The Dreaded Reassessments

Reassessments in 1st Semester

In late May 2014, I returned from a trip and our Middle School Principal, Jeff Lippman let me know that the middle school had decided to move to a 1 – 7, IB like grading scale and they were not going to average grades. All of this would begin at the start of the 2015 school year. This move was one year earlier than we had planned in the high school. I quickly surveyed our faculty to see if it was at all possible for us to do the same and it obvious that we weren’t ready to take the leap. Little did we know that this decision would lead to over 1056 student reassessments during semester one of the 2015 school year.

More on this later…

As the school year started we had to make a difficult decision about our reassessment policy. Were we going to allow all students to reassess on summative assessments or only those students who scored below a set grade? We agonized over this decision before making the decision. The final position that we took was controversial and faculty members were on both sides of the fence. Take a look at the two policies below and let me know what your thoughts are. What is your position on who should/should not be able to reassess, and why?

Version #1

Re-assessment will be available to students in the following circumstances:

  1. Students who have not mastered the standards (grades 69 and below) and have demonstrated completion of relevant formative tasks must sit the re-assessment.
  2. Students who have demonstrated or exceeded mastery (>69) are encouraged to apply feedback to the next learning opportunity.  Students who still want to re-assess, and have demonstrated completion of relevant formative tasks, will be eligible.

The following conditions apply to all re-assessment:

    1. Teachers will have the discretion to determine when and how the re-assessments are administered and may use Supervised Academic Support structure for re-assessment. Ideally the re-assessments will be given within one week of when the assessment was returned.
    2. Re-assessments are given on summative assessments and teachers may require students to re-write formative assessments.
    3. Students may not re-assess more than once on the same assessment.
    4. Re-assessments can be done on sections of major assessments or in relation to specific standards at the discretion of the teacher.
    5. There are no re-assessments in the last week of the grading period.
    6. The student’s highest earned grade will be recorded and used in the final grade calculation.
    7. IB Internal and External Assessments are not eligible for a re-assessment per IB regulations; assessments must be completed by the posted internal due dates.

Version #2

Re-Assessment

The purpose of re-assessment is to give the opportunity to students to apply feedback to the learning process and improve their achievement.  

Re-assessment will be available to students in the following circumstances:

  1. Students who have not mastered the standards (grades of 1-2) and have demonstrated full completion of formative tasks or practice as determined by the teacher.
  2. Students who have met the criteria at a 3-4  are encouraged to apply feedback to the next learning opportunity.  Students who still want to re-assess, and have demonstrated full completion of formative tasks or practice as determined by the teacher, will be eligible.

Students who have scored in  the 5-7 range have already clearly mastered or exceeded the standard according to our achievement descriptors and therefore will not re-assess.

The following conditions apply to all re-assessment:

    1. Students may not re-assess more than once on the same assessment.
    2. Re-assessments can be done on sections of major assessments or in relation to specific standards at the discretion of the teacher. Therefore re-assessments may look different for different students.  
    3. Re-assessment must take place within two weeks of when the assessment was returned to the student.
    4. Re-assessment time is determined by the teacher.  A student who is absent from re-assessment will not have the opportunity to make-up, unless there is a documented and justified reason for the absence. Optional travel is not a justified reason.
    5. There is no re-assessment in the last week of the grading period.
    6. Departments may supplement this policy with more specific guidelines which will be shared with students and parents.
    7. If the student does not meet the standard after re-assessment, he/she may need to complete recuperação during the holiday periods.

1056 represents the number of reassessments that students took in our Supervised Academic Support sessions after school during semester one. This does not include the reassessments that students completed outside of school or individually with teachers. The number seems almost inconceivable with a  student body of 380 students.

“Standardized Test” from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardized_test

As we anticipated, the a large percent (67%) of these SAS reassessments were given in math and science. The majority of the re-assessments in the languages and social studies classes were completed outside of class. The total number of opportunities that students had to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding has been phenomenal. This has led to a dramatic change in practices for our teachers and they rose to the challenge. All of this, in the spirit of learning and seeking to find out what students know and are able to do. 

Guess what our position was on who was able to reassess?

Back to the middle school’s decision to move to a 1 – 7 system and to base grades on professional judgment.

The middle school found their students were reassessing far less. The combination of

  1. a policy that does not allow students who scored a 5 or above to reassess cut down on the total number of students who could reassess.
  2. students realizing that they would have opportunities to assess later and that their grade was not being averaged opted to focus on future summative assessments.
  3. the grades not being averaged and students figuring out that it was difficult to move from a 4 to a 5 based on the grade descriptors. (Students in the high school whose grades were averaged felt that improving from a 84  to an 89, for example, would improve their overall grade.)

