The Life of Bon: Should Students Be Allowed to Hand in Late Work?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Should Students Be Allowed to Hand in Late Work?

Lately in our school district there has been some talk of switching to a standards based grading system.  Basically, a student gets good grades when she proves that she can reach the standards, not when she turns in a bunch of assignments