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


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

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.

The Response from Parents in October

This photo shows where this group of Graded parents stands on university for their children. As you can see, the standards are high.

This photo shows where this group of Graded parents stands on university for their children. As you can see, the standards are high.

School started at the end of July and by October students and parents were questioning our implementation of the new changes. A group of parents presented us with the following list of questions.

Questions from Parents

  • Why the implementation did not consider a pilot to test and debug the system before implementing it to the whole high-school?
  • Which are the reasons to change a grade system in the middle of the high school (changing rules in the middle of the game)?
  • One of the consequences of the new system is a considerable increase in workload for teachers. What is the approach used in the new system to overcome this challenge? How was the training process for the teachers with regard to the new system? How long were they trained?
  • Is the system fully implemented according to the original plan? Has anything gone wrong with the implementation? What are the difficulties encountered in the implementation process?
  • Does the school have any plans to approach colleges aiming to explain the system so the students have the same opportunities in the application when compared with other students with a different grading system?
  • Does the school have any plans to approach colleges aiming to explain the system so the students have the same opportunities in the application when compared with other students with a different grading system?
  • The general perception is that the new system will result in lower grades for students. While this issue can be adjusted over time it is not clear how long this will take and more than one class may be severely impacted by its adoption in the way it was implemented.

Our team quickly moved to meet with parents and I still remember facing a somewhat hostile audience of parents. While we humbly defended our work, we knew that there was a sense of urgency to improve.

HS Parent Meeting Grading.100614

Out of this experience I learned the following:

  • This was the first time that we had standardized grading and reporting practices throughout the high school and this was not an easy task. In the past each department has a certain level of autonomy which meant that we were frequently on different pages. Making this change was easier said then done. We had to constantly define our policy language and unpack the details. We encouraged everyone to ask questions so that we could find out what was not understood. We were revisiting policy at every faculty meeting.
  • Making these changes put all of us under the microscope. I realized that poor practices that went unnoticed in the past were now being commented on by students and parents. For example, if the formative assessments did not align with the summative assessments, students noticed. If the classroom activities did not align, the students noticed.
  • While we had piloted certain aspects, it may have helped to do more prior to the full rollout.
  • The parents were right, these changes did mean much more work for teachers. Our teachers were having to work much harder and the pressure was on for them to improve their assessment practices.

Stay tuned for what we learned at the end of the first semester.

Did we really expect to escape the critics?

By October, we started hearing grumblings from students and parents. Below is a copy of the petition from some members of the Class of 2015. In the midst of the college application season, our seniors were nervous.

2014 Senior Petition

We immediately shared this information with our faculty and scheduled meetings with the seniors and then grade level groups with the 9 – 11th graders. We also surveyed the entire student body to find out more about their understanding of the new policies and how the implementation was going.

We had a tremendous amount of faith in the students’ abilities to adapt and be successful under these new conditions. While some students were signing the petition, there was a large group of seniors who saw the value of the changes. Unfortunately these students were less vocal than their peers. We had also solicited information from university admission representatives and we believed that our students would not be negatively affected during the college admission process.

We explained to the students that we would continue working with them on their adjustment and that we believed that, in the long run, they would benefit. We were determine to move forward and find ways to improve the implementation and on our grading practices.

Wait until you see what we learned after semester 1.


People Get Emotional When you Talk about Changing Grading Practices

Over the years I have followed newspaper articles from communities where grading and reporting changes have taken place and quite often the conversations lead to heated arguments, animosity, teachers getting suspended and/or fired, principals getting losing their jobs and court cases.

Possibly the most controversial change that really gets tempers flaring is when schools decide to not assign zeros to missing student work. While the two sides don’t usually get physical, the battle can be nasty.

"Untitled" by RyanMcGuire is licensed under CC0 Public Domain

“Untitled” by RyanMcGuire is licensed under CC0 Public Domain











Under these circumstances it’s very difficult to change overall practices. Instead of the focus being on changing assessment practices to improve learning, individuals take a myopic approach and the two sides get bogged down in the single issue. The fear of having to face upset parents, students and teachers typically leads to continuing the status quo. The status quo, even though flawed, is just easier to continue.

Fortunately, the Graded community was appreciative to discuss assessment practices that improves learning. Our teachers, parents and students saw the value of being able to give feedback to students on academic performance and separate feedback on learning habits. There wasn’t a battle around the typical divisive issues (i.e. zeros, extra credit, participation, group grades, homework grades). The only issue that created a stir throughout the year was reassessments (more on this in another post).

These are the responses from the high school faculty at our opening faculty meeting for the 2014 – 15 school year.

From the start of the year we were continuously learning in these four areas (and others).

What did I learn?

  • That it is never too soon to prepare for rolling out these changes. Ask teachers to respond to these prompts as early as possible.
  • Having a community that supports the concepts and initiative makes the rollout easier.
  • Even when you have the support of the community, there will be disagreements and critics.

1895 – 2010, Very little seems to have changed

My uncle recently sent me the 1895 8th grade final exam e-mail that has been floating around the internet. While most people try to answer the questions and comment on how dumb they are, I interpreted the test in a different way. I sadly thought about how little the U.S. education system has changed in 115 years. In 1895, the students were taking content based tests to prove their knowledge of the curriculum. Many of the questions look similar to tests today. The focus is on factual knowledge and math skills.  Here in 2010, students are doing the same.

Do we really think that today’s children still need to know all of this stuff? Just doesn’t seem like progress to me.

April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.

Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Reading and Penmanship. – The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts.

(Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case. Illustrate each case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10 Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

(Time, 1 ¼ hour)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weights 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. Per bu., deducting 1050 lbs for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 per cent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per m?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 per cent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

(Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whtney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.

(Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthogaphy, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret “u”.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final “e”. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

(Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.

Equation for Success

 Equation for Success

I’m a big fan of ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A), Teachers (NETS-T) and Students (NETS-S). They provide schools with performance indicators for all three groups. 

Some schools choose to focus  solely on developing curriculum around the NETS-S.

Other schools choose to focus on the NETS-S and the NETS-T. 

The third type of school focuses on all three. This is where the administrators, teachers and students are all focused on their respective performance indicators.


Imagine a school where:

The school administrators are working to…

1. inspire excellence through transformational leadership;

2.establish a robust digital age learning culture;

3.advance excellence in digital age professional practice;

4.ensure systemic transformation of the educational enterprise;

5.model and advance digital citizenship

The teachers are working to …

1.facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity; and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments;

3.model digital-age work and learning;

4.promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility;

5.engage in professional growth and leadership

It may even be possible for a school to begin with the NETS-A and NETS-T and then eventually transition to the NETS-S. I even wonder if the first two will naturally lead the the third. 

I believe that the students will gain so much more than the knowledge and ability to use technology, as defined by the NETS-S. They will be able to explore learning in a multitude of areas and the possibilities are endless. The schools that are truly transforming teaching and learning are incorporating all three NETS into their school culture. If yours isn’t, maybe it’s time to start.