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Elisa, high school health teacher

“I offer retakes on tests or major projects. When I first told the students, some were surprised and some were confused, and some were relieved because they had a chance to redo and show what they were capable of—there wasn’t so much pressure on them to get everything right on a single chance. One of the so-called ‘bad’ kids—a student who struggles with a lot—seemed shocked. She asked, ‘You’re giving me another chance? Really?’

“My fear was that they wouldn’t try their hardest the first time if they knew that they were going to be able to redo it for a higher grade. But I didn’t run into that problem at all. Instead, the kids did well their first time. I think it was because they knew, by me giving them a second chance, that I had faith in them, that they would learn the material and would do well. And the first time around I think they tried harder.”

Maritza, high school world language teacher

“The most significant change I have made so far is promoting retakes. I want the students to understand the material to encourage them to go back and look at what they got wrong, as opposed to the old way, where they would just get it back and we’d move on. When I give students back any test, they have to analyze what went right and what went wrong. I call on the students who did great on the test to share the study techniques they used. They share their strategies with the class; and the ones that failed, they can learn from the ones that did well. Students have told me: I studied with my mother, I studied with my sister, I used flashcards, I saw a song on YouTube. When the one student told me about the song, I said ‘Ok, wait, let’s look at the song.’ We found the song on YouTube and we played it. Everybody was laughing, we had a good time, and we took the opportunity to learn from each other. I am helping the students to see they are smart and they are capable; they also need to study, and even if they need more time, they are able to reach their goals just as well as the other students. If we give them an F, with no explanation, and no chances to change it, it may encourage them to drop out of school. The opportunity here is to motivate them, to help them understand how to be successful. The impact is significant. Their test scores improve and they are going to close the achievement gap and reach their own highest potential. I think it’s going to have a huge impact.”