Reassessments and Retakes: A Necessary Part of a School-Wide Grading Policy
“Lawyers who finally pass the bar exam on their second or third attempt are not limited to practicing law only on Tuesdays” – Wormeli, 2011
We allow people to retake their driver’s license exam as many times as they need to in order to demonstrate competency. The same is true of other professionals such as teachers, lawyers, doctors, and electricians who are required to pass a certification/licensure exam. Reassessment is a part of our real world. I find it ironic, then, that, as educators, we cringe at the thought of allowing reassessments in the classroom in an effort to “prepare kids for the real world!” I held this belief until a few years ago when O’Connor and Stiggins (2009) and Wormeli (2011) helped set me straight. Reflecting back, I now cringe at the harsh reality that, from 2001 to 2006, I sent hundreds and hundreds of students into the real world without the opportunity to reassess to solidify their learning.
At my school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire, we believe in the concept of reassessments so much that we actually have a school-wide common procedure that supports its use in all classes. In fact, we have a number of school-wide common grading procedures that are designed to support our competency-based grading and reporting system, one that is now in its third year of implementation K-12 in our district.
In a competency-based system, reassessments are a necessary part of the learning process. “True competence that stands the test of time comes with reiterative learning. We carry forward concepts and skills we encounter repeatedly, and we get better at retrieving them the more we experience them.” (Wormeli, 2011). Making reassessments a school-wide practice changes the learning culture for students from one where they are trying to earn enough points to pass to one in which they are held accountable for everything they need to know and be able to do. Reeves (2000) describes the cultural shift that will happen over time as schools implement such a policy. “The consequence for a student who fails to meet a standard is not a low grade, but rather an opportunity – indeed, the requirement – to resubmit his or her work.” Indeed, that cultural shift is happening today at my school.
When I talk with fellow school administrators about the change process of moving from traditional to competency-based grading and reporting, reassessment is a popular discussion topic. Principals always want to know what a practical school-wide reassessment procedure looks like. Here is the one that my school adopted three years ago:
Second-chance assessment opportunities shall be made available to students who have missed a summative assessment, to students who have failed a summative assessment, and to students who have earned below an 80% on a summative assessment. For students who missed a summative assessment for a legitimate reason (an excused absence or emergency), the highest possible score that may be earned on a reassessment is 100%. Students who must reassess because they missed an initial summative assessment for an unexcused reason, who must reassess because they failed an initial assessment, or who wish to reassess because they have earned below an 80%, may earn up to an 80% on the reassessment.
- If a student who fails with less than a 65% reassesses and earns a higher grade, the higher grade replaces the previously recorded lower grade (up to an 80);
- Since a teacher should only require students to reassess on non-proficient skills or tasks, the reassessment grade should never result in a lower final grade on the assignment;
- A teacher may require (as detailed above in Formative Assessments) a student to complete all formative assessments that are directly correlated with the summative assessment before a reassessment for the summative is administered (if this step has not previously been taken);
- A teacher may require students to complete a relearning plan (detailing the steps that a student will need to undertake to demonstrate proficiency on the summative) before a reassessment is administered;
- A teacher may assign a reasonable timeline for a reassessment opportunity;
- Reassessment opportunities for formative assessments are at the teacher’s discretion.
Our school-wide reassessment procedure is not an ideal competency-based reassessment statement. We consider it to be a hybrid procedure that has helped our teachers and students over the last three years make the transition from a traditional to a competency-based grading philosophy. One of our biggest limitations is that we don’t allow students to earn more than 80% on a reassessment. If we are to truly measure student learning, we can’t engage in practices that limit student grades. We certainly understand this in my school and we are moving to a model that will allow the reassessment grade to have no cap. Many of our teachers and students philosophically are ready to make this final leap. Some already have.
Competency-based grading and reporting systems hold students accountable for their learning. They hold teachers accountable for ensuring that all students gain the ability to transfer content and skills in and across content areas. That learning happens at different rates for different students. Reassessment is a necessary part of the learning process for all.
O’Connor, K and Stiggins, R. (2009). How to Grade for Learning, K-12, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Reeves, D.B. (2000). Standards are not enough: Essential transformations for school success. NASSP Bulletin, 84(10), 5-19.
Wormeli, R. (2011) Redos and Retakes Done Right. Educational Leadership, Nov. 2011; pgs. 22-26. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
photo credit: twitter.com/rickwormeli
Brian M. Stack is the National Association of Secondary School Principals 2017 New Hampshire Secondary School Principal of the Year. He is Principal of Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH, an author for Solution Tree, and also serves as an expert for Understood.org, a division of the National Center for Learning Disabilities in Washington, DC. He lives with his wife Erica and his five children Brady, Cameron, Liam, Owen, and Zoey on the New Hampshire seacoast. You can follow Brian on Twitter @bstackbu or visit his blog.