2. Late Work Should Not Hurt A Student’s Grade.

In my Standards-Based Grading post this weekend, Anon Y. Mous asked that I explain the rationale behind each of the core guidelines involved in the S.B.G. system. I think it’s a good suggestion and decided to start with the second core guideline since the first item is an umbrella guideline for the rest. Please comment with any corrections as I am still learning this new system. 🙂

If a student’s grade is solely based on academic achievement towards a learning target/standard, then late work (which is a student behavior) should not factor into a student’s academic grade. Deducting points from an assignment skews the meaning and purpose of the grade, which is to show a student’s progress towards or level of mastery of a standard in a standards-based system.

I happen to agree with this particular aspect of standards-based grading. In all honesty, I don’t really understand why late work isn’t accepted. Some students just need extra time. Maybe the inconvenience to the teacher is a reason, not one I think is justifiable, but one probably used.

I’ve heard people say that accepting late work enables students to miss deadlines, and I would respectfully disagree. I’ve almost always allowed late work and have never been buried by it; the kids just respect the due dates I set. Besides, my job is to teach the skills and content of my discipline. Nowhere in the course or state standards have I found anything related to discipline or meeting deadlines.


8 thoughts on “2. Late Work Should Not Hurt A Student’s Grade.

  1. mrschili

    I’m one of those teachers who doesn’t accept late work unless there are some extreme extenuating circumstances.

    I teach at the college level and that may have something to do with my thinking, but I see my job as being more than just teaching the material. I’m educating for character, too, and to help prepare students for the kinds of environments they’re likely to find in the professional world. There are penalties for missing deadlines out in the world; late fees and credit rating dings, probation and/or dismissal from jobs, possibly even warrants for arrest for failing to appear, that sort of thing. Where there certainly ARE opportunities to meet a responsibility “past due,” those are almost never without some sort of negative consequence. Holding students to a commitment – which, given the acceptance by the student of my syllabus, is really more like a contract – is an important part of my students’ experience in my class.

    At one point, one of my students mentioned to me that she hated that I don’t accept late work. “I understand WHY you don’t, but I hate it.” This student learned, by the end of the term, what it meant to be responsible and committed to something that one signs up for, and that lesson has served her well.

    I’m just sayin’…

  2. Jim Van Pelt

    College and high school are not the same, I believe. At the high school, there are multiple problems with not taking late work.

    The first is that rolling what is essentially a timeliness issue into an academic grade makes the student’s final grade an unreliable report of the student’s achievement. Did the student get a “C” because she only understood 75% of the material, or did the student understand all the material at a 100% level (including the final, perhaps), but didn’t turn in 25% of the work on time? The grades don’t give reliable information about how the class overall is doing either. If the class average is 75%, is that because the teacher wasn’t successful in raising students’ understanding of the material beyond that level, or is it because the teacher doesn’t accept late work?

    The second problem is that at the high school level, not accepting late work doesn’t teach responsibility. It punishes a student by lowering the grade while RELIEVING him of the responsibility of doing the work. Taking late work puts all the responsibility back on the student.

    The third problem is that I’ve never believed the one to one correspondence between teaching timeliness at school as a way to teach timeliness in the work place. I have had many students who had a hard time turning work in on time or even making class on time but who were very responsible at their jobs. People choose to be responsible because they have buy in and they care about what they are doing. Frankly, I think, school doesn’t create that buy in and care all that often. When I assign a paper on Julius Caesar, I know why I’ve done it, but I don’t have much of an answer for the student who says, “Look, how will doing or not doing this paper effect me in my future?” My nebulous sounding, “Doing this paper will deepen your understanding of a significant representation of human behavior” or “Thinking deeply about any one thing teaches you how to think deeply about all things” just doesn’t have the same immediacy of “Getting to work on time all week will get you a paycheck on Friday so you can pay for your car.”

    So, since I DO think my paper on Julius Caesar is worth doing, I do not want to create a situation where my students will not do it. My class is the only opportunity they will have for that particular lesson. By not taking their paper, I think I have both failed to teach responsibility AND not taught the lessons I hoped the assignment would teach.

    I lost on both ends, and so, I think, did the student.

  3. drpezz Post author

    Two things jumped into my mind reading these two well-reasoned responses.

    First, I want the consequence for not doing the work to be doing the work. If a student does not turn something in, I want the student to turn it in no matter what, and a penalty on late work discourages students from turning in the assignment. The work, to me, is more important than the penalty. Too many students give up as it is, and I don’t want this type of penalty to contribute to the possibility of a drop-out or a give-up.

