Sunday, November 26, 2006

Evaluating My Late Work Policy

What do we do when a student is failing? True, this is a vague question. We want more information in order to evaluate what should be done.
Before school started this year, our staff discussed ways that we can help reduce the growing number of students who are failing classwork. The one corner of the discussion that received a great deal of attention was the idea of whether to accept late work. The rationale behind allowing late work was that it allows us to grade what the students actually know, and not their work ethic. In theory, I agree.
So, I reworked my late work policy to allow students to turn in late work, but at a price. I used the credit card like system where the more assignments turned in late, the more interest the student paid--with the maximum I'd take away set at around 50%.
After a quarter of the year, I've finshed evaluating this concept. It sucks. It has turned out to be a terrible idea for two reasons. The first is that I've created a management nightmare for myself. Perhaps a teacher whose annual goal isn't to become better at organization could pull this off, but for me, it isn't working. And yet, I can't use that alone as the reason to toss out the idea. That would be selfish. Remember, we need to be about the best interest of the students, and tossing that idea out would be to merely make my life easier.
But the second reason borders between both selfish and in the best interest of the students. Next year, when my Pre-College Senior venture off to whatever university or college they choose, many professors will scoff at the belief that essays can be turned in on the student's time table. The result of my new method is a rise in students who turn work in late. Again, this creates a management nightmare for me.
It means that I have to e-mail parents more often. It means that I have to remind students to get work done. It means that weeks after I've finished grading the assignment, I have to return to it. Believe me, that is not always an enjoyable time.
So, now I wonder what has been gained by accepting late work to satisfy my administration and to hold to an ideal. Is my policy really benefiting the students?
To the extent that they may still receive credit, sure, it helps. But as I turned in grades for the first quarter, and still had about the same number of students failing as I have in the past, I couldn't help but wonder if it's worth the hassle.


At 7:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Andrew.
First, great to run into you at Starbucks with the Tater Tot the other day! Serendipity!

Second, I can only say that from my little corner of the world, accepting late work IS a nightmare. What I hate more about it than anything? NOT BEING DONE WITH A SET OF PAPERS and HAVING TO GO BACK AND DO ANOTHER ONE!

Bleeeech. I like to get them finished and move on to the next. I hate trickling-in papers.

Love ya,

At 7:47 PM , Blogger Amerloc said...

I won't say that it worked any better than any other system, but any work I received after the due date got a "D." A low "D." Much of the time (but not all of the time - I tried to look often enough to keep them honest) I didn't even look at it - just slapped a 60% on it, recorded it, and went on to tomorrow.

It gave the kids one less opportunity to complain about whether late work - for whatever lame excuse - was acceptable or not, while not truly increasing my paperwork burden at all measurably.

And that almost-an-F 60%? It didn't take most of them long to figure out that it really hurt.

Bottom line? Each of us has to figure out what works for us.

At 8:52 PM , Blogger Mr. C. said...

I teach office applications and programming at high school in the Texas Panhandle. I can also truly say that late work is the bane of many a teacher's existence (behind all that regular grading of course!). I used to be so diligent about 10 points for the first day late, 20 points for the second day late, 30 points for the third day late, etc., etc., etc. But now I've just been worn down so much that I also just put an obligatory grade on it and go on with life. Many times, late work is scrutinized less than work turn in right on time.

I'm sure I have a selective memory but I do NOT remember it being such a big deal when I was in high school. Then again, I wasn't active in football, band, musical, church, Student Council, Key Club, etc., etc. ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Many times it's the kids that are constantly gone on school-sanctioned activities that are the worst about turning in late work.

At 9:57 AM , Blogger Ms Otto said...

I took an interesting class this summer with Ken O'Connor,the author of Grading For Learning. His philosophy on grading in general is markedly different from the traditional methods... but, he makes some tremendously good points.

One key point of his work is that summative and formative work should be treated very differently... namely, only summative work should go in the gradebook. Formative (i.e. practice) work is for practice... by all means, keep track as to whether kids turned work in, but if they bomb the first couple of math assignments, don't count it against them... if they catch on and get an A on the test, their failed attempts shouldn't be held against them, and if they don't practice and bomb the test, the penalty for missing work is hardly necessary. Or, if their rough draft sucks, but their final paper rocks... why count the practice draft against them?

I liked his ideas, but was wary of implementing a "missing work doesn't hurt your grade" policy with my at-risk freshmen... so I took another of his ideas, which is that behavior and grades are SEPARATE entities, and created a policy that if you are not turning in your work, it's a bad behavior (just like tardies or talking in class) and will earn you a detention (not a zero in the gradebook).

And... I have never had so few missing assignments!! Turns out my "slacker" kids, who are perfectly content getting a zero, because half the time a D is good enough, absolutely don't want to have to come in after school to make up missing work... so, fewer missed "practice" assignments and better quiz scores!

I recommend O'Connor's ideas... my experiment was certainly successful!

At 11:59 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Ms. Otto,
I've read O'Connor's book. My district has a love affair with him. His ideas certainly are valid, but I find that theory and practice are often very different. In terms of formative and summative, I don't give a lot of formative work to my Pre-College Seniors. Every essay or test is essential.

At 8:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Keep up the good posts. Toner

At 5:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The purpose of education is to prepare you for life. Life is full of deadlines.

Our school district has "homework hall," if you don't turn in your work you get sent to the cafeteria at the end of the day to finish your work and must take the late bus home. Skip homework hall and you get detention and a 0. Sadly a few of my kids op for detention.

I've enjoyed poking around your blog. Very well written and thought provoking.

At 7:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great discussion. I'm eager to read "Grading for Learning." I'm not teaching anymore, but we're having issues with my daughter's 5th grade teacher, who does not accept late work. Her idea of late work is an assignment that is turned in later in the day than the scheduled time for that subject - and then she takes 10 points off. My very bright but completely disorganized daughter is failing most of her subjects because she keeps forgetting to turn her papers in. We find them in her backpack and send them with her the next day, and the teacher doesn't accept it. I agree that this is a behavior issue and should not be affecting her grade this much. I'm perfectly okay with taking points off, but a zero every time? She says she's trying to prepare them for middele school, but I didn't even have college professors that harsh! Does anyone have any other resources that provide recommendations or research into this topic regarding elementary or middle school age students?

At 1:18 PM , Blogger Amber said...

Hi! I am a undergrad student at the University of Utah. I was researching for a paper and found your blog! Thanks for the great topic and all the comments. I am writing a paper on my philosophy of late work. I think this will be interesting to compare to when I'm not a student. Right now I am working 30 hours a week and taking 15 credits, so I know the stresses of being a student. I think this makes me more sympathatic to the students. Again, it will be interesting to see if my perspective changes when I have been a teacher for a few years. : )Thanks again!

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