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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teachers debate: Should students get retakes?

More teachers are letting students retake tests to raise their grades.

Baptiste Delvallé doesn’t let students retake quizzes and tests, he writes in Education Week.

Here’s how I explain it to my students. If you’re asked to meet a deadline in a future job, and you’re late or have poor-quality work, you might get fired. If you’re in a relationship and don’t show up to the dates, you might get dumped. If you cross the road without looking, and a car comes zooming by, you don’t get a second chance. I prefer that they get a bad grade and learn to give it their best shot on the first try, rather than to hear years from now that they’re still struggling.

Students become better learners when they know it counts, he argues.

At first, his middle-school students and his fellow teachers thought his policy was unfair. Co-workers argued students should be able to master the content at their own pace.

But what I expect is not success the first time. I expect students to put in effort the first time and constantly think about ways they can work to improve. . . . we had a whole lesson about how to prepare for tests, using what I call the “What Works Well” technique. I put three big pieces of paper around the room and asked students the following questions: What works well for you to memorize information at home, to recall information the day of the test, and to check a test before handing it in?

Students shared their techniques. They also kept journals that explained what methods they used for tests and projects, what worked well and what didn’t.

Many of my students say they went from feeling lost to feeling self-reflective and in a mindset to constantly improve their skills.

Time management is a very useful life skill.

Increasingly, school policies allow for retakes, regardless of the teacher’s preferences.

Lisa Westman doesn’t think that retakes promote laziness or procrastination. Giving students a second chance shows compassion, she argues. Students should get “multiple chances to show mastery.”

“Students will take many tests over the course of their lives, such as a driver’s exam, the SAT, the LSAT, and the MCAT, to name a few,” she writes. “All of these examples allow retakes.”

Teachers, what do you think?

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