Re-do’s and rolling grades.

Over the past year and a half I have been tinkering with re-do’s (re-tests or re-assessments) and rolling grades (grades that do not get set until the end of the semester) with my Biology 12 classes. Assessment is both a volatile and emotional topic for teachers, parents and students. I want to emphasis that what I am sharing is still in progress; I am not there yet but I am trying to get there! I am not an expert in this area, this is still relatively new for me and I am still learning.

To create a re-do policy took several revisions, I worked collaboratively with my colleague Graham Johnson, consulted with my principal, and referred to Rick Wormeli‘s book Fair Isn’t Always Equal.

Re-Do Policy Fleshed Out

1. Students complete an application form and get it to me by the end of the day on Tuesdays. At this time I might have a quick discussion with them about what went wrong the first time. If I have not already done so in class, I might ask them a couple of quick questions about the content. If it appears the student has no new or significant evidence of their learning, I might suggest they wait until the following Thursday. The application is the basis for a meaningful discussion and it is not black and white (they fill it out and they re-write). I have had students show up on a Thursday morning (re-do morning) with no application turned in and have sent them away. I want the re-do to be something they plan for and commit to in advance. As I say to them: “You are not going to Vegas to gamble!”

2. Re-do’s happen outside of class time on Thursday before school or after with no exceptions. If a student says “I can’t make it this Thursday.” I respond with “choose a Thursday you can make.” This avoids the “I have a spare Monday afternoon” runaway train of individual appointments that I can’t track or manage.

3. There is a two-week black-out period at the end of the semester (and is highlighted on our class calendar). This provides me the time I need to focus on end of the year activities, report card deadlines, final exams, etc. I did not do this last year and ended up feeling overwhelmed.

4. Re-do’s are a privilege, not a right. If I think they are trying to game me or take advantage of the opportunity I have the right to refuse their application, or we defer it until I see they have committed to the intent of the process.

5. Re-do’s are open to all students regardless of grade.

6. The most recent mark is the mark that will be used. I call this “rolling grades” and grades continue to roll all the way to the final exam (this semester there are 3 parts to the final: a written portion, portfolio presentation and an exit interview, but that is another post!) which is when the grades will stop rolling.

7. A limit of 2 redo’s per semester.

General Insights from working with Re-Do’s

1. I needed to define my limits in terms of time and energy in the policy. Sometimes this is hard for teachers to do, but making this policy made it easier for me to define those limits.

2. The idea of a “re-do’ is new for students and I needed to talk about both re-do’s and rolling grades on a daily basis. I know that sounds unbelievable, but I had students in last month of the semester ask incredulously “You mean I can re-do that test I bombed back in September?” Students see marks as set in stone so it takes time and many conversations before they begin to intuitively understand how it works.

3. I am using written assessments and no longer use multiple choice tests (Good bye multiple choice! Good-bye?). Re-do tests are very similar to the original; questions follow the standards for the course that we use in class on a regular basis.

4. If a student never chooses a re-do, they can still show what they know on a topic on the midterm and/or final exam, and their mark will roll with the most recent information (so in essence both the midterm and final exams are re-do’s).

5. Tests have an advanced and core questions; students can omit the advanced part if they are struggling to keep up and can challenge at a later date. Last semester I had several students who struggled with advanced questions but were ready to challenge these questions by the end of the semester with much success (it was pretty neat to see 🙂 ).

How about you? Do have re-do’s in your class? Would love to hear!

36 thoughts on “Re-do’s and rolling grades.

  1. Just started my first semester as a long term sub and don’t have a system in place for re-dos. Thanks for the helpful post!

  2. Such a helpful post. I wonder, what does your standards form look like filled out? Do you have one for each student in your record book?

    • Hi Christa,
      Students keep the standards in a duotang in class and fill out themselves.
      I record assessment “marks” (and assessments match standards) so in essence the same thing.
      Hope that helps,

  3. Why a limit of 2 redo’s? Why not give kids a chance to keep learning the material. What if they are slow with processing? I like your other thoughts, though.

    • With the midterm and the final that is really 4 and I like to encourage them to make their attempts count and we are really trying to work towards deeper understanding that require time and interaction in class to make meaning out of.
      This system is not in set in stone, you could adapt in any way. This is what works for me,

  4. Great stuff. I made the commitment in the past 1.5 years to allow students to retake any assessment, for any reason. I was pretty worried about the system being gamed as you noted in your post, but I haven’t really found that to be the case at all.

    I did originally have them sign up, and depending on the material, I have them do some extra practice before a retake, though that is not always the case.

