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Inservice Blog

This blog is written by Anton Kelsey or Jen Heiny unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the blog is to present different ideas to faculty and staff that we are addressing throughout different inservice or teacher learning times.

January 15, 2018


Providing opportunities for relearning while maintaining your sanity

One aspect of a system involving proficiencies and a "growth mindset" is that of relearning.  A tenet of the growth mindset is that failure is a key part of the learning process.  Some of the most successful people in our history cite failure as a critical element of growth and improvement.

"I have not failed.  I just found 10,000 ways that do not work." - Thomas Edison

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” - Malcolm Forbes

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

"There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." - Colin Powell

It is this last quote that may resonate the most.  Success is dependent on all three of the elements mentioned above.  Without preparation and hard work, any chance to learn from failure is lost. 

If we want our students to learn the lessons of grit, determination, and a growth mindset, then learning from failure is important.  But what if the student is not putting in the preparation and hard work that is necessary to learn from the failure, the bumps in the road?

This is one of the biggest challenges teachers have expressed when it comes to reassessing our students.  What are the ways that the onus can be shifted to the student when we are using reassessments as a learning tool?  How can reassessments be used while still managing time effectively?  What strategies lead to growth, student engagement, and learning towards mastery? When is reassessing appropriate?  Should reassessment opportunities be different for formatives than for summatives?

While not all of the above questions will be answered today, there is much in the way of research and best practices in terms of utilizing reassessment as an effective learning tool.  The following research will touch upon the three big questions of retakes and redos:  Why to use them? When to allow them? And how to manage them?


Reassessment can be a valuable tool as a part of the learning process.  The following articles help us to understand the importance of reassessment, and how reassessments fit into the pedagogy of a proficiency based or mastery system.

Retakes and redos done right - Rick Wormeli

How to give feedback that moves students forward

The only reason a reassessment should be given is if new learning has taken place.  Relearning involves some form of feedback and interaction with a teacher has occurred.

Do they hear you?  To make sure students will accept and use feedback, integrate these three strategic moves into your instruction.

Highlighting mistakes - a grading strategy (video)


Practical tips/Implementation

Are retakes consuming all of your time?  Are you chasing kids down to make retakes happen? Are there a dozen untaken retakes in your retake folder in the learning lab? How can reassessments be implemented without driving us crazy!?

The Right Way to Do Redos by Rick Wormeli

12 steps to create a successful retake policy

Reassessment without going crazy


Other good resources

Retakes, redos and do-overs, part 1 - A video with Rick Wormeli

Retakes, redos and do-overs, part 2 - Some good practical tips here, based on the three most important words for redos...."At Teacher Discretion".

Reed Gillespie blog post addressing concerns about implementing retakes

The case for retakes and how to manage them

Accountability - Teaching through assessment and feedback, not grading - Rick Wormeli


"We can jump up and down, calling for higher standards and rigid accountability while presenting overwhelming data on individual students all we want, but it all means nothing – nothing – unless the failing student receives our assessment’s message constructively and he perceives that there is a ladder extended to help crawl from the hole. It doesn’t matter why the student failed; effective secondary teachers provide the ladder."  - Rick Wormeli






August 23, 2017


Over the past few years we have done a lot in relation to PBGRs. Some of the work has been painstaking, some has been transformative, and almost all of it has involved discussing how we can improve student learning in our classrooms. While we have always discussed this, over the past decade these conversations have changed. We worked as a faculty to design clear learning targets - the PBGRs - for all of the learners in our building. We started formalizing these discussions in curriculum group meetings. Through continued discussion and curriculum work, we have changed instruction and assessment practices to focus on the content knowledge and skills needed so that students can demonstrate proficiency in a variety of areas. This work has invited change into our building, and our classrooms look different now than they did just a few years ago.

But what about grading and grades?

The issue of how we communicate what happens in our classroom, and more specifically, what students are learning, is a critical part of the transition to a proficiency based system. If our students need to demonstrate proficiency in certain areas, then the grading and reporting should support those areas clearly, and they need to communicate two important things. First, they need to communicate the skills and knowledge that the student has acquired, and second, the grading and reporting needs to show how this learning has changed over time. Traditional grading practices do not do this well. Traditional grading practices represent a disconnect from a proficiency based system.

Traditional grading practices combine many different pieces of evidence together to create one grade for a course. This, the omnibus grade, had been the norm for high school grading for over a century. Does the omnibus grade have meaning? Of course it does. However, it can mean so many different things from course to course that the focus is often not on the is on the grade. Do kids go to school to learn? Or to get good grades? What conversation would we rather have? One that is focused around "What did you learn?" or one focused around "What grade did you get?"

A question: Do traditional grades provide accurate and timely feedback tied to the proficiencies that we have developed over the past few years? After a year of PBGR implementation, the answer is clearly that a traditional grading and reporting system does not. Our students are receiving lots of grades and lots of feedback, but the grades and feedback are not clearly tied to the proficiencies that we have so thoughtfully created. Because of this disconnect, we must consider how we can change our grading practices so that there is a stronger connection between our PBGRs and what is getting reported to students and families through our grading practices.

Consider the diagram below:

student performance image

This diagram represents the three different levels in which we communicate student performance. Each level is supported by the one beneath it. At MMU, we communicate course grades as well as PBGR grades for many of our courses. Grading or FamilyLink practices need to support both of these endeavors clearly and accurately. To do this, our grading practices need to make a few simple shifts so that we can provide accurate, transparent feedback about learning as related to PBGRs.

Here are some things that we will be doing this year:

  • Set up categories in FamilyLink that match PBGRs;
  • Separating academic work from work habits like homework completion;
  • Using total points in gradebooks.



This will be a shift for all of us at MMU. But the hope is that a few things will happen. First, we will start to notice how our assessments relate (or don't) to our proficiencies. Second, we will clearly communicate how are students are doing as related to different proficiencies. And third, we will have lots more discussions on how we can continue to improve our grading practices to better represent the shifts that we are making in our classrooms.

Finally, the hope is that one of the shifts that starts to occur is that conversations with students starts to change from "What grade did I get?" to "Did I learn it yet?".

If you want to read more about the research on grading and reporting in a proficiency based system, take the time to read through the resources below.