Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Teach 180: Bad Test Grades (Day 47)

(Warning: This blog entry is being written after spending almost 10 hours at school and working 3 hours at home.  There may be some ramblings in this particular entry.  You have been fairly warned.)

I just finished grading a Pre-Calculus test.  Sometimes students do poorly on a test.  It happens. It could be for a variety of reasons or combination of reasons, such as:

1) The student didn't study.
2) The student wasn't paying attention in class.
3) The student stayed up late the previous night.
4) The student just broke up with his/her girlfriend or boyfriend.
5) The student didn't have a good foundation from previous classes.
6) The student has test anxiety.
7) The student has senioritis and doesn't feel like learning.
8) The student is waiting to turn 18 for his trust fund to kick in. (This was true one year.)
9) The student didn't meet with the teacher to review prior to the test.
10) The student didn't understand the material and/or had major misconceptions.

And there are probably many others that I didn't even consider that could be on this list.

A test is designed to assess student understanding of concepts (Reason #10) and not other things that can impact a student's performance (Reasons #1 - 9).  I know many of my math teacher colleagues at other schools allow for re-testing.  I even re-test from time to time.  But at some point students need to be held accountable for what they learn.  And if they don't learn it, they re-take the course in high school or take a remedial course in college.

If I constantly allow re-testing and it is because of reasons like #1, #2, or #3, then I am just reinforcing bad habits.  If it is because of Reason #6, then the student should get help from the learning specialist.  If it is a reason like #7 or #8, then at what point am I the fool for wasting my time and energy?  Time and energy are finite resources and I would rather give them to a student who is willing to work and learn.


  1. Maybe give yourself a couple of days away from it. I know how I feel when my students don't perform as I would've hoped. I was concerned that retesting would result in students not trying as hard the first go around and more work for me. Although the work has gone up a little so has the learning. I have students come in and conference with me on the test. Then they have to study through Khan Academy or something else to show they have prepared more. I like Khan for this reason as it reports the time and correctness of their work in the program. I also replace the grade regardless of whether it is actually better or not to encourage students to retest only when they are better prepared. Student understanding has increased this year. Just my thoughts.

  2. I like the idea of replacing it regardless of doing better or not. Otherwise, I would have students wanting to re-test all the time. If the student already has an A, they don't need to re-test.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. My frustration has subsided a bit. Unfortunately, I think for the kids they have some gaps in their understanding. Many of them had C's in Algebra 2.