Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why CAN'T Students Get 100% Every Time?

Here's a thought-provoking question that may prompt a fair bit of debate:

Why shouldn't students be able to get 100% on every percentage-based assessment that you do in your classroom?  Most of my assessments are not formal and many are based on rubrics that I usually design along with my students so they know exactly what is expected of them and how to do the best that they can.

When I do, however, give a quiz or exam that is easily graded (mathematics being a good example), why should a student not be allowed to take that test again until they get 100%?

I am a teacher who believes in success for every student (as I am sure you are), but we often let a one-off test be the judgment of how well a student knows a particular area of study.  If it turns out they don't understand it, then it's game over.

But should it be?

I always tell my students that they are welcome to repeat their assessments as many times as they wish until they get it perfect. (I change the tests slightly (unless it's spelling) but stick with the same concepts) Why?  Because it's NOT about the grades.  It's about learning.  If a student doesn't do well, it means they haven't adequately learned the material presented to them.

If a lot of students don't do well, it probably means I haven't done a good enough job of helping them understand, and then I've got some reteaching to do; if there is a small number of students who need specialized help, that's also my responsibility to get some small group time with them and perhaps scaffold the assessment after some more practice together.)

I am always happy to tutor in the mornings (I have 15 minutes set aside for this before school each day), to send emails home to parents requesting specific help, or to do what it takes to help students achieve their personal best.

I'm not claiming perfection here: I am not as consistent as I'd like to be in this practice or many others.  Time and countless other things get in the way of me achieving star teacher status.  I'm sure you get it.

But if students want to achieve their personal best, who am I to stop them?  In fact, isn't it my job to make sure they do so?

What do you think?


  1. Hi Leah,

    Actually this is something that I've long thought about and debated with other friends. I'm currently finishing my bachelor degree online and coincidently taking Algebra (again) as a required course. Personally, I believe that all tests should be a) open book and b)in the case of mathematics, repeatable. However in the case of b when is the cut-off point? Some subjects are not easy to master for certain people. Do you give them 3 chances and see if there is improvement? Is that the real measure? In my own classes, I am allowed unlimited attempts at homework questions and 2 attempts at quizzes and final exam. I find this very fair. It is also open book, which I love. Why? Because in real life if we need to know something on the job or elsewhere, we research it. We are not always expected to memorize. People's memories are notoriously unreliable. As you mentioned, it's about learning. If you don't understand the concepts in whatever subject you are being taught or don't know what a certain mathematical expression means, etc. then an open book exam won't help you anyway. I may be expressing this badly, but I honestly believe it is a matter of understanding and learning and not memorizing. To expect perfection may not be realistic, but if you give a student 3 attempts at an assessment and you can see that they are learning from their mistakes, showing their work (thought process),slowing down and checking their work, then maybe that should be what you should look for and not necessarily perfection (100%). What do you think?

  2. I'm 100% behind you on your comments, Pat. It sounds like you'll make an excellent teacher. I like the open book idea as well. I use it a lot.