13 August 2011

Rethinking "late" work

After a busy but fun month of traveling here and there on vacation, it's back to school and back to the blog! We teachers have been at school this past week, and the kids come back Monday. Where did that summer go?

One goal I accomplished this summer was reading The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn. While I do not share Kohn's apparent view that kids are generally angels who are being failed by everyone and if they were just in the right environment they'd all do the right thing and achieve all the right things (a biased summary, you can tell), I applaud and stand with him on so many aspects of traditional educational models that just make no sense. And this is from someone trained and drilled in "if the one-room schoolhouse was good enough for them...".

As I read this book, and discussed related topics on #langchat, I have become increasingly frustrated with late work policies and other issues that invalidate grades. I've had students turn in exemplary work, but I have to give them an F because it's a week late. To me, that is academically punishing a student for something that is not an academic problem.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that very few times in my life have I had a deadline that, if not met exactly, was a disaster. Even the water company gives me up to 2 days late to pay my bill. Now, I understand that it's a life skill to learn to budget time, plan for when things are due, etc. But also, what about when life happens? When Grandma's sick and everyone's at the ER until 2 AM? When the alarm didn't go off and I wake up five minutes before school? When because my teachers don't talk to each other I have a book review, research paper, chem test, and Spanish presentation all on the same day?

At my school, we used to have a late work policy. Everyone had to use it.
1 day late : -25%
2 days late : -50%
3rd day: Zero

If you use zeroes, you know how they kill a student's average and quickly make it impossible to bring up the grade.

Last year they let us set our own late work policy, and this was mine:
1 day late : -25%
2 days late : -50%
after 2 days until the end of the quarter : -75%
At the end of the quarter, I was forced to finalize grades and thus, to give a zero.

This is my new late work policy. Let me know what you think.
Students can turn in up to 2 assignments up to 2 days late per quarter with no penalty.
After 2 days late, the student will be dismissed to the library to complete the assignment for 60% credit and cannot return to class until it is finished, but will be responsible for all missed work.

I'm trying so hard to find a balance between grace, training, and trust. I'll let you know how it works.


Vicki Swinger said...

Having a school policy that strict really pidgeon-holes the teachers and the students. One size does NOT fit all.

I've totally revamped my policy as well, but it was after reading and meeting the authors of Power of ICU (Danny Hill and Dr. Jayson Nave).


In this book, Hill and Nave actually lay out a system for students who need the support.
I'm not a big homework teacher anyway, but I hate to grade late work. The truth is...it's not about me. Now, although I deduct a few points, I don't allow it to affect their grade.

Very thought provoking...thanks!

Bethanie said...

I've also revamped my policy in recent years. Homework can't count for more than 10% of a student's grade due to board policy, but the notion of doing homework at the end of the semester that was assigned months ago just to get a grade has never set well with me. My current plan for most assignments: due when assigned, and I quickly check it for completion, but the student will need to be edited for accuracy. All homework will be turned in on the day of the final assessment for that unit, and must be accurate. That gives students a second chance to "make up" missed assignments with a small penalty for not having them done at the assigned date, but still encourages them to do the work and do it well. I generally will not accept work after the end of the unit that addresses those assignments. For levels 1-2 they have homework about 2-3 days a week; for upper levels it's less, because we have a stronger emphasis on project-based learning.


Sra Cottrell said...

I like it - it sounds good. :) Although I think homework should be less and activity-based at all levels. My students' homework consists of 1) blogging once a week and 2) completing a reading guide about once every 7 school days.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in knowing how that policy works for you. I like it, except maybe the being dismissed to the library part. I know I have had students in the past who would have been in the library most days, and had no chance of catching up because they had missed all of the in-class instruction... Homework policies are always trial and error, aren't they?! I definitely like the giving of two days' grace on two assignments.

Sra Cottrell said...

So far so good, but we're only three weeks in. It seems like students really don't want to "use up" their 2 freebies so no late work yet. Also, I don't usually assign work that couldn't be completed in one sitting in the library, and our librarian is good about keeping an eye on students. :) I'll let you know when it's closer to the end of the quarter - that will tell us more how it works. :)

Julie and Jayme said...

Branching off your example of paying the water bill...

What if instead of deducting points and making them "pay" less, what if you make them "pay" more? For example, to earn the opportunity to turn in the assignment late, they must do an additional assignment or an additional component to the first assignment. (If you had them make a picture dictionary of ten vocabulary words, instead that student must do fifteen. If they had to write about three family memebers now they have to write about five, etc.) I do agree that homework grades can make or break a student's average.