Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retakes and Redos

Flipping my algebra classes has been a huge part of my transformation as a teacher this year. But there's been a second change I've made that has been transformational in its own right: retakes and redos.

I've attempted various methods of redos/retakes throughout my teaching career. I've never been extremely happy with any of them. They seemed to be lots of work for me with little benefit or improvement for the kids. Many times student made significantly worse on their second attempt at a test.

Last year I started to seriously consider some sort of retake policy...again. Students (and parents) were frequently interested in do-overs, but I wanted to make the effort required worth my and my students' time.

Then this past summer I discovered (via Twitter) Rick Wormeli. I read some of his books and watched some of his YouTube videos. He is a huge proponent of retakes and redos. He asks if all the "major" tests - ACT, bar exam, driver's license, others - are allowed to be taken as many times as desired, why shouldn't a test in school? He says any student - even the one who makes a 95 and wants a 100 - should be able to retake a test. He says students should be able to earn full credit on a retake - just as on all of those "major" tests. He also suggests ANY assignment can be redone.

His arguments made sense to me, so I decided to implement a wide-reaching retake and redo policy. I patterned my policy after the policy he used when he was in the classroom.

Daily grades can be corrected for full credit.

Tests can be retaken for full credit, after some preparation. A "Request to Retest" must be filled out and signed by the student and parent.  The student reflects on why they made the score they did the first time and what they are doing to improve the score.

Three activities must be done to prepare for the retake. Correcting the first test is always one; if there was a practice test or review, it must be completed again. Students can choose the third activity - re-watching videos, practice worksheets, IXL practice, etc. - as long as they provide proof.

Retakes and redos must be completed within a week of the return of the original assignment. Tests must be taken during the student's PE class. Retakes and redos can't be done the last week of the grading period to allow me to meet my deadlines for having grades finalized.

Yes, it has been extra work. I'm making 2 tests for every unit (3 if you count the practice test); the retake is similar to the original test. I'm writing passes for students to miss PE and juggling students coming to me to take a test while I'm getting a class started for the day. I'm finding extra practice for kids to do on concepts they struggled with the first time. I'm grading extra daily assignments and extra tests.

But it's working.

Only 1 student hasn't raised his/her score on each of the the last couple of retake rounds (30 students retook the last test!). And, each time, that student has either made the same score or scored only a few points lower on the retake.

Even more exciting to me than the improved scores is the evidence of learning. Real learning. Students are understanding concepts they will need as we progress through the course. Misconceptions are cleared up, and students who are careless pay greater attention to detail.

Some students choose not to redo any assignment or retake any test, deciding it's "too much work for a few points." The only abuse of the policy I've detected is some girls who retake tests to get out of "weight room days" in PE, even if they did very well on the original test. For a few students, I've had to stress the importance of following the policy; if you don't, you won't be allowed to retake your test.

Overall, though, I'm very pleased.

Today a student summed it up very well.  She said, "I'm glad you do the redos and retakes because it makes you really learn the material." Me: "That's the point." Her (my paraphrase): "Usually I just rush through the material trying to get it good enough to get the grade. Now I get to go back and really learn it."

That's a win in my book!

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