    Mine have a total of three chances for any assessment, but I have only had a couple actually use all three on a given assessment. What it does do for me though is to eliminate the need for any sort of extra credit.

    • I also have found that students don’t game it and actually really appreciate the opportunity. I have had only one bad experience, but all else have been great. I think students see that they have a chance to control their mark more and are willing to work for that. I really like seeing that part of it 🙂

  5. I enjoyed your article and must commend you on the effort that you have afforded assessment. I share your enthusiasm for a system that allows for student growth. Within my classroom the conversation piece is huge and I use both written and oral descriptive feedback to guide my students. I’m sure you have your reasons but I do not limit re-do’s!! If a student is willing to keep trying to improve their grade, my mark book remains open.

    • Hi Sandra, thanks for the comment and for sharing. I too have really come to value the conversations as informative about student progress, it actually feels more valid sometimes than a written one, and why I want to include an exit interview this semester (if i am still up for it by then!).
      I have tried as much as possible to reduce and minimize the assessment culture and the “what is my mark now-itis” that prevails in high school. To this end I now give fewer tests in general but spend more time making class deep processing or content and skill development and so all this relates to the limit of 2.
      So far it seems to be working 🙂

  6. I am experimenting with allowing test corrections for credit. I announce the day and students may come before or after school or both if they have many corrections. While correcting they must write the correct answer, why it is correct and why the other choices are incorrect. If it is a calcultion type problem they have to show all the steps to the correct answer. They may use any materials or peer help, but no teacher help. They can earn back 1/4 point per correction. So far it has been an amazing experience because there is a lot of peer teaching going on during corrections.

    • Sounds like you are on your way!
      Great idea to tie in the peer support, I like that 🙂 I have tried to move away from points as much as possible (I still have to generate a final percent) as I find it becomes a number’s game rather than a learning one.

  7. I know you’ve said it’s a work in progress, but I’m really impressed with how you have laid it out. Thanks for putting it out there. When I offer redo’s I also have students earn them by showing me what they have done to learn more (be it corrections, a new study guide, extra questions or what not). I tell them I’m not going to waste their time writing it, or my time assessing it if it won’t show me they’ve learned more. In the past I haven’t offered redos for everything, but would like to start. I sometimes find it difficult to have a variety of different, but equal, assessments for a particular unit. That’s where I’m struggling right now.

    • Hi Aliisa, Sharing transparently is still new to me and it always has an element of fear associated with it, so thanks for the enthusiasm.
      I like the idea of students earning the re-do as this gives it value, otherwise they take it for granted.
      Making my standards for the course gave me better clarity as to what kind of questions would be appropriate, in the past when working with many PLO’s I would be overwhelmed with this process, and so it was harder to generate equal assessment with any conviction.
      I also realize that although I think it it easy if i ask very similar questions to the original, it is not easy for students.

  8. I love the rolling grade concept. I haven’t thought about that really, but I am trying to put the emphasis on formative assessment via the redo. I allow my students to redo anything because I simply want to see what they know- if not now, then in the near future. Whenever they “get it” I will take it. I like your idea of a set date and of the application. That must really hold them accountable. I am a Humanities teacher and what I am finding is that the marking load becomes increasingly daunting and I would love some ideas about how to deal with that.

    • Hi Catherine, you nailed it with it with when they “get it” and beyond that can retain it for a period of time (ie not just for the test). The application just formalizes the process a bit and does leave it open to any misunderstandings (some students are shy and might not want to ask and so this avoids it appearing like I give some student re-do’s and not others). I read a blog of a school district somewhere using “rolling grades” and the idea clicked instantly for me, it was a wonderful light bulb moment 🙂
      I have cut way back on the amount I assess, I have gone for quality over quantity and feel more satisfied with the change. We spend more time doing formative assessment and in the end it seems have a positive impact on the summative parts.

  9. You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart

  10. I love that the onus is on them to deserve the redo, in fact just using the words “application form” say it all to them – this may or may not happen, depending on YOU kid! i sometimes give the option of a redo, but I’ve never gone that extra step of the application form. I also have woven into each unit the proviso that the latest test mark is all that counts IF it’s better than the last one, otherwise it’s an average. This term I have also given the option of an in-depth blog post instead of a test, which so far is working out pretty well. Tks for your usual great ideas!

    • Hi Audrey, You always get to the heart of the matter…yes application form is squarely on their shoulders, but it seems that most will rise to the occassion, just might take some of them longer (some are on “teen time”, a time zone where nothing matters until the very last second 🙂 ) I think in most cases, if we make space for them, they will walk into it, it is just hard sometimes to watch and leave the space empty for a long time (and I am on “adult time” where everything needs to get done NOW). But it has helped me back off and let them select for themselves, now to accomplish this with own children 🙂
      Thanks for sharing,

  11. Hi Carolyn… Thanks for your continued willingness to question and inquire into ways that work better for you and ultimately for your students. I too noticed that it takes some time for students to understand ways of assessment that differ from what they are used to.