    I think Chili is correct that college is different than high school, and yesterday during our meetings one teacher told me her late work policy is to make these kids understand the real world, that it has consequences for not living up to responsibilities. However, half of my department was late to the meeting with no real consequence. Numerous members of our entire staff turn in attendance or grades late–besides being regularly late for meetings– with little to no consequence. Paperwork is not turned in or turned in late (by teachers) with little to no consequence.

    It seems to me that many of my colleagues wish to hold the students up to standards that they themselves to not reach. Plus, high school is not the real world; it’s a place for students to learn and make mistakes. I was an absolute screw-up in high school, but I figured things out at my job and in college. It just took me a while, which I feel is true of most students.

    For now, I’m taking the late work. 🙂

  4. kaslea82

    All of the comments are well thought out but exactly how is having to do the work punishment for not doing it in the first place. I teach high school. My students are allowed to turn in work up until the day I turn in grades, and that’s just so I don’t have to listen to the parents when they fail.

    The real problem isn’t whether you punish them for being late, it’s whether they actually do the work. There should be consequences for not doing something on time, afterall, as adults don’t we have consequences for not doing things on time? Whether it’s a drop in grade or an additional task to do with the assignment, there has to be something otherwise you teach that deadlines don’t matter. In addition, if the student doesn’t turn in the work because they don’t want a deduction in grade, they’re only hurting themselves. Isn’t an 80% still better than a 0%? Thought so.

    Also, I completely disagree that as teachers we are not supposed to teach behavior skills. Who else molds the youth of America? Please, don’t say the parents because many of them are not concerned with the doings of their kids.

    One last thing, sure college and high school are different things, but high school should prepare a student for college. If I had attempted to turn in an essay LATE in college, my professors would have laughed at me. The school systems have become way too lenient in regards to grading and doing the work on time. I’ve only been out of high school for 8 years and this system is so much different – 10% off was always the standard, now you can’t do that. These kids are so underprepared for college, or the real world for that matter. That IS our jobs as teachers.

  5. Jim Van Pelt

    We have talked about a separate grade for behavior (which would encompass elements such as timeliness, attendance, etc.), and I would really like to see that as a separate grade in each class. The student who is “A” academically but “F” in behavior, for example, is not one who I would want to hire or to accept into my university.

    I believe we teach responsibility by actually making them responsible for the work. Timeliness is a part of responsibility, so it should be graded. However, I think we make a mistake when we roll it into an academic grade.

    In practical terms, though, what I’ve seen by taking late work without penalty, and hounding kids for work that hasn’t been turned in (by conferencing with them, and by calling parents), is not only do I get more work from the kids overall, but I get more work turned in on time. I know that sounds wierd, but kids who used to not turn in work at all now turn it in on time because they know I’ll be all over them for having that blank spot in their grades. I really am relentless. I don’t think I teach responsibility by shrugging my shoulders when a kid chooses not to turn work in, and if giving him full credit gives him no excuse for not doing it, even when it is late, then I’m not going to give him an excuse.

  6. drpezz Post author

    I think we also have to admit that many students are not motivated by a grade. How then do we justify using a grade as a carrot or a deterrent for these students?

    Molding behavior does not mean the grade is the only incentive for better behavior, in my opinion. Teaching responsibility and other social skills is still part of jobs, but I don’t believe using an academic penalty for a behavior problem is the answer. Relationships are the key: between teachers, students, and parents.

    I get virtually no late work now that I have the policy of no late work. It seems odd but true. When a student is tardy with an assignment the lateness has decreased greatly because the student can get it in the next day. Before, with a lateness penalty, kids would blow off the assignment and only turn it in when the parent got involved well down the road.

    kaslea82, I also think that the practices may be the problem. In a standards-based grading system, they aren’t part of the grade anyway. Practices simply reveal where students are currently and are used formatively to help students meet mastery on summative assessments. Assessments for learning and assessments of learning are different.

  7. Clix

    What about presentations/performances? If a student wants to do one of those late, do you take class time from other activities to allow them to do so? How do you handle that?

  8. drpezz Post author

    I have the students select their own times from a list of possible times, and the student is held to that choice. However, I always schedule one extra period (after the scheduled list) in case of emergencies; family emergencies, extreme illness, and the like seem to pop up now and again.

    The most effective means of ensuring students present at their scheduled time, in my opinion, is having the students do as much of the preparatory work in class or have checkpoints along the way. A missed checkpoint would result in a parent contact.

    I might have one or two students a year miss the deadline, but it’s a rarity regardless.


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