The nauseating, sinking feeling of getting back a test covered in red marks is one many Paly students have experienced. Whether it be a bad night of sleep, struggling to comprehend difficult concepts, personal distractions or just careless errors, mistakes happen and are inherent to life as a student. But sometimes, a bad test can have lasting repercussions, particularly in a class where a limited number of unit tests each semester make it hard to recover a grade.
To give students to a second chance to master material, many teachers at Paly offer test corrections, allowing students to earn credit by learning from the mistakes they make on exams. Test correction policies vary among classes, from retaking the test for credit up to a certain grade to correcting mistakes for test or homework credit.
The Campanile commends teachers who already offer test corrections and urges all others to consider offering them in some form.
Allowing students to do test corrections is beneficial for two main reasons. First, making test corrections provides students with the opportunity to learn from and understand the mistakes they make.
Often students do not make an active effort to understand the mistakes they make after receiving their graded tests back, instead focusing their energy on worrying about their grade.
According to Paly economics teacher Grant Blackburn, who implements two types of test corrections, giving students an incentive to revisit material encourages students to focus on the learning process instead of the points. Blackburn said studies have shown recall practice helps people retain information, and he thinks giving students second chances reduces stress and gives students flexibility in difficult times.
Blackburn’s exams have three rounds. In the first round, students take the exam in the traditional setting — in one sitting, without notes or distractions.
In the second round, students are handed back their original exam with the incorrect problems marked, but not explained, and they can then proceed to correct the questions, forcing them to understand the correct solution.
They receive half credit for every problem they missed in the first round but correct in the second round. If students are still not satisfied with their score, they can opt for the third round where they retake the entire test without penalty.
Blackburn said the goal of education is to remember what you learn. He said giving students the opportunity to extend the learning process beyond an exam creates a more personal approach and is a better alternative to students strategically cutting class or feeling overwhelmed.
Some teachers might be concerned that such flexible testing protocols might not adequately prepare students for a post-secondary education. And in some situations, hard consequences are necessary — for example, teachers cannot be flexible with academic dishonesty.
However, we agree with Blackburn who says high school is a time for students to make mistakes and learn from them. Test corrections provide an opportunity for this.
Offering test corrections ensures that a student’s grade is not completely swayed by one bad test. Tests are usually a major part of a class grade, and since there are a limited number of tests each semester, one bad performance can sink a student’s semester grade.
For teachers who may be uncomfortable offering test retakes to their students, there is still value in offering test corrections for homework credit. Test corrections for homework credit offer the same value and opportunity to recover to the student, while giving teachers the freedom to choose how many points a student can earn.
Many Paly teachers already allow students to do test corrections; some, such as Blackburn, institute creative policies. The Campanile urges other teachers to follow suit for the benefit of student learning and growth.