    I am intrigued by this idea of rolling grades. One thing that I have advocated for with my student teachers and other science teachers I have worked with is to focus on the “verbs” in the curriculum. Verbs like observe, classify, question, report, predict, analyse etc. These are the thinking and literacy skills that we can develop in our students over the course of the semester. I understand that with some of the more knowledge PLOs that rolling over the course of the semester is difficult, but is addressed with redos in your post. But, the skills and processes that science students use to think like scientists can be developed over the course of a semester. Clearly identifying what these skills look like at different grade levels would allow teachers and students opportunities to use formative assessment to get better in these skills.

    Again, thanks for your willingness to share your journey with others.


    • Hi Jonathan, appreciate your thoughtful comment. I would have never anticipated how long it takes students to catch on to a shift in assessment and I still need remind myself to explain frequently, as it has become more ingrained for me. I also would not have anticipated how emotionally charged assessment can be, and making sure students understand how their mark is generated, is vital to avoid anxiety and stress for some students.

      From experimenting with changes in assessment practices, clarity seems to come only after long periods of trying to make sense out of it all (I guess the same is true for students). The rolling grades (taken from this blog post were a light bulb of clarity for me in understanding that students are growing (rolling) along a spectrum. Learning is a process and to “harvest” points/marks before students have practiced and ripened the skill several times seemed kind of crazy (now!).
      I could not agree more with your suggestion, it seems plain as day obvious to me, that common standards are the direction we should be moving in our departments and province. I am not quite sure what the holdup is! This year, (for the first time!) the content standards are one of 6 (others are: research, lab skills, communicate, self-analysis & reflection, community member) major standards students are collecting evidence for. It feels very awkward for both students and I, they are not sure, I am not sure, and it is messy. However I know, past this messy stage will come clarity 🙂 I imagine… what if we could have some common standards throughout 8-12? Then we all would know what we are aiming for, and students could continue to collect evidence as a process…
      one step at a time!


  12. Great blog. I allow re-dos in my math classes. It allows students a chance to improve and show they have learned the material. Even if it is weeks later. Want my students to always be working to improve. They should not settle. The same book inspired me as well. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi Jim, thanks for the comment. Agree, the whole idea of improving opens up the door for students to keep learning rather than see a test as a final sentence. It took me awhile to get my head wrapped around the idea and how to work it out, but in the end I am glad I tried. It has produced much more of a growth mindset in class. My principal first gave me the book and said it might be helpful, I am so happy he did 🙂

  13. Hi Carolyn,
    Our grading schemes are remarkably similar. After the Great Battle of Term I, I tried a few experiments for second term. The overall success rate has increased a lot (success in terms of students getting their assessments correct). The first thing I tried was limiting the assessments to a particular day. The kids seemed to take this more serious. The second thing I tried was more involved. I basically set out a series of milestones with deadlines that the students had to do in order to write the SIA (my acronym for student initiated assessment): application form, upload evidence of learning, short online quiz. This was handled in my Moodle site. The idea was to spread out the learning over a course of two weeks to avoid the test cramming. I must admit that I found it amusing when well over half of the kids interested missed one of the deadlines. A good life lesson.

    Re: # of Re-dos. I find the duotang portfolio is handy because I’ve been able to ask the kids to find evidence of mastering an older objective by going through subsequent work. This works well for more basic/foundational objectives and reduces the need for an SIA.

    I should really get off my fanny and blog some of thus new stuff!

    • Hi Doug, sounds like we have had similar paths over the last year or so. Yes, I know exactly what you mean, I had that Term 1 and I learned so much, not even funny, but it was very very hard. Sounds like you as well are trying to figure out the best process for you and your kids, and think that is all it is about. Just trying to figure it out, one attempt at a time, without giving up. I know Graham is a big Moodle fan, and it has changed his practice radically as well.

      I look forward to your post! Will be on look out for it 🙂


  14. Do you return the original tests and re-tests to students? If so, are you forever writing new versions of tests so students don’t have access to friends’ re-tests? Don’t you find it overwhelming to keep track of which student is coming to write which test on any given Thursday?

    • Always return tests to students. I kind of have a pet peeve about this and think students want to see, own their tests and so they should if tests are for learning and not for point extraction. One of the main reasons I got rid of MC was for this.
      Students fill in application, I snap into day book, I am always there on Thursdays so easy to remember.

