As some kids continue to adjust to at-home learning during COVID-19, one mom is sparking a conversation on how retesting could help students like it did for her son.
Kristen Mae, a staff writer at Scary Mommy, wrote a piece for the popular website, titled “Schools Should Absolutely Let Kids Resubmit Work And Retake Tests.”
In the story, Mae said her 14-year-old son is currently able to retest and retake assignments. It’s automatically built into the curriculum to have up to three chances to retake tests and assignments, she said.
“When I first learned he would have this feature built into his schooling, it sounded like a cop-out to me,” Mae wrote on Feb. 23. “Would he really learn that way? Isn’t it almost like cheating to be able to find out what you got wrong and just … go fix it and improve your grade? Wouldn’t everyone make straight A’s if that’s how things worked?”
Mae, of Melbourne, Florida, said her kids had been attending in-person school, though she opted for at-home learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mae also has an 11-year-old daughter in fifth grade, who’s enrolled in e-learning with a live teacher. Her son’s schooling is more flexible and he logs on at leisure, Mae said.
When her son retakes an assignment, the questions digitally reshuffle and new ones are added in.
“It’s not an easy fix,” Mae wrote in her piece. “If he wants to actually improve his grade on subsequent tries, he has to put in the time to study. And because he doesn’t want to spend more time than necessary, he is motivated to study hard the first time to get a good grade so he doesn’t have to do it over. He knows I will make him redo assignments and tests if I see his overall grade slipping too much or if it’s obvious he’s not putting in the effort.”
Mae said the retesting approach has worked for her son, and has been a confidence booster. Mae feels he is now retaining information rather than struggling and leaving a topic behind only to move on to the next section in his schoolwork.
“Especially as a kid who has ADHD, I feel like that’s been huge for him,” Mae told “Good Morning America.” “With regular school, if he only has one chance or there’s noise in the classroom … there’s been times where it’s been [a detriment] on his actual knowledge about the subject.”
“It’s not just about mastery, it’s about growth,” Mae added. “We are not just teaching kids the material. We are also teaching them how to fail, keep learning and to revise.”
Resubmitting work can foster perseverance, rather than simply collecting test points
Lindsay Prendergast is a professional learning consultant at NWEA — a research-based nonprofit that creates academic assessments for pre-K students through second grade.
Prendergast, a former special education teacher and school principal, said if kids aren’t given the chance to learn after a certain point, then they’re likely to give up.
“A reassessment opportunity will help them focus on the end goal of perseverance,” Prendergast told “GMA.” “A very typical response to this practice is, ‘Oh it’s not fair. Everyone will earn an A.'”
“It’s almost like it’s ingrained in our minds that not everyone is supposed to learn,” she added. “This is a practice that really fosters that compassion between student and teacher. So, it can be a relationship builder as well.”
Prendergast said that during the pandemic, students are fighting increased anxiety and less optimism about school.
And now, caregivers are trying to remedy situations with kids struggling in online learning.
Across the country, teachers, parents and school officials are raising red flags about a potential “lost generation of students,” backed by data showing children falling behind, particularly disadvantaged students who already face learning gaps.
Sixty-six percent of teachers in one national survey, conducted by the RAND Corporation in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said their students are less prepared for grade-level work now compared to this point last year.
In high-poverty schools, 1 in 3 teachers said their students are “significantly” behind, the survey found.
A study released in December by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimated that remote learning last spring set white students back by one to three months in math, while students of color were set back three to five months.
Another study, led by researchers at Stanford University, estimated that the average American student has already lost half a year of learning in reading and over a full year of learning in math since the pandemic began.
Prendergast said the practice of resubmitting work can particularly help kids who face inequities such as little or no access to the internet.
“Or, maybe they’re taking care of additional responsibilities at home, there’s [a lack of] parental support and basic human needs that should really be a priority in our children,” she said.
Mae agreed, evidence of inequities is another reason why schools should allow kids to have extra tries with assignments.
“Not every student comes from the same background,” Mae said. “For some, English is their second language or there’s other personal things that impact their ability to learn.”
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“And, if they want to redo the work to improve themselves, we should let them,” she added. “I don’t think this should be a pile-on for teachers, as if we’re saying they’re not doing enough.”
Mae said her son having his best grades ever inspired her to put the experience into writing. She had also revisited a pre-pandemic, 2019 tweet from an educator advocating for retesting.
“I think this topic is bubbling up with all the anxiety kids are feeling in. I think teachers are rethinking the way they’re accepting assignments,” Mae said, adding that the pandemic brought new attention to the tweet and conversations surrounding kids resubmitting work and assignments.
Is the practice of retesting a good answer for every child?
Dr. Stephanie Samar, a clinical psychologist at the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, recognized that we are still experiencing what she called “a mental health crisis.”
Samar told “GMA” that one year into the pandemic, many of us are calling this time “the new normal,” though we forget the stress still very much exists.
“Now, a year later, the focus is back on grades. … The leniency is not there because this has become the norm, even though we are dealing with the same environment, dealing with the same issues as last year,” Samar explained.
Samar aid she’s been reminding parents to not focus on grades, but focus on how their kids got the grades.
“If we don’t have those opportunities to improve, there isn’t that developmental piece,” she said. “Social media [for example], is all these snapshots of what we’re doing and not the process of how we got there. If you don’t learn that process, then you won’t learn.”
Samar offered tips on how parents can help children navigate through stress during the pandemic and in relation to online schooling.
Retesting might not be what they need — at least not now
Samar said retesting is a positive practice, though it’s about prioritizing what’s right for your child in the moment. “Just because you can redo assignment doesn’t mean it’s the best idea,” Samar added.
She said to pay attention to self-care. A child should be prioritizing coping strategies, a decent night’s sleep, moving their bodies and getting fresh air — so they can learn at the highest capacity.
Have social time
Don’t always resort to texting or social media. Samar said even video chats with friends can help fight anxiety and depression while social distancing.
Being present in the moment can help calm our nervous systems and prioritize effectively.
Samar said meditation doesn’t have to be overwhelming and can be as simple as paying attention to your breath for one minute.
“Kids can benefit from it as well as adults,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a big to-do.”
If you are in crisis or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-738
ABC News’ Katie Kindelan contributed to this report.
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