Sharing assessment & grading strategies that help students learn
Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about being an FBI agent, training to be an FBI agent, or anything at all related to the FBI...
Recently I had a conversation at church with a friend who is a former-English-teacher-turned-FBI-agent. We were discussing a David Baldacci novel i was reading at the time about the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. My friend recommended a book by FBI Special Agent Christopher Whitcomb entitled Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. The next week at church, my friend showed up with a copy of the book for me, and yesterday I finally got around to starting it.
Now please realize, this book has absolutely nothing to do with teaching or education whatsoever. I am not recommending it as a book for teachers to read - unless the teacher likes books about the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. But believe it or not, I found a little Standards Based Learning nugget on page 37.
The author is recounting how he became an FBI agent. At this point in the book he has made it to the FBI Academy in Quantico where the best of the best are trained and held to the highest of standards. In talking about the tests they had to take, the author says the following:
Somewhere in between, we found time to study for the exams that came with relentless frequency. At least once a week our entire class huddled together, reviewing notes and making sure the less prepared among us would feel ready the next day. As our letters stated, a score of 84 or lower in any course would result in a New Agent Review Board and disciplinary action. If you failed to achieve 85 on a makeup exam or performed similarly on another exam, you were gone.
Did you notice what he said? If you didn't earn a satisfactory score of 85 on a test, you were kicked out of the FBI Academy - BUT NOT RIGHT AWAY. That's right - the world's top law enforcement agency - that only selects the best of the best of the best and that has the highest standards anywhere - GIVES STUDENTS TEST REDOS!
Often, when considering whether or not to allow students to redo work originally done poorly, teachers are concerned that by doing so they might not prepare young people for the real world. Teachers struggle with the concept of students getting used to redos and not receiving them later on in life. I appreciate the logic behind that. But while I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions to this statement, the real world is full of second chances.
I'm sure for every example I came up with of people getting chances to redo things in the real world, someone could find another example where someone didn't get that chance. And I'm sure the example I just shared from the FBI has its flaws and limitations. But the bottom line is this: It is not true that people don't get redos in the real world.
Of course, it is also true that school isn't the real world - it's school. We aren't supposed to be the same as the real world. In some cases, we should be better than the real world. After all, the real world has plenty of flaws. In other cases, we are preparing for the real world that students will encounter eventually. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that if we give a student a redo or retake - ESPECIALLY IF BY DOING SO THE STUDENT LEARNS THE CONTENT - we are dong a poor job of preparing students.
After all, I'd say the FBI Academy is about as "real world" as you get, and even they allow - regardless of how limited - an opportunity for a test redo.