      • How do you handle writing so many versions of a test for multiple students who might chose to write the re-test at any given point in the year? Don’t you find it overwhelming to write an entirely new version of a test for just one student who chooses to come on a given Thursday? And what if different unit re-tests are being written that day? Are you writing new versions of multiple tests for a given week? Are you concerned that students are simply “learning” the tests that have been returned to them (or their friends)? There are only so many ways to tweak a test while still having it be of comparable difficulty to the original. Also, I’m curious as to whether you have a test bank. I am ideologically open to the idea of re-tests, but find the implementation process labour-intensive and overwhelming for the teacher. Preserving the integrity of the evaluation is very important to me (as is student learning).

      • Hi Joanne,
        I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can but will caution that this approach is what works best for me in my classroom and I have developed through trial and error over a time. Some weeks might be a bit overwhelming, I guess it is what you decide to make the work, but I never find it too overwhelming, as in unmanageable. I don’t have that many tests over the course of the year and students tend to re-write generally in the same time frames. I also find students don’t flock in for re-do’s as they take effort and students have to commit to the process. As well, there is both a midterm and final that can supersede other grades, many students elect to work towards that.

        Re the making of the tests and re-tests – For me the making of the standards (before the start of the year) provided me with the most traction through this new terrain. I do not use multiple choice questions so do not need to use a test bank. I have worked toward writing written questions with less emphasis on pure knowledge and more on explain and apply the knowledge. I find that when I start with having standards clearly laid out it becomes easier to see possible questions. If students are “learning” answers to questions then they are in fact learning the course, as questions are closely tied to the standards. You might think it would be easy for students to know “it all: before a test, but in fact, students find written questions a challenge and are not used to knitting together the content into a meaningful schema. I find it is almost impossible for a student to “memorize” a coherent, concise written paragraph. Their writing reveals their understanding or lack there of very quickly.
        No one way of doing things, is going to meet all needs, this is what is working best for me, after looking around on blogs, reading and experimenting in my classroom. I encourage you to start small, check it out, and see what works for you, with your classroom practice.
        best of luck to you,

  15. […] to approach the SIA in a graduated manner, it does make more work for me. One appealing idea is to set aside one day a week for testing, such as Carolyn Durley does. My fear is that I will end up with 60 kids wanting to do a test every week. I suppose I could try […]

  16. Thanks for this blog post. I enjoyed reading it and the comments below, including the video. We are talking about assessment and re-do’s and effort at our next school Pro-D.
    I know you are doing this with your Bi.12 class.

    Do you do this also when teaching a provincially examinable course like Sc.10? I wonder if an absence of multiple choice questions would harm students ability to be able to write exams. Obviously for Bi12 it wouldn’t be a problem since the provincial exam has been cancelled years ago.

    Part of the concern I have in allowing re-do’s is the possible workload of creating extra tests- also echoed by some of the above comments. But I guess if I take it one at a time then it may be manageable. How have you managed this?

    On a side note, are you planning on going to ISTE13 this year? I’m hoping.

    • Hi Jeremy, yes planning on going to ISTE as I guess are you too 🙂 Have you gone before?
      Re the post, I think in a provincial exam setting I think it is very important that students see the type of exam question before they write the exam, so in this case multiple choice. I think re-do’s are still a possibility but using Moodle or other LMS might be needed to manage. I know my colleague Graham Johnson who teaches Math 10 with a provincial exam does this with great success. Yes it is true it does take some time on the part of the teacher to plan ahead for having re-do’s, but it is proactive time rather than reactive time and as such much more satisfying.

      thanks for the comment and look forward to meeting you,

  17. Great post – thank you. I also try to allow “re-do’s” but have not yet formalised anything. For me, it’s more about trying to have a meaningful discussion with those students that do poorly and then making the offer of a re-do. I prefer to get them to, first of all, think about and try to articulate why they thought they received the mark they did and also get them to try and articulate how they might change their approach in the hopes of being more successful. Re-dos are done fairly discretely, without a lot of fanfare. My concern, as someone else mentioned, is that all will want a re-do, even when they do very well because there would always be a few more marks to be had. That said, the “application” and “meaningful discussion” prior to any re-do would probably sort those few students out.

    Like I said, nothing formal, yet. I am hoping to make it more formal in the future, so really like what you have to say. I do feel that we, in Ontario, have some latitude with our assessment/evaluation as per our ministry guidelines. So I definitely see a mark as a fairly fluid thing that gets finalised at the end of the course. Re-dos fit nicely into this general scheme of things.

    Looking forward to saying g’day and having a chat with you at CanFlip 2013.


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