Tag Archives: late work

Does it work?

I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of educators recently about late work. Feelings regarding the impact of late work on grades run deep with teachers. Many believe that students will not complete work on time if there is no penalty on their grade. They feel this teaches them the importance of timeliness. That it teaches them to be responsible.

The best question I can think to ask when talking about penalizing grades from late work is:

Does it work?

If you have reduced marks for late work, did the student make sure to turn in all work on time from that point on? As I asked this, I saw heads shaking in the audience. This can be a huge realization for teachers. They have never considered whether their late work policies are producing the intended results. These penalties were written to encourage a certain behavioral outcome which in most cases did not happen.

That is the heart of the matter. Although this practice seems logical, it simply doesn’t work. The kids who are late with their work are usually late no matter what happens to their grade. What does work is forming relationships with students. Find out why the assignments are habitually late. Develop a plan to complete work on time and hold them to it. Check in with them frequently. Show care about their learning. Let them know they can always come to you and talk about revising the plan if necessary.

In my classroom experience, these strategies worked. They worked diligently to meet deadlines and spoke with me personally when they couldn’t meet them. We developed plans for some who needed additional structure. We valued learning over due dates.

As my friend Brian Durst (@RESP3CTtheGAME) tells his students, “It’s due when it’s done.”

How do you handle late work? Does it produce the intended outcomes? Share your experiences and we all grow.

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.

The ‘Oops Card’

Sometimes you search and search for inspiration to write…other times it simply arrives home in your son’s pencil bag.




The Oops Card

Hmmm…this was a hard one for me to swallow. I agree that kids make mistakes, and have ‘oops’ moments. Actually, we all do and perfection is just not possible or desirable for that matter. If we are perfect, what’s left to learn? In my opinion, communication is everywhere and in everything. Let’s take a closer look at what this card says to students.

This card considers a late homework assignment. Homework is obviously graded, yet formative work should not be scored. Why create a high stakes learning environment by grading everything? Why make a judgement about proficiency when this is a check point during the journey? Do we want kids to be concerned with points and perfection or with learning? Learning is risk taking which has the potential for failure. How do we want students to view this process?

According to the card, the late homework must turned in the following day to receive any credit. A zero is stated as the punishment or repercussion if the procedure is not carried out. Tardiness with work is a behavior (although not a preferred one). Including this in the grading process makes students nervous and fearful of making a mistake. Do we care when students learn or that they learn? Afford students the opportunity to make mistakes. Talk with them about how to make a better decision in the future. Help them get there.

Is a student responsible if they don’t use the card? My son did not use his card last quarter even though he missed one assignment. Does this say that he is irresponsible or simply that he is a child who can forget things at times? Let’s face it, middle school students forget sometimes. As long as it is not a consistent problem there is no need to worry or penalize a student. Did I want my son to use the card? No, but the choice was his. I was proud of his decision.

Oh, the monster of extra credit. Awarding students extra credit at the end of a marking period for not using the card has absolutely nothing to do with their academic achievement. Even so, what would 15 points do for a student who has been very compliant with homework throughout the quarter? My guess is not much. Would it help with a student who consistently struggles to turn in work on time? Nope. I adamantly disagree with extra credit for so many reasons that it most likely warrants an additional blog post.

Cards like this do not communicate the importance of learning to students. They switch the focus to compliance, points, scores, and grades. According to the card, it is acceptable to make one mistake per quarter, and it must be resolved in one day. After that, perfection is the expectation. This is not realistic. This is not learning.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments and continue the discussion.