Repairing Grading One Fix at a Time – part 2

This is the second in a series of posts devoted to sharing my experiences in a Standards Based Grading classroom. Each is focused on one ‘fix’ for broken grades from Ken O’Connor’s book A Repair Kit for Grading – 15 Fixes for Broken Grades. (O’Connor, 2011)

Fix #2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late; provide support for the learner.

Late work…the bane of a teacher’s existence. What to do when students aren’t timely with their work? How is timeliness given the weight and importance it deserves if I am not including it in their grade?

In my experiences with kids, students who are late with their work are late regardless of whether it is a part of their grade. There is usually some underlying issue that is causing the tardiness; kids want to meet the deadlines you set and know they are important.  But could it be that something is going on outside of school impacting their focus or the amount of time they are able to devote to work? Does the student simply need more time to complete the assignment well? I am definitely not arguing that deadlines shouldn’t be set or enforced in some way. When a student is late with their work, it warrants a conversation. As with anything else, relationships are what matter in schools and classrooms. Talking with students to problem solve and determine goals for future assignments will encourage them to rise to the occasion so much more than some type of punitive grade.

When late work is assigned a reduced grade, academic achievement is not reported with accuracy. Grades should report where students are in relation to the standard(s) at that moment in time. A ‘no tolerance’ policy for late work with reduced grades or zeros has several detrimental effects. It will work against student motivation – some students will stop trying when they feel there is no way to pass. It communicates that this assignment is not important enough to complete or that the content or skill is not important enough to practice. It tells students that you, as a teacher, value compliance over learning.

Students don’t know less because they hand-in something 3 days after it was due, but if we lower the grade that’s what we’re saying. – Tom Schimmer

But they will have to have everything on time to be successful adults, right? No, adults frequently complete tasks late. This doesn’t mean that an employer doesn’t want assigned work completed. Deadlines are often mutually decided upon and employees still must complete the work they were given. If the work was assigned, it is important to complete it well. This holds true in education as well – if the assignment was important enough to give, then it is important enough for all students to complete. I would much rather have a student produce quality work that demonstrates their level of proficiency than something completed haphazardly just to get it in on time.

How do we solve the problem of late work? Meet students where they are. Help them understand the importance of the work they are undertaking. Don’t take no for an answer with regard to finishing quality assignments. Agree to deadlines jointly with students to guide the learning process.

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