13 Tips: Managing Second Chances

by Rick Wormeli, Educational Leadership, November 2011

Practical ways for students to redo assignments and retake assessments.

  1. Ask students who redo assignments to submit the original attempt with the new one and to write a brief letter comparing the two. What is different? What did they learn [from the second attempt]?
  2. Give alternative versions of the assessment if you think students will simply memorize a correct answer pattern…. Make the redone versions more demanding.
  3. Announce…that redos are permitted at teacher discretion….
  4. Require students to submit a plan of relearning and to provide evidence of that relearning before work can be redone….
  5. Require parents to sign the original, poorly done versions of assignments so they’re aware that their children have required multiple attempts to achieve the standard. (If there is neglect or abuse in the home, of course, remove this requirement.)
  6. After two or three redo attempts, consider shelving the push for mastery of this content for a few weeks. Either the student is not ready to reach the standard, or [we need to] figure out how to teach him or her….
  7. If the same student repeatedly asks for redos, something’s wrong. The content is not developmentally appropriate, there are unseen issues at home, or perhaps there’s an undiagnosed learning disability.
  8. Choose your battles. Push hard for students to redo anything associated with the most important curriculum standards [but not] work associated with less important standards.
  9. Allow students who get Cs and Bs to redo work just as much as students who earn Ds and Fs. Why stand in the way of a student who wants to achieve excellence?
  10. If report cards are coming up and there’s no time to redo something,… report the lower grade and assure the student that he or she can learn the material the next marking period. If the student demonstrates improved mastery, submit…the new, more accurate grade.
  11. For the sake of personal survival, you may choose not to allow any retakes or redos the last week of the marking period as [report cards approach]…. You can allow students to learn the material and have their grade changed later.
  12. Replace the previous grade or mark with the most recent one; don’t average the two attempts. The A that a student earns on his fifth attempt at mastery is just as legitimate as the A earned by his classmate on the first attempt.
  13. Unless an assessment is complex and interwoven, allow students to redo just the portions on which they performed poorly, not the entire assessment….

Rick Wormeli, is the author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom (www.stenhouse.com/fiae.)

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