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Features In-Depth

Forty is the New Zero

As the school year gets into full swing, students have now grown accustomed to the new changes to the policies here at school.

One such change is the new retake policy implemented by the school board. The new retake policy allows students to retake summative assessments after completing a series of requirements such as turning in unfinished homework, doing test corrections, explaining what they did wrong, and coming in for extra help on the subject. After all these tasks are completed, the student is then allowed to retake the test for a full grade adjustment.

Some students greatly appreciate the changes and see it as a very valuable way to keep their grades up. “The retake policy will benefit me because it will give me the chance to improve a grade in subjects that I just needed a little more time to understand and practice,” sophomore Sara Engel said.

There are many positive aspects of the retake policy. For example, retakes help give students motivation to stick with hard material. “When there weren’t retakes and a student did bad on something, they just gave up. The retakes will cause more people to go back and try to do better and improve something that they didn’t do well on,” math teacher Rachel Levin said.

Other students, however, think the retake policy works against truly motivated students and gives a free pass to those who did not bother trying. “If you have the option to retake everything, the kids who are trying really hard are not getting the same acknowledgement as the kids who just wait for the retake,” junior Marissa Fucarino said.

When it comes to the impact retakes have on how hard students are working, chemistry teacher Stefan Panzilius, speaking from his experiences as a teacher, said, “I started to do test retakes in 2005 or 2006. With accelerated and AP students, if they were just having a bad day they chalked it off in their head. The effects go both ways; it could be a detriment in that a student could just decide to take the test and not study for it or not prepare for it just so they can get an idea of what it’s going to be on it before taking the retake. If there’s no consequence for that, it is a detriment to the teacher because now all he or she is doing is giving a rough draft.”

The retake policy may even make things harder for teachers. “Regardless of what classes you teach, making retake exams is time consuming. No matter how hard a teacher tries to make two separate exams with questions that are the same difficulty, it could be argued that one is harder than the other,” Panzilius said.

Having each teacher implement the retake policy in even a slightly different way also greatly impacts students. “Not every class gives the same chances for students to fix their grades. Teachers have not reached a consensus, which confuses the students and affects how hard students try in each class,” Fucarino said. All classes have been given the same generalized retake policy and grading scale which is a very generalized solution to a problem with vast variety.

The retake policy can be both helpful and hurtful when it comes to preparing students for the real world. “There are situations in real life which can be repeated as many times as you want, and there are others where that is not the case,” Panzilius said, “For example, a job interview is a one-time shot, but a resume you can rewrite a bunch of times. I guess the debate comes down to this: do teachers and students consider tests like a resume or an interview?”

Another policy change that has been implemented this year is a new grading policy. With this policy set in place, students cannot receive a grade lower than a 40%. “It should be beneficial, but when you combine [the new grading policy] with other grading policies that have been required, it ties the hands of the teachers wanting to do what is best for the students,” Panzilius said.

“There are certain students that may believe that they can get 40% by doing nothing and that the rest of life will work the same way; often in our culture, if you do nothing, you get nothing,” Panzilius said.

In contrast, Washington Post journalist Jay Mathews believes that giving zeros makes it impossible for students to work back up to a good grade. “Arithmetically, the zero is an A-bomb with destroys the chance of any future A or B,” Mathews said. “A 40 or 50 percent limit is better for motivation. If you get a zero, you might as well give up.”

Senior Izabella Lach views this with skepticism, noting that “if someone is consistently cheating or not doing their homework, they should receive the consequences they evidently deserve.”  



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