If we had been able to follow the middle school’s lead at the start of the year we would have drastically cut down on the number of reassessments. In looking back I still feel that it would have been impossible for us to make that leap.

Schools take a variety of stances on reassessments but we decided that philosophically, every student should have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning on a reassessment. At the end of the year this is the same rationale that the school decided to allow all students, in grades 6 – 12 to reassess for the 2015 – 16 school year.

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6 comments

  1. Timely post Blair – did Fox News help you with the title? 😉

    1056 reassessments is a lot. But it’s hard to really understand what that number means without a total number of assessments taken. Is it 1056 retakes out of 1200 tests? If yes, we have a problem. If it’s 1056 retakes out of 10000 total assessments (that’s if each kid had four summatives in each of about 7 subjects) then we might not need to be so alarmed.

    Reassessments do cause some teacher frustration (I know that is what your title is referring to) but they really should be causing far more teacher reflection. If 70% of your kids are reassessing your test because their level of achievement is below standard then I’d say that some re-teaching needs to happen for everyone. The teacher needs to acknowledge that.

    I’m a math teacher that is 100% pro retakes. But it’s probably the toughest topic that I’ve ever had to discuss with my colleagues.

  2. Hi Ange, Thanks for your comment. I haven’t been watching Fox news because our shipment hasn’t arrived and our TV is in it. We’ve been in an almost empty house since Aug. 1 and are doing just fine.

    I was also thinking about the number and when you realize that this is represents and average of 3/student. That may not really be that many when you think about it. Obviously they were taking others outside of SAS. I think that in most cases teachers did reflect on the students’ results and learn from them. Incorporating the re-teaching was definitely an issue. How are things going this year with the changes in the assessment practices? I’m really curious to learn more about the progress that is being made. Thank you for being with that initial team that moved us forward.

    BTW – Maxine says repeatedly that she wants to change the grading system at MVPS to make it more like what we had at Graded. She feels that the practices created a better learning environment and they cultivated a growth mindset. Pretty significant coming from a 14 year old.

  3. That is great to hear that Maxine valued that grading system. Definitely significant feedback!

    All changes come with hurdles and it continues to be a challenging transition for the high school (teachers and students). The middle school is starting to find their rhythm but the fine details of the re-assessment policy have been in discussion a lot this week. We continue to have students that focus all of their energy on the grades (instead of the learning process) and there is a concern that some students are taking advantage of the system. Grade pressure is the power horse at the end of the day despite all of our efforts to move away from it. I wonder if our parents needs some more teaching?

    Still no shipping?!? Wowzer – I am sorry. But it’s nice to know that you can survive without TV. Who needs it when every pub on every street is playing every game you would ever need to watch!!!!

  4. Blair, I continue to be fascinated by this series. I lean towards Version 1, where all students are given the opportunity to show that their learning has increased. There are two things within Version 1 that I see differently. I tend to be in favor of more than one retake. I currently allow unlimited, but I could see limiting it to 3. For some students, they need a bit more time and work than they initially realized. Additionally, I use retakes on individual skill grades instead of unit tests. Those skills can come up again over the semester. I use most recent grade instead of highest grade. For example, the skill topics of domain and range comes up all year. Each unit will introduce a new function family and students will need to do domain and range for the new functions. While their grade may have been higher for domain and range as it relates to linear functions, it might go down when we get to quadratics. This indicates that they have more work to do in this area, so I use that new grade. And because I allow unlimited retakes, they can work to show that their learning has increased. This also makes me think of our conversations about grades from later in the semester having more weight than grades from earlier in the semester.

  5. Robin, thanks for the comment. The one re-take per assessment was probably more a practical measure. In theory you are exactly right. Imagine if kids were taking multiple retakes in all of the classes. It’s possible that they’d struggle to get back on track. For example, our math department required students to attend after school help sessions before retaking a summative assessment. This really make sense since we want to give kids the opportunity to learn the material and develop the skills. The problem was that this created problems with other subjects. If every class required this I’m not sure that it would be possible for a kid to manage. As it was there were issues with students having to juggle after school activities and reassessments.
    What you explained in terms of using the most recent grades is spot on. It’s also impressive that you’re able to break these down so specifically. Not an easy feat. Often times I hear math teachers saying that the material that is covered in different units is discrete which makes it difficult to use the most recent performance. I’d love to hear how you manage this.
    My favorite videos on reassessments are from Rick Wormeli. He’s straight forward and apologetic when it comes to not allowing reassessments at the end of a marking period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM-3PFfIfvI (part one); https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgxvzEc0rvs (part two).
    I’m glad that we’re having this conversation.

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