Responsibility and Reasonableness

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the grey area between a no late work policy and allowing students to do the appropriate work to salvage their grades. I understand that grades and all of that can be a controversial issue on their own, but for now, let’s look past that.

Currently, my rule is that students must turn work in on time, small assignments cannot be turned in late for any credit (exception of “gimme” – lowest small grade dropped) while larger assignments lose one letter grade (A, A-, B+, etc) per school day late. Beyond that, I do allow a week to make up work from an absence UNLESS it is known in advance (especially excused absences for sports/field trips).  

I consider myself a reasonable person (who doesn’t, right?).  I have certainly been known to bend my own rules for extenuating circumstances but mostly if students come to me BEFORE the class begins and the assignment is due. This may mean an email explaining the situation or perhaps the student can come and talk to me before school.  But when students don’t care enough to ask for help/grace ahead of time, I struggle to sympathize as much with the situation.

When it comes to these issues, is it better or worse for the students to offer continued extensions and permission? What happens when you have already returned the work and they now have 100 graded assignments to glean information from? (I don’t know about you, but the student network at my school is phenomenal!)

What does it tell students when we accept work late? Yes, it stresses the importance of the content itself. I get that and have a lot of respect for it. BUT what else?

When we say “No, you need to come to class prepared.” “But….” “You could have come to me to ask if anything was due or to tell me about your computer problems or” “Yeah. That’s true.” – Do you think this can have a positive effect? That maybe students will be more conscientious? Or will they just say it’s not fair and move on? Honestly, I’m unsure. I cannot help but be optimistic.

One of these days, I think I would like to discuss with my students what their understanding of the importance of completing work in a timely manner is. I wonder if they know they could lose jobs or go to jail (think taxes, bills, etc) or if they believe due dates are purely arbitrary in the so called real world.

What are your experiences with this area? Do you think students benefit more from strict policies or more from leniency? Where is the balance between the two that offers students the most benefits? How do you enforce this in your classroom?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jennifer on September 30, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    A school that I work with is making the switch to a standards-based report card and what you talked about was at the heart of much conversation. Eventually, the teachers reached the decision that if a child was going to be penalized for not being responsible for their work, that’s how they were going to be penalized – in other words, they built a firewall between the students’ grades for content and effort. There is also a separate grade for community, both broken down into very specific rubrics that talk about what it looks like to be responsible and steps a student can take to be more responsible or a better member of the school community. We’re testing it now – will be interesting to see how students and parents respond to the final version on the report card.

    Reply

  2. My perception is different simply because I don’t grade assignments, only assessments. If a student does or does not do their daily work makes me no difference simply because it is a tool for them to learn the content I want them to learn. Obviously, I try to make sure that any learning experience I give them will benefit them learning the content. I also try hard to differentiate how they learn the material (a different subject as well.)

    I am afraid that your explanation of why they need to turn in work probably won’t be successful because you know, I know, and they definitely know that they won’t lose their “job” or go to jail simply by not turning in work. Most kids are relatively pragmatic in this aspect.

    Reply

  3. My late work policy on homework works like this:

    First, I don’t give a lot of homework. There is one assignment per chapter and it’s the TOP 10 best questions from the chapter. I don’t mess with busy work. (They also have vocabulary quizzes, so they have that as homework as well to prep for those, but I don’t collect anything from them on vocab – just the quiz.)

    I give the assignment at the beginning of the chapter. They typically have a week to 10 days to get it done. There is a due date. I accept the work one day late for no penalty.

    After that they get a 50 when they turn it in (which is an F). If they come in for after school tutoring they can raise the grade to a possible 85. This is done through “oral defense” or questioning by me on the homework. They must know it completely and 100% just to get an 85.

    If the work is never finished it is a Z in our gradebook which means – did not attempt. Those grades equate to a zero.

    I have found that this system works great for me, for my kids and for the kind of culture we have at our school. My main objective with homework is for students to show that they have learned the material. I grade every question and each is worth 10 points. It is not ‘completion.’

    Reply

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