Repair Kit Fix 2: Late Work

On to fix 2: Don’t reduce marks on “work” submitted late, provide support for the learner.

Ok first impression on this fix is why is work in quotations?  That may seem like a nitpicky thing but I am a detail person.  Next thought is “but that’s not fair to kids who do the work on time, there has to be a consequence!”  Maybe that consequence needs to be something else.  After reading through Fix 1 and the vignette I’m beginning to see that maybe I need to consider the tardiness of a student to class a behavior that needs to be addressed.  I do believe there has to be a consequence.  I mean if you pay your bill late you pay a penalty.  The question is what kind of consequence should result from this behavior?  Maybe the book will have some suggestions.  See my mind is already changing…interesting.

On page 24 The following caught my attention “Many teachers believe they need a policy with penalties to attempt to ensure that students turn in work on time so the teacher can maintain the pace of instruction necessary to meet tight curriculum requirements.”

Yes exactly! So many subjects scaffold, each topic builds on the one before it and if kids miss or don’t understand a lesson it can cause trouble later on.  This is actually why I started grading papers in class with the students.  I have heard people say that teachers who do this are lazy, making their students do their work for them, this statement irritates me because I have a good reason for having my students grade their own work in class.  My first year I graded everything myself and yes it was time consuming and stressful but I did it.  During my second year of teaching while grading I began to notice that students were making the same mistakes over and over again after they should have learned the topic.  When grading papers for students in multiple subject areas or a hundred plus students in just one subject area you sometimes fall behind no matter how hard you try to stay caught up.  I switched to having my students grading in class and when we came across  an item several students missed I could go to the board and immediately reteach the concept.  This resulted in fewer questions missed later on.  Yes grading this way saved some time but as I collected the work to look through and record it in my grade book it didn’t save as much time as you would think.

OK that was way off track wasn’t it but the concern stands if students turn in work late it makes it difficult for teachers to assess their skill and knowledge to make sure they don’t get lost as we keep teaching.

“The same student who is late with work in week 2 is frequently late in weeks 18 and 36.” (page 25)  This is so true and taking points away from the score does not change the result in most students.  Yes there are students who are conscientious enough that losing points for one late score is enough that it never happens again.  On the whole though, those students who chronically turn in late work don’t change their habits because they receive a lower grade.  So why keep doing it.  There’s a quote “Keep doing what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  I think that applies here.

My main argument for late grade penalties has always been that it prepares kids for the real world, life as an adult where deadlines are deadlines and there are consequences if you don’t meet them.  The book points out however that responsible adults “communicate with the person or institution to whom we are responsible to arrange a new mutual agreement and then work to meet it.” (page 25)  I like the idea of having a mix of deadlines some hard and fast while others are flexible and teaching students how to approach a teacher respectfully to request an extension.  Though this still leaves me wondering about consequences for the behavior.

“Students who are late with important assessment evidence could be required to come in before school, at lunchtime, or after school where they will receive both the assistance and time they need.” (page 26)  I’m all for this approach but it does require parental backing and support which is not there in students with this problem about half of the time in my experience, may be more or less for other teachers.

Student Involvement:

“Teacher…should encourage the student to acknowledge the lateness and request an extension and/or suggest other appropriate consequences.” (page 27)

This feels like it would need to be something we would train students to do.  Maybe offer forms or form notes to fill out at the younger grades or simply at the beginning of the year shifting to the student taking more responsibility for the request.  You could also sit down with the class and brainstorm a list of possible consequences, this could be done in conjunction with the setting of class rules and writing of class constitution that is done in so many elementary school classrooms.  For middle school or high school it may need to be a school wide policy or set by teacher if only in that teacher’s classroom.


“Students were told that if they submitted on or before due date we would return the project by the next class and provide extensive feedback…Students could revise up to the date of the final exam.” (page 28)

I really like this idea but I wonder how that would work logistically.  This is for college classes and I wonder how many students they had, how many took advantage of this, then I wonder how would this transfer to elementary, middle or high school?  Maybe only allow redo on certain assignments/projects?

Policy Example:

I like the specific example of policy given in the book.  Some of the consequences are ones I have used before in conjunction with points penalties: call home, students come before or after school, missing/late work sheet filled out (though not a contract as in this policy). I like the possibility of students being pulled from co-curricular/extra-curricular commitments until work is complete.

Ok time for my final thoughts on this fix.  Obviously I had a lot more to say because this was a fix I was skeptical about when I first heard it.  I’m now convinced late assignments should be graded as normal to provide the most accurate picture of the student’s learning while the behavior receives a consequence.  When I get into a classroom position again I will create flexible deadlines for some assignments and firm deadlines for others with plenty of advanced warning on those.  I will also teach my students how to ask for an extension should they need one.

So what do you think?  Have you changed your mind?  Are you curious to learn more and maybe read this fix yourself?