Yes to Retakes and No to Zeros

18 Feb

Back in 2008 I attended the ETS conference on Assessment for Learning, and Ken O’Connor’s breakout on grading  had a lasting effect on me.

Regarding retakes, he gave the compelling argument regarding parachute packing. Do you want to use the parachute from the packer who was doing excellent packing work but recently got sloppy with the packing, or the packer who started off badly, but has been doing perfect packing in recent weeks? I would go with the latter. What matters is that the student eventually learns how to master the topic, and not all students learn at the same rate. Here’s my retake philosophy this year:

  • Only one retake allowed (from my experience if a student doesn’t study and get help before first retake, they don’t do it for subsequent ones either)
  • Students must retake assessment week following original (implemented this because students were waiting too long)
  • Retake score overrides original score (good or bad; this encourages studying)
  • In the gradebook, in the comment field for that student’s test grade, I document that the student retook the quiz, and I state the original and retake score.

I think it was Ken O’Connor who also introduced me to the no-zero grading policy. Why are grades A-B-C-D all separated by 10% point while we give the F a 50% band? If a student falls into this F abyss, they may never get out even after they have worked hard their grades begin to get better We all know how averages can be skewed.  For more information on this, read Douglas Reeves’ article, Case Against Zero. Here’s my no-zero philosophy this year:

  • Apply no-zero philosophy on assessments
  • If students get a 25% on a test, I put 25% on the test that I hand back to the student; however, I enter 50.25 into the gradebook. This lets me retain the actual grade info while still giving them a 50% F.

Both of these policies, retakes and no-zeros on  assessments give students a second chance to succeed. They are also great discussion points when talking with parents on how their child can improve in my class. There is never a time when a student should lose hope.

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