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When Dallas (Oregon) School District recently redesigned our assessment policies and practices, we were heavily infoluenced by your writing and your presentation at the Solution Tree Assessment Summit in Atlanta (2008). Now we are grappling with a problem that threatens to derail us:

Many parents and students have questioned our decision to allow "retakes" of assessments, especially as we've placed no limit on the number of times a student can retake an assessment (until the semester ends). Do you have any suggestions about how we should handle the retake issue?

Cory Bradshaw


When we have a learning orientation I think it is the ideal to offer unlimited retakes but
there should always be conditions attached to retakes and the practical reality is that there
may have to be a limit to the number of retakes.

The conditions that should attached to all retakes are
1, Correctives and 2 Opportunity Cost.

No student should be allowed any retake (first or fifteenth) until they provide evidence
that they have done something that increases the likelihood that they will improve.

Opportunity Cost
Not all retakes need to occur at a time that is convenient to the student.

The message to students should be that it is best to do well the first time but if you don’t
a retake will be available at the “cost” of evidence of correctives and some of your time.

A practical example of how this works occurs in a junior high school math department
near Tacoma, WA. After providing evidence of correctives, students are allowed one retake
opportunity in class and two opportunities after school. There are eight teachers in the
math department and they each supervise the retakes once every two weeks on Monday to
Thursday afternoons.

I hope this helps.


Roger Curtis's


Goodness gracious, the consideration that deserves the utmost of attention is that of the
teacher and the impact on him or her! Teachers, too, have opportunity costs to consider
and believe me, re-tests represent disproportionate obligates and are more often than not,
for the benefit of the student who has failed to put his or her best foot forward. Teachers
are not automatons. Their time is better spent lesson planning, resting or engaging
themselves in enriching experiences that can and do translate into life-affirming events,
stories to tell and more.

The Grade Doctor's


I have the utmost respect for teachers and their time but the issue is using time wisely in meeting our ultimate shared purpose - the success of each student.
We must work smarter not harder and that means, for example, involving students in self and peer assessment of much of the formative assessment and working together to share the burden of reassessment. One junior high school math department I know about schedules reassessments after school Monday to Thursday and each of the eight teachers in the department does one afternoon every two weeks.

Mr Kotter's


Why would students study in the first place if they know that they can do a "retake"? From
many years as a Middle School teacher, I have been asked can I have a retake. I now ask
my students, "if I offered a retake, would you study". The answer is a resounding no. If I
have a job interview, can I ask for a retake if it does not go well. Can I resubmit a resume
with typos? Of course not.

The Grade Doctor's


Students want to do a retake when you establish a culture of learning in your classroom and will try (hard) on the first assessment when you have two conditions attached to the retake - first there must be evidence of 'correctives' before a student is allowed a retake, and second there may be 'opportunity cost' attached to the retake, i.e., the 'cost' is the student's time when they would prefer to be doing something else.

Andrea Hanson's


Or another option would be to have the STUDENT create something to prove to you that
they have now learned the skill or benchmark, so that the teacher doesn't have to create
multiple retakes. And this would actually show if the student knows the ins and outs of
the skill. In a math classroom have him/her think of their own word problem that would
utilize the said skill and have it solved right in front of you. Or have a probing discussion
with a student on a topic for a social studies class. Just another idea!

The Grade Doctor's


Thanks Andrea for the excellent suggestions of additional ways to reassess.



Is it ok to use peer and self assessments in your summative assessments?

The Grade Doctor's


Only as "advice" to the teachers determination of grades, not directly.