This is a topic that periodically rears its head at my school because some teachers allow students a “2nd chance” with a retest and some don’t. You can count me in the 2nd category.
What is the point of a retest? Some will say it gives students a chance to show what they’ve learned; why does it matter if they didn’t know the material last Friday if they know the material now? Others say that students are assessed at reasonable intervals and that a grade reflects their progress through a course of study.
If the former is true, why give any grade at all except that of a final exam? After all, if student mastery is all that matters, why not assess it once at the end of a course? Of course, a teacher could (and should) offer periodic interim assessments so that students would “know what they know and what they don’t know”, but if mastery is what matters, then only the final exam should count.
Offer students and their parents that option and none will take it. At least, none of mine ever has. No one wants to risk that “high stakes test” that so many decry in other situations.
I’m of the belief that teachers who allow retakes are essentially allowing students to conduct reconnaissance. Who really believes that a student can spend 4 weeks on a chapter in math, bomb a chapter test, but less than a week later know enough of the material to get an A? Sure, a teacher could change test questions and topics and the like, but that sounds suspiciously like intentionally trying to sabotage a student’s grade. Some say that a retest can only raise a student’s grade by such-and-such a percentage or by no more than a fixed number of points, but if mastery is what matters, why tinker with the points in such an arbitrary way? And if students are, in fact, merely conducting reconnaissance during the first administration of a test, why reward them with a higher score?
I just want to test the material I deem most important in a chapter, and to test it on a specific date that’s announced well in advance after we’ve covered all of that material. Students should master the material by that date, not 4 days (or however long) later. Frequent quizzes are a must to ensure that students are aware of what they know and what they need to continue work on. As far as I’m concerned, after quizzes the chapter test is the “2nd chance” that a retest is sometimes claimed to be.
Cross-posted from http://www.joannejacobs.com/2014/10/retests/