Dealing with Failure: Strategies for Retakes and Redos

According to grading guru Rick Wormeli, “Allowing students to redo assignments and assessments is the best way to prepare them for adult life.”  In my experience, I agree with Wormeli in theory but am much more pragmatic and cautious when it comes to practical application and logistical gymnastics!

Consider Wormeli’s perspective in this video…

So what can be done to make the process less painful to manage?  In Redos and Retakes Done Right (Wormeli, 2011) suggests several tips for managing the process of redos in the classroom:

  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, and what did they learn as a result of redoing the work?
  2. Reserve the right to give alternative versions of the assessment if you think students will simply memorize a correct answer pattern or set of math answers. Don’t be afraid to make the redone versions more demanding.
  3. Announce to students and parents that redos are permitted at teacher discretionThis means that students and parents may not take the redo option for granted.
  4. Require students to submit a plan of relearning and to provide evidence of that relearning before work can be redone. This includes creating a calendar in which students list day-by-day what they will do to prepare.
  5. If a student doesn’t follow through on the relearning steps he or she promises to do, ask the student to write a letter of apology to you and to his or her family for breaking the trust.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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’re not creative enough to figure out how to teach him or her. Take a break and pursue this content in a later unit of study.
  8. 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. Investigate.
  9. Choose your battles. Push hard for students to redo anything associated with the most important curriculum standards and less so with work associated with less important standards.
  10. Allow students who get Cs and Bs to redo work just as much as students who earn Os and Fs. Why stand in the way of a student who wants to achieve excellence?
  11. If report cards are coming up and there’s no time to redo something to change the grade, 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 a grade change report reflecting the new, more accurate grade.
  12. For the sake of personal survival, you may choose not to allow any retakes or redos the last week of the marking period as you’re closing down the grade book and doing report cards. For eight weeks, you’re Mr. or Ms. Hopeful, but for that one week, it’s OK to protect your sanity and personal life. You can allow students to learn the material and have their grade changed later.
  13. Replace the previous grade or mark with the most recent one; don’t average the two attempts together. 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.
  14. Unless an assessment is complex and interwoven, allow students to redo just the portions on which they performed poorly, not the entire assessment. (To assist with this, consider standards-based grading on your assessments; record the standards or outcomes being assessed at the top of the assessment and provide a separate score for each standard.) Separating standards in this way saves time for both the teacher and the students. Some redos can be a 10-minute interview at the teacher’s desk while the rest of the class works on something else.

Considering Wormeli’s advice, what is working for you?  How do you manage retakes and redos?

Wormeli, R. (2011). Redos and retakes done right. Educational Leadership. November 2011.

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Feedback: Grading vs. Reporting

Believe it or not, tomorrow marks the halfway point of Trimester 1!  Six weeks have passed as we celebrate the midpoint of the term with progress reports and formalized feedback to students and parents on how they are doing at school…both academically and behaviorally.

Cue: Employability Rubric!

Some folks have been giving students feedback with the employability rubric tied to individual assignments and activities throughout the trimester.  Others choose to report separately on the employability skills at determined points during the term.  Still others provide more summative feedback at the end of the trimester.  Regardless of the approach, the employability rubric provides a great opportunity to engage students in a reflective dialogue about how they are doing with regard to work completion, behavior, working with others, and participation.

But why give this feedback separately from grades?  Why not just roll them into a single letter grade?  Why do we have the employability rubric?  The research is quite convincing on this subject.  According to O’Connor (2009a), variables such as effort, attitude, and participation should be reported separately because they are “difficult to define and even more difficult to measure” (p. 96).

Consider the following research:

Stiggins, Frisbie, and Griswold (1989) recommended that for grades to be accurate and reliable, teachers must communicate grading methods to students and exclude attitude, interest, and personality from grades (p. 14).

According to Gathercoal (2004), grades are often misinterpreted because of “excessive entanglement between achievement and behavior” (p. 153).

Reeves (2008) concluded that when schools disconnect grades from behavior, “student achievement increases and behavior improves dramatically” (p. 90).

Guskey (2009) recommended that school report separate grade for student achievement, learning skills, and student growth (p. 20).

O’Connor (2009b) suggested that “grades must be about achievement with behaviors reported separately” (p. 6).

Consider also the national trend.  Council Bluffs is not alone.  The national trend in grading is to separate academic grades from student behavior reporting.  In fact, a cursory search of grading policies found reporting schemes similar to the Employability Skills Rubric in the following mid- to large-sized urban school districts:

  • Indianapolis, Indiana (Pike Township)
  • Kirkwood, Missouri (St. Louis)
  • Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (Madison)
  • Hayfield, Minnesota (Rochester)
  • Kodiak, Alaska

Moreover, the practice of reporting important personal assest, deportments, or employability skills separately from grades is not a recent phenomenon.  Consider the image below…from the 1950s!  Letter grades to communicate academic progress and scores to communicate behavioral performance.

With solid research, national trends, and even historical practices as a compass, it appears that we are on the right track with the employability rubric!

Gathercoal, F. (2004). Judicious discipline. (6th ed.). San Francisco: Caddo Gap Press.
Guskey, T. R. (2009). Grading policies that work against standards…and how to fix them.  In T. R. Guskey (Ed.), Practical Solutions for Serious Problems in Standards-Based Grading (pp. 9-26). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
O’Connor, K. (2009a). How to grade for learning.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
O’Connor, K. (2009b). Reforming grading practices in secondary schools. Principal’s Research Review, 4(1), 1-7.
Reeves, D. B. (2008). Improving student attendance. Educational Leadership, 65(8), 90-91.
Stiggins, R.J., Frisbie, D.A., & Griswold, P.A. (1989). Inside high school grading practices: Building a research agenda. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 8(2), 5-14.
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Memo to Secondary Teachers

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Employability Rubric Showcased in Local Newspapers

Daily Nonpareil 2.5.12

Omaha World Herald 2.6.12

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Why we should report behavior separate from academic grades

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Will your child be a good employee someday? – Council Bluffs Nonpareil

Students attending Council Bluffs middle and high schools will

find more attention focused on their “employability skills” scores

on trimester…

via Will your child be a good employee someday? – Council Bluffs Nonpareil.

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Employability Letter to Parents

The following letter will accompany report cards, employability scores, and the employability rubric when they are mailed to parents at the end of the trimester.  Please take a moment to look it over so that you will know the information that will be shared with students and parents.

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Entering Missing Work in Gradebook

Please see the following instructional guide for entering missing work in the GradeBook.

Entering Missing Work in Gradebook

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Entering Employability Scores in Gradebook

Thanks to Bob Hansen for sharing the following screenshots for entering scores in the GradeBook for Employability!

Directions for Employability Scores

Employability Skills Rubric

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Redos and Retakes Done Right

The latest edition of Educational Leadership features many articles on Grading Practices.  We are working on obtaining a copy for each member of the grading committee.  In the interim, I wanted to share one of the lead articles from Rick Wormeli.  Wormeli is the author of the book Fair isn’t Always Equal (I highly recommended reading this book if you get a chance) and Redos and Retakes Done Right in the November 2011 Educational Leadership.

The article is available by clicking here: Wormeli, R. (2011) Redos and Retakes Done Right.  After you’ve had a chance to read it, please comment and share your thoughts!

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