Reassessments and Retakes: A Necessary Part of a School-Wide Grading Policy

“Lawyers who finally pass the bar exam on their second or third attempt are not limited to practicing law only on Tuesdays” – Wormeli, 2011

We allow people to retake their indexdriver’s license exam as many times as they need to in order to demonstrate competency. The same is true of other professionals such as teachers, lawyers, doctors, and electricians who are required to pass a certification/licensure exam. Reassessment is a part of our real world. I find it ironic, then, that as educators we cringe at the thought of allowing reassessments in the classroom in an effort to “prepare kids for the real world!” I held this belief until a few years ago when O’Connor and Stiggins (2009) and Wormeli (2011) helped set me straight. Reflecting back, I now cringe at the harsh reality that from 2001 to 2006 I sent hundreds and hundreds of students into the real world without the opportunity to reassess to solidify their learning.

At my school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire, we believe in the concept of reassessments so much that we actually have a school-wide common procedure that supports their use in all classes. In fact, we have a number of school-wide common grading procedures that are designed to support our competency-based grading and reporting system, one that is now in its third year of implementation K-12 in our District.

In a competency-based system, reassessments are a necessary part of the learning process. “True competence that stands the test of time comes with reiterative learning. We carry forward concepts and skills we encounter repeatedly, and we get better at retrieving them the more we experience them.” (Wormeli, 2011). Making reassessments a school-wide practice changes the learning culture for students from one where they are trying to earn enough points to pass to one in which they are held accountable for everything they need to know and be able to do. Reeves (2000) describes the cultural shift that will happen over time as schools implement such a policy. “The consequence for a student who fails to meet a standard is not a low grade but rather an opportunity – indeed, the requirement – to resubmit his or her work.” Indeed, that viagra generic cultural shift is happening today at my school.

When buy generic viagra without prescription I talk with fellow school administrators about the change process of moving from traditional to competency-based grading and reporting, reassessment is a popular discussion topic. Principals always want to know what a practical school-wide reassessment procedure looks like. Here is the one that my school adopted three years ago:

Second-chance assessment opportunities shall be made available to students who have missed a summative assessment, to students who have failed a summative assessment, and to students who have earned below an 80% on a summative assessment.  For students who missed a summative assessment for a legitimate reason (an excused absence or emergency), the highest possible score that may be earned on a reassessment is 100%.  Students who must reassess because they missed an initial summative assessment for an unexcused reason, who must reassess because they failed an initial assessment, or who wish to reassess because they have earned below an 80%, may earn up to an 80% on the reassessment.


Important Notes:


1.       If a student who fails with less than a 65% reassesses and earns a higher grade, the higher grade replaces the previously recorded lower grade (up to an 80);

2.       Since a teacher should only require students to reassess on non-proficient skills or tasks, the reassessment grade should never result in a lower final grade on the assignment;

3.       A teacher may require (as detailed above in Formative Assessments) a student to complete all formative assessments that are directly correlated with the summative assessment before a reassessment for the summative is administered (if this step has not previously been taken);

4.       A teacher may require students to complete a relearning plan (detailing the steps that a student will need to undertake to demonstrate proficiency on the summative) before a reassessment is administered;

5.       A teacher may assign a reasonable timeline for a reassessment opportunity;

6.       Reassessment opportunities for formative assessments are at the teacher’s discretion.

Our school-wide reassessment procedure is not an ideal competency-based reassessment statement. We consider it to be a hybrid procedure that has helped our teachers and students over the last three years make the transition from a traditional to a competency-based grading philosophy. One of our biggest limitations is that we don’t allow students to earn more than 80% on a reassessment. If we are to truly measure student learning, we can’t engage in practices that limit student grades. We certainly understand this in my school and we are moving to a model that will allow the reassessment grade to have no cap. Many of our teachers and students philosophically are ready to make this final leap. Some already have.

Competency-based grading and reporting systems hold students accountable for their learning. They hold teachers accountable for ensuring that all students gain the ability to transfer content and skills in and across content areas. That learning happens at different rates for different students. Reassessment is a necessary part of the learning process for all.


