I got into a great discussion on #twitter last week. It involved 'retakes' and 'grades.' Specifically the discussion revolved around two questions:
a) should students be allowed to retake quizzes and tests
b) what is the maximum grade they should be allowed on a retake.
I already have a post that touches on this topic. That one is titled Maureen Shouldn't have to Deal with This... If you have not read this, I would strongly encourage it.
For those of you that have read my blog already know my opinion on this, but I feel it is important to re-address because it came up in a tutoring session as well. A student, we'll call her Abby, had gotten an unusually low score on a test. When we looked it over she admitted she did not study for the test, didn't ask questions, didn't prepare... she was not ready for this test and knew the 37% she scored was an accurate reflection of her efforts.
So we looked at the test and analyzed what we needed to work on to improve her score. We looked at the topics and learning targets and I set up a plan for her to learn the material. When she looked at the plan she told me she wasn't going to do all of that. I was kind of taken back because Abby is typically a hard working student. I was curious and asked her why she didn't like the plan; was it too hard, did she not like the teacher... what was up?
What she told me solidified my belief in retests.
"What's the point of studying all of it? I can only get a 60 on the retake."
Only a 60? So students that need to retake this test only need to know 60% of the material? Are you saying they can ignore 40% of the material? Two days out of five are not important enough? "It's not fair to give a kid an 'A' if it takes three tries" is essentially saying, "it's ok if you don't learn this; it's just a number on a piece of paper" (or on a computer in most cases these days.)
I looked at Abby after she said that and was at a loss for words. As an educator I felt hurt, confused, and frankly a bit connected with her. She was right - why should she put in the effort and energy of studying all of the material if she wouldn't be recognized for her work? Why learn all three learning targets when one will get her enough material to max her score on a retake?
I could not on any level try to justify why she should spend hours of her own time reviewing material when her teacher has essentially told her, "it doesn't matter how well you do this next time, it doesn't matter how hard you work or study, you can only get a D-."
I wondered about the learning philosophy of the classroom. Was the philosophy "you must learn all of this material in this format by this date" or "you must learn this material." I wondered how students could get motivated to study for a test they knew they couldn't get better than a D-. I wondered how this fostered 'hope' in students. I wondered how that policy instilled a sense of awe, wonder, and passion of learning in students. I wondered why this adult was standing in the way of a student's learning instead of pushing them to feel the internal flame to NEED to learn the material.
But most of all I wondered what I could do to get these policies changed.