The “do-over” or a realistic test retake in our classrooms is widely debated, reflecting our quest for genuine student learning. The policies surrounding the opportunity to reattempt an assessment are increasing throughout the country as conversations of grading for equity increase. Some educators see retakes as crucial for fostering a growth mindset, while others believe they diminish the seriousness of students’ initial effort. We’ve discussed whether teachers should allow test retakes before, and we’ve also discussed how we approach missing and late work reflects how we view the learning process.
Four ways teachers are approaching test retakes this year
Even though educator Rick Wormeli provides a solid guide for practical tips for redos in the classroom, we asked teachers what they think. Through the lens of diverse educators, we find a multitude of retake paradigms in classrooms. From documented preparation requirements to unrestricted retakes, we uncover the four major ways teachers are defining retake policies. We gathered 56 comments across We Are Teachers’ Helpline Facebook group and across replies from our prior WAT blog post. Here’s how teachers are helping students achieve deeper understanding of their material:
1. Students can retake a test, but only with documented prep and a limit on the increase in score
This group of teachers probably has the most widely known and traditional approach to retakes. Educators in this group require students to show additional study of the subject matter before becoming eligible for a retake. These teachers typically limit score improvements on retakes, allowing only a one-letter grade increase or a specific percentage threshold. Additionally, these educators vary in their approach to retake formats. Some offer a different version of the original exam, while others administer the exact same test.
“To access a retake, students must document a study session and prove their study efforts. They can then increase their test score by one letter grade, with a cap of 92% (A-) on the retake.” —Darsha N.
“In my freshman math class, students must complete all unit assignments, score at least 75% on unit quizzes (with unlimited retakes allowed), and finish a test correction assignment using DeltaMath for a test retake. Only then can they retake the questions they missed on the original test.” —Michelle M.
“All students who earn 65% or less on their weekly math quiz (we don’t use the word test) get a ‘sign and redo.’ They take it home over the weekend, redo the quiz, and have a grown-up sign it. If they redo it without a signature, I won’t accept it.” —Tiffany B.
“We allow retakes but the highest grade earned on the retake is 70/75%. This way kids get the safety net if they bomb a test but they have to study the first time around if they want an A or B.” —Melana K.
2. Students can retake with a focus on feedback and correction
We might call these our “rule breaker” teachers. They aren’t hanging on tightly to a policy. Teachers in this group emphasize the role of feedback and the correction process in learning. These teachers encourage students to submit their work, review the provided feedback, and make necessary corrections to enhance their understanding and potentially improve their scores. The approach to retakes in these classrooms is straightforward and less policy-driven. Instead, the focus is on cultivating an environment that prioritizes comprehension and the correction of mistakes over the pursuit of higher grades for their own sake.
“Students are expected to turn in work and then receive feedback and, if warranted, then make corrections and resubmit. I simply take the higher score. I let them make test corrections to earn the points back if they write the correct answer along with an explanation of why they got the answer wrong in the first place.” —Jennifer I.
“Once corrections are made, the student must see me either before or after school for us to verbally go over the entire test, not just the corrections. … A similar, different, test is given. The grade of the original test is averaged with the grade of the re-test.” —Tara S.
“Students fill out a Google Form detailing why they think they performed the way they did and what did they do to increase their learning. Retake is similar to the original assessment and replaces the old grade, even if it is lower, since that is the most current snapshot of their learning.” —Hannah M.
“I correct their tests and hand it back. This allows them to find their mistakes. If they can correct the missed questions and tell me why they missed it, I give them the points back for that question.” —Alyssa M.
3. Students can retake a test under a structured remediation process
Teachers adopting this method are at the forefront of modern grading practices observed in educational research. Instead of a straightforward test correction sheet, their approach involves a detailed, multi-step process designed to reinforce learning. Students thoroughly correct tests, attend review sessions, and complete an assessment that might differ from the original version. These realistic educators are intent on deepening student understanding and mitigating the potential pitfalls of unrestricted retakes, which might lead to students not taking initial attempts seriously. Balancing learning needs with classroom management, they may replace or average scores to emphasize the initial assessment’s importance.
“In my classroom, the retake process is rigorous and structured to ensure genuine learning. First, students correct their work under my supervision during designated times. Next, we review their corrections together to confirm their understanding. If necessary, we revisit the concepts. Then, I administer an alternate version of the original test. To prevent students from seeing the first attempt as a trial run, I average the scores of both tests. This method deters complacency, ensuring only genuinely committed students prepare independently and take the opportunity to retake the test. Accommodations are made as needed, and communication with coaches supports our “no pass – no play” policy.” —David W.
“Students scoring below a C must undergo a reteaching session with the teacher before retaking the assessment within a week. Students with grades above the stated scores can retake if they provide a valid reason and invest time in reteaching sessions.” —Rhonda K.
4. By nature, retakes are unlimited with standards-based grading
In this group, teachers are dedicated to fairness, believing every student deserves a chance to improve. They place no limits on retake opportunities, allowing all students, regardless of their initial grades, to reassess. More than just aiming for a higher score, these educators insist on thorough review work before a retake. The new grade supersedes the old, maintaining up-to-date assessments. Focusing on standards-based assessment, they ensure students only retake necessary sections, a strategy that thoughtfully promotes continual learning progress.
“All students have the right to reassessment, no matter their initial grade on a summative assessment. They must complete a request form, reflecting on their initial performance, and then engage in remediation work as directed by the teacher. After this, they can undertake the reassessment, with the new grade fully replacing the original, without any cap.” —Elaine F.
“In my middle school science class, retakes are a yes, for good reasons! First, it’s about empathy. Middle schoolers face so much stress, juggling intense schoolwork and activities like sports or family responsibilities. They deserve another shot if they’re genuinely eager to improve. Secondly, retakes reinforce the importance of mastery. The real world allows do-overs—like driving tests and professional exams. But there are sensible rules: only one retake within a week to prevent falling behind; a mandatory tutor session to address errors; parent sign-off for accountability; and the retake grade fully replaces the old one. No averages, no complications. Retakes are optional, reflecting a student’s choice and effort. This policy teaches critical life lessons about responsibility and learning from mistakes, vital before they step into high school. I believe retakes are integral to this educational journey.” —Jen W.
So, what’s the right way to do retakes?
Here at We Are Teachers, we cannot emphasize this enough: The right way to do retakes is what works best for YOU and for YOUR STUDENTS. We understand that district policies may restrict some teachers’ decisions, but we know all teachers just want their students to learn. Sometimes, encouraging student learning involves offering a second chance to engage with material and demonstrate their knowledge to the teacher. Sometimes, to avoid overwhelming teachers with retake requests, it’s effective to cap the number of allowed retakes. Whatever is best for student learning AND a teacher’s classroom environment is always the way to go.