O’Connor, K and Stiggins, R. (2009). How to Grade for Learning, K-12, Third Edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Reeves, D.B.  (2000). Standards are not enough: Essential transformations for school success. NASSP Bulletin, 84(10), 5-19.

Wormeli, R. (2011) Redos and Retakes Done Right. Educational Leadership, Nov. 2011; pgs. 22-26. Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.


 About the Author:

Brian is the Principal of Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire. He is a strong advocate of personalized learning, competency-based grading and assessment, and high school redesign for the twenty-first century. He has presented with other Sanborn administrators in local conferences in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as well as national conferences and think-tanks in Chicago, IL, Portland, OR, and Washington, DC. His lives with his wife Erica and four sons Brady, Cameron, Liam, and Owen in Plaistow, New Hampshire.


  1. jmarcano said:

    This is a great paradigm shift. In reality, event the SAT allows students to reassess for a higher grade, but how will the students transition to college where they won’t get a second chance to reassess?

    October 16, 2013
    • LMadden said:

      Just because some colleges continue ineffective practices isn’t a valid reason for K-12 to to use grading policies that are punitive rather than supportive. Maybe it’s time for college policies to change, too!

      October 16, 2013
      • Brian Stack said:

        I agree. I think you will see colleges start to make this shift, but as we all know that takes even longer than making the shift at the secondary level.

        October 16, 2013
      • Brian said:

        Don’t we give them multiple attempts at learning concepts everyday in class. Aren’t all the formative work we assess/give feedback on chances for them to practice their output and receive a judgment as to their progress. Most people who use competentcy/proficiency grading has some sort of deadline/number of times a summative can be retaken. Why the artificial deadline of having to redo summative assessments when they have numerous times over periods of weeks to get it right. Unless we are going to hold them accountable for every standard and they don’t move on to the next set until they get them all this seems all very unnecessary.

        May 17, 2016
    • Daniel Hogan said:

      As a refugee from industry, and now in my fifth year of teaching, I have been allowing students retakes (of different quizzes assessing the same content) and reassessments for that entire time. My content area is physics – and, as most of you know from your own High School or College experience – physics has been something for students to be “afraid of” since they have been studying it (often as a result of horror stories from their parents). Under the “traditional” grading system, this is not surprising. Physics takes time to digest – it is not something you can memorize.

      I find my students focus on learning more than their grade under this system. The anxiety level is lower; the questions form parents almost nonexistent. There are no penalties – the best grade you achieve is the grade you get – no averaging. The philosophy is to MASTER what is being taught and to learn that everyone learns by their mistakes. It is ironic, that many teachers tell students “you learn by your mistakes” but never let them actually prove that they have done so.

      Fortunately, I work in a school system with a progressive and open-minded administration that allows me to work “outside the box” – I guess, in the hope, that ultimately all teachers will start to understand this concept. I do struggle with how teachers in the social sciences and ELA might be able to cope with this given their assessment usually require hand grading, whereas physics lends itself easily to computer based assessment.

      November 7, 2013
  2. Rachel Binneboese said:

    Can you clarify #3 under the notes section? I absolutely love this idea and really want to start looking into this more.

    October 17, 2013
    • Brian stack said:

      Sure Rachel. Typically, teachers will have a series of formative assessments that lead up to a summative assessment, but are connected to it. We allow our teachers to direct students to go back and redo formative assessments at a higher level before they take a reassessment, if that is applicable to the case. Does that make sense?

      October 17, 2013
  3. Teacher said:

    Here is what i have noticed among students in three different school districts using this format of assessment.

    1. Students ask every assignment: “Is this formative (homework, which does not count for a grade) or a benchmark?” If it is formative only the self motivated students are attempting to complete the work, these students usually pass the initial assessment with a “5” (same thing as an A+) and other students gamble and if they don’t score a 4 or 5 then they know they can reassess.

    What I see is we are enabling kids, same mistake as not tying tardies/absences into grades. Kids don’t understand the value of being on time and how it relates to the real world.

    When a business professional walks into a meeting to make a sales pitch that doesn’t go well, he/she doesn’t get to reassess the meeting the next day. We are losing the “accountability” factor in kids.

    I really do like the idea behind all of this, but it were just taking the kids that don’t want to develop a work ethic and holding their hand through HS……

    February 7, 2014

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