.

These are valid concerns and I understand teachers who value valid assessment above second chances. I suspect that some teachers avoid retakes for another reason. These teachers like their assessment simple – no room for exceptions and no messy extra points in their grade books.

A little extra work

My opinion is that assessment should be slightly messy – students aren’t just numbers in a grade book. Retake tests are a valuable tool that can help certain students succeed. I believe they should be used sparingly, not on every assessment but on important tests where mastery is essential. They should not be given universally, but offered quietly to students with grades of C or below. I average the original test score and the retake together to avoid inflating grades. When other students or parents plead for retakes, I carefully explain why I feel they don’t need one.

Retake tests are extremely helpful to a small group of my students each year. I often meet with them at recess to review the material and discuss study habits that might help them improve. I contact parents to encourage their involvement. Most importantly, I remind students that doing better is possible with some extra work.

Alexandra’s mother was disappointed by the D minus but agreed to work with her every night until the retest. Alexandra and I met at recess for a week with a few of her most fraction-phobic classmates. She got a B on the retake and brought her math grade safely back into the C range. Best of all, she stopped saying that she hated math and actually raised her hand during class a few times. It was extra work for everyone involved, but wasn’t the result worth it?

Courtesy of © 2007, YellowBrix, Inc.

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