MHS Grading Policy Changes

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Say goodbye to waiting to the end of a semester to retake a test.

New testing policies are changing the way all Marshfield students retake or make up tests.

According to counselor Laura Osbon, it was common practice for many students to wait until just before a grading period to finish or retake an exam. This resulted in teachers becoming swamped in test retakes right before their final grades were due. Students would ask to redo tests in January, which were to be completed in September.

According to Osbon, many teachers and staff thought they were required to give this extensive retake period for students, but this changed when they met with a specialist in proficiency grading last winter from the Oregon Department of Education. Not only did the specialist serve as a reminder of what the goal of proficiency grading was, but also gave teachers and staff the opportunity to rethink the way they handled test retakes.

“We can be creative around it. We don’t have this strict Godzilla, my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards the grading system,” Osbon said. “It gave the teachers some breathing room for tests.”

According to Principal Travis Howard, this new policy for grading was developed over the course of several staff meetings. Howard said students must complete all formative assessments before a re-assessment or no retake will be provided. The student then has to attend three Pirate Advisory Time (PAT) classes with the teacher within three weeks of the original test date. If the student does not complete the re-assessment within the three weeks, the summative, or test grade is final. This does not affect classes which award  2+2 credit, or college credit, as teachers assessing those courses adhere to Southwestern Oregon Community College (SOCC) grading guidelines.

“In order to retake an assessment, you have to go check in with your teacher a couple times,” Howard said. “You have to show them, show the instructor, that ‘yes, I’m taking steps towards being able to show proficiency, not just taking the test over and over again.’”

Math teacher Tammie Montiel said she hopes these new testing policies will change students’ perspectives on tests and lessen the burden of retakes on teachers.

“When we [teachers and staff] met about it before the start of this school year, most of the staff thought some sort of change was necessary because it was a lot of extra work on the staff with students not doing their part in studying for retakes,” Montiel said.

This was also echoed by history teacher Debbie Brown. According to Brown, students would come in during the last week of a semester and try to retake tests from the beginning of the school year. Brown said this makes it difficult not only for teachers, but students as well to retake or make up tests.

“I think it puts students in a really difficult situation when, in my class, I’m no longer lecturing on the topic that they need to test on. If you didn’t pass the test the first time and you’re trying to retake the test three months later... if the student had studied to begin with then they would’ve passed the test already,” Brown said. “So if you take a student that didn’t already study and now we’re completely on a different topic, expecting them to pass is difficult.”

Some students have expressed pros and cons as well over the new policy changes. According to senior Tatum Oliver, as long as she prioritizes the assignments she needs to complete and schedules an appropriate time for retakes, then the process is a benefit to the student population.

“It definitely keeps the students more organized and prepared for the future, because if you wait three weeks or even later, you’re most likely not going to remember as much about the test material. The more I think about that change we have made the more it makes sense,” Oliver said.

Junior Courtney Grant, however, said the three week period would only make things worse for students who tend to procrastinate or who are already busy in other extracurricular activities .

“If I were to need to retake a test, it would be easier for me to take it when I can, especially for students who are busy,” Grant said. “It’s going to push away students that already slack off. If they actually want to do well, they will study by themselves, or get help when they can to go and make up a test.”

According to Howard, the education scene is always in the process of changing and the way test retakes function now may change in the future depending on how it goes this year.

“Nothing is ever set in stone in education,” Howard said. “We have to have a continuous improvement attitude to keep looking in those areas where we are deficient in or need development on.”