Sunday, August 2, 2015

Still not sure about redos/retakes... then read this:

There are still lots of questions in regard to redos/retakes in the educational setting. Many of the questions raise legitimate concerns. It's my hope to address many of those concerns below. I'd like to recognize Rick Wormeli for all his work on this topic as he's been influential in helping move our district forward with our grading and assessment practices.

What about all the time it will take to allow students to do redos/retakes... the schedule is already jam-packed, so where will we find time for this?

This is a valid question and is one of importance. If schools believe 'if' a kid learns is more important than 'when' a kid learns, then redos/retakes should have a place within the school day. Also, we can't expect kids to come in early or stay after to participate in the redo/retake process as not all kids have that opportunity. Redos/retakes are about ensuring kids learn what's needed to be learned... if learning is a priority, then finding time shouldn't be a problem.

What about the kids who take an assessment and then five minutes later say, 'I want to do a redo/retake now.' How is this teaching the student to prepare for an assessment?

For a student to be able to redo/retake an assessment, they should first have to go through a 'relearn' process. Having a redo/retake policy is an opportunity we provide students because we believe learning is a priority. Having said that, a student must first demonstrate through a 'relearn' process that they are indeed ready for a redo/retake. Simply having a kid redo/retake an assessment the next day hasn't allowed that student time to learn the material, so the results of the assessment won't be any different. Whether it means a student doing some additional practice or completing missed work or simply having a short conversation with the teacher, the student must first demonstrate that he/she is ready for a redo/retake before being granted that opportunity.

What about colleges... they don't allow redos/retakes, so shouldn't we be preparing kids for what they will experience in college?

If or whether colleges are allowing redos/retakes frankly shouldn't be a concern of PreK-12 education. At the end of the day our job is to prepare kids to be successful in life. We prepare kids to be successful in life (and college) by ensuring they learn. And to ensure ALL kids learn we need to embrace the practice of redos/retakes. Just because colleges use outdated pedagogical practices doesn't mean we should subject our PreK-12 students to these same practices...

What about the students who don't need the redos/retakes... won't they think this isn't fair?

This is a partial myth... students who demonstrate mastery the first time really don't care if it takes another student three or four times to demonstrate mastery. However, the parents of the students who mastered it the first time are the ones who care because they want to believe their child deserves something more for learning the material faster. Learning isn't a competition, and when we allow it to be, we are creating a hostile environment for all of our students. Also, the students who demonstrate mastery the first time around don't have the same uphill battle as the students who require redos/retakes. The students participating in the redos/retakes are also having to keep up with the current classroom learning so in reality they are doing double the work.

What about cheating since the student will have already seen the assessment... won't they just remember the assessment and then look up the answers?

Sure, this could be a concern if the redo/retake assessment is always exactly the same. The trick here is not always using the same assessment when doing redos/retakes. Allow students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in a different way to eliminate the concern of cheating and/or memorizing the assessment. Remember, the key of allowing redos/retakes is to aid in the learning process, so if a student is able to demonstrate mastery in a different format, then that should be perfectly acceptable. Also, don't ask students to re-demonstrate mastery once they've already showed you they can do it. Only ask kids to redo/retake the parts of an assessment that weren't done at mastery level to save time and keep the focus on enhancing learning.

What about the grades for all the redos/retakes... since it might take a student multiple attempts to demonstrate mastery, shouldn't all the grades be added together and then averaged?

If we take an average of student grades as they are going through the learning process, then we are reinforcing an environment where students aren't going to want to fail and aren't going to want to take risks. Learning requires failure and requires risk taking, so we shouldn't allow the grades a student receives when first learning the material to negatively impact a student's grade in the end. Practice is practice, and the way a football team practices all week long in preparation for the big game doesn't mean they start with more or less points on Friday night... they still start with zero. Focus on most recent evidence when it comes to mastery and grading. Lastly, when we average grades we distort the overall accuracy of our grades.

What about in the real-world... the real-world doesn't allow redos/retakes so aren't we sending the wrong message to our students?