Accountability in Retaking Assessments

Rae HughartBlog, Differentiate Better, Grade Better, Innovate Better, Lesson Plan Better, Mastery Done Better, Personalize Student Learning Better


  • The importance and necessity of offering retakes.
  • Tips to increase accountability in your students through your retake process.
  • Why not offering retakes is diminishing the value of your content and your teaching.
I have been there. Running down the hall to catch a student to remind them for the 12th time that day they need to meet with me during my lunch to discuss the next steps for a retake. Boy, are those eye rolls Tik Tok worthy. It is as if my accountability message goes in one ear and out the other as the groan leaves the student’s mouth.
Do I have to?
What do you mean, “Do you have to?
Do you have to learn the information after weeks of not learning it? Can I just let you skate by, choosing not to learn and be ok with it? Ugh – this is when I give my own Tik Tok worthy eye roll.
After months of this frustration, hunting down students and fighting tooth and nail to make them learn – I quit. Not like I quit my job. I just quit fighting the endless losing battle of offering retakes. Who cares, right?

Real talk: Do you know what NOT offering retakes says to students?

“If you didn’t learn it the first time I offered it to you, it is not important enough for you to learn.”
AKA, you are further emphasizing the lack of value the content has to the student’s long term success.
Now THAT seems like a losing battle.
The truth is when you understand HOW to facilitate a retake, the student ownership and student accountability become the most valuable element of the process.

Accountability Step 1: Set the Tone

The way a retake begins sets the tone for the entire process. Consider how you can emphasize student ownership and accountability from the moment of interest. I suggest for most teachers to begin this process with a Request System.
Yes, as the teacher you can have a procedure to encourage students to complete a retake, but the initial choice must be the student’s own doing. This may include having a benchmark for students scoring below a specific point to need to complete a retake. For example, any student scoring below a 70% must submit this request. Nevertheless, your retake policy should be open to any student interested in retaking their evaluation of mastery in hopes to improve their understanding.
But how do you get those resistant students to choose to request a retake? While there is no one set policy for this, the strategies are endless. It could be as simple as attaching a note “Please retake this”. It could go as far as partnering with parents to encourage a retake request be completed by the student by the end of the week.
Either way, encourage encourage encourage, but require the student to make the active choice to submit the retake.
Without this element, you have already started the race with a losing time.
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Accountability Step 2: Student Voice & Choice

As you continue with the retake process, remember to continue to emphasize student ownership and accountability. Build reminders within the retake process. Communicate this as a choice the student is making to be better.
This should not only be a language shift, but include choice in how the retake is completed, as well as flexibility specific to the student for deadlines, reteaching, and other assignments.
There is a common phrase every teacher lives by when giving student choice. Do not offer students options you, as the teacher, can not live with. This still rings true for this retake process. If you do not have any wiggle room on an idea (maybe due to semester grades being due or conflicting schedules) then do not offer flexibility in those areas. However, if you have areas you can provide some wiggle room, make those options clear to your students throughout the retake process.
The opportunity for a student to choose a due date or activity allows them to keep ownership in the process and hold themselves accountable for the parameters they have set.

Accountability Step 3: Celebrate the Choice

Sometimes it seems silly to celebrate a student for retaking something they proved to not have learned the first time. Shouldn’t they WANT to learn it?

But the truth is, the majority of students re-assessing will be more successful with continuous celebration. Make sure to use specific language during these celebratory moments.

“I am so excited for you to master this content!”

“You made such an outstanding choice to retake this. I know you are going to kill it the second time around!”

“I am so proud of you for choosing to do this. I hope you are proud of yourself too!”

Then, do not let the celebration stop there. Every time a student attends a meeting, every time they have the right prepared tools, and every time the student grows just a little bit more in a specific area – celebrate it!

“YES! I knew you’d get this!”

“Gosh, you have worked so hard and look how it paid off!”

“You are going to do so well on your retake! You have come so far!”

All retakes are different. So is the accountability.

Every retake is different. The recent movement to personalize student learning is challenging teachers in new ways. We differentiate for students and provide them with multiple opportunities to find their pathway to success. It’s challenging, and at times, it’s frustrating.
BUT YOU CAN DO IT! You are up for the challenge.
Don’t set yourself up to be the teacher running down the hallway and taking full ownership of the retake process. Just as we, as educators, are shifting toward a more personalized approach to learning, our student’s learning must continue to shift. They need to take more ownership. But remember, this is a new shift for them too.
Gone are the days where the factory model of doing what the teacher says for the sake of a grade is enough. Gone are the days where we just needed to put our head down and “get through the day.”
We must teach our students HOW to take ownership of their learning and provide them the space and tools to put it into action.
Because #kidsdeserveit and #techersdeserveit

About Rae Hughart

Rae Hughart is a Middle-Level Math and Writing Educator in Illinois and the Director of Training and Development for the Teach Better Team. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame. In 2018, Rae was honored again by the Henry Ford Innovator Award for her work within educators communities to build unity between local businesses and schools. Rae is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.