Sunday, August 12, 2012


When making a shift to learning for all, one of the discussions/debates is centered around whether or not to allow "redos".  This is a tough one for a lot of people.  Four or five years ago I didn't believe in redos.  I felt that if the student worked through the unit, did the assignments, asked for help, completed the review, which I always set up as a pre-test, then they should be ready for the unit exam.  If they weren't then they hadn't tried hard enough and too bad.   Now I feel bad for my students of that time period!   Once you make the shift to "learning for all" and "moving learning forward" for the students, then redos/reassessments make sense!   Why wouldn't we want our students to be able to demonstrate understanding of an outcome, even if it is two months after the formal lessons in class?  Ultimately the goal of the course is for students to have demonstrated learning in all outcomes.   Why we have set dates for this to happen is beyond me!  The curriculum states that the student will demonstrate an understanding of.... by the end of the course, not by October 15, when I have decided to give a "unit exam"!

Rick Wormeli has a great video where he shares his views as to why we should allow reassessments.  You can click here to watch part one of this video.  Click here to watch part two.

Here are some of the hurdles that I hear to giving reassessments and my solution to them:

"If I allow reassessments then kids won't try hard the first time"
Well in some cases this is true.  However, I have discovered that if you present this in a certain way then those will be minimized.  I tell my students that it is important to do the best you can on the first try because in the end, if you jump around with your levels of understanding then I will look for the most consistent level.  They know that if they consistently improve, then I will give them their final score, so the first ones won't count, but if they jump around ie.  2, 3, 2, I tell them I have to look at consistency and now that first assessment holds some weight.   Because of this, most students will do the best they can on the first attempt.  But yes, there are those that won't... we simply have to worry about what we can control!

"If I allow reassessments for everyone then the high achievers will keep rewriting until they get the 4 because they want the scholarships and they might write 10 times to do this."
In three years of experience I have yet to come across this.  I am not saying it won't happen and we might have those one or two students who do this.  I say let's cross that bridge when we get there.   I think that with the way things are now set up this won't be a problem.  But I might be wrong!

"How is it fair that a student who scores a 3 on their third attempt is the same as the a student who scores a 3 on the first try."
It is about the student's learning.  The ultimate goal is that students will learn.  We don't go and ask our doctors how many times they had to write the medical exams before they passed.   They are all doctors now and it doesn't matter.   Some babies learn to walk at 6 months and some not until 18 months.  Should we penalize the late walker and say they can never play sports?   A level 3 is a level 3, no matter when they achieved it.   Ultimately they now know the material.

"It will be time for me to create and score all of these extra assessments.  What does the student have to do?"
Well there is a cost associated with reassessing.  I don't allow my students to walk into my classroom and say "I want to rewrite outcome 5."  They have to show me that they have done some work in preparing for this outcome.  Whether it be making the corrections on their last assessment, or showing me that they have now completed all of their practice questions, or doing an extra set of practice questions, or simply having a conversation with me, they have to have put in some extra time before they get to reassess.  It's not a revolving door where they write, get back a low score and walk in to write again.  There has to be work done in between.  This work must be shown at least one day prior to wanting to reassess.  As far as creating these, yes, it is a little extra work, but ultimately I feel my job is about helping students learn and this is one part of my job.  With math, it is pretty easy to change numbers in a question.  Level 2 and 3 questions which tend to be process problems, are easy to change.  The level 4 do require a little more thought on my part, but when I am developing the learning plan I try to create  a bank of level 4 questions so that I can easily pull from this.   Depending on the outcome and the extent of the misunderstanding in the first assessment, sometimes I simply do an oral reassessment.  If I have a conversation with the student and they are able to explain their understanding then that is good enough for me.   It is really not a lot of work and in the end it benefits the student.  It also makes my job easier in following classes when I get these students as they now have a higher level of understanding than if I didn't allow for the reassessments and learning to occur.

"I'm going to have so many assessments to mark at the end of the semester when all of a sudden they realize they don't have the scores they want."
Yes, this was a problem.  However another colleague and myself have found a solution that has worked.  We have set up a reassessment policy that is communicated to the students and signed by the students and their parents.  We have set up contract dates at the start of the  year.  They are 3 - 4 weeks apart.  At each date, any student who is below a level 2 on any outcome is placed on contract.  They then have until the next contract date to attempt this outcome again.   The other colleague and I each take a noon hour a week to supervise these reassessments, so the student has two days a week to complete this.  This keeps the students more organized and spreads out the assessments over the course of the semester.  We also have a final reassessment date about 2 weeks prior to the final exam.  After this, there is no reassessing.  The final exam is the reassessment.  The students are all aware of these dates and it keeps things moving smoothly.

"In the real world you don't get a second chance."
Well that is actually false.  There are many instances where people have redos!  Going for a drivers license is one that most people will experience.  Not everyone passes on their first attempt, yet that isn't held against them when they go the next time.  We don't have stickers on our vehicles that say "I passed on my fifth time".   Airplane pilots did not land an airplane on their first attempt.  They practiced hundreds or thousands of times in a simulator before attempting with a real aircraft.    Accountants have more than one chance to write their exams.   Lawyers have more than one chance to pass the bar exam.  This list could go on and on.  School is about learning.  Failure is a part of learning.   Moving forward and becoming better is a part of learning.

Reassessments have worked well for me when a student walks in on an assessment day and says that they are not ready for the assessment.  I now tell them that it is okay, they can try the assessment, do the best they can and then we'll know what they still need to work on.  Usually the student is more prepared than they think.  Test anxiety is removed when they know there is another chance if needed.  Many times the student doesn't have to reassess, they simply weren't confident enough and are still programmed that all assessments "count" towards their final grade.  With that not being the case anymore, the student is more relaxed and often finds that they are more prepared than they thought!

Reassessments are not a bad thing.  I now not only allow reassessments, but encourage them.  I want my students to WANT to learn and WANT to show mastery.  I encourage them to be the best they can be.   I apologize to my students in the past when I didn't allow reassessments!


  1. I love your explanations here. I'm writing a blog post about my beliefs. Can I put a link to this post, in case parents want more info? It will be located on my new site,, as a separate page. Let me know - JoyKirr at gmail. Thanks!

  2. Absolutely! I'll have to check out your blog!

  3. I like the solutions, especially to the challenge around the potential for so many extra assessments at the end of the semester. This seems to consistently place student learning at the center of assessment (the ideal) and yet still manage to make life reasonable for a teaching professional (the practical).

    Share your thoughts with others as often as you can. I know I will.

    1. Thanks! Our assessment policy has helped to keep us sane!

  4. Carey,
    I don't think I ever told you that I posted a link to your post on my blog! Here it is: I had to pull it up for a parent who was frustrated about redos... Thanks again!
    ~Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr)