Should Teachers Allow Students Retakes?
Should Teachers Allow Students Retakes?
PUBLISHED: Friday, April 13, 2018 by Andilynn Feddeler

Most of us know what it’s like to prepare diligently for an important exam or task, feel confident about it, and then wake up the morning of and proceed to have an off day and perform poorly. That sense of failure can be extremely frustrating for students, because even though they studied and felt sure about the material, certain circumstances prevented them from executing their knowledge onto paper.

Recently, Lisa Westman from Education Week Teacher discussed the importance of allowing students retakes on their tests after thoughtful evaluation of what could’ve gone wrong. Multiple instances of poor performance on an assessment exam may be the result of one or more of the following issues:

  • the assessment itself was not an accurate measure of the students’ mastery;

  • the students, collectively, were not well-prepared for the test; or

  • a large amount of students had an off day.

Whether or not to allow retakes on exams is a sticky subject among educators, and for good reason. But if students show previous skills and mastery in a concept, and then perform poorly on the assessment exam, is it fair to judge their knowledge based on one numerical result? Some may argue that giving students only one chance helps better prepare students for real-world situations in which they’ll have to be ready the first time around, like meeting deadlines in a fast-paced job or making presentations. But this vigorous approach may punish students who do not learn or perform in the same ways as others.

We must remember that although assessments are one of the few ways to evaluate a student’s mastery in a subject, the result does not define their knowledge or abilities. Offering second attempts to students who show previous understanding is an example of the type of compassion teachers can foster in their classrooms. Some may argue that allowing retakes can encourage laziness, but when a student clearly understands the material and just has trouble communicating it, it seems very reasonable to allow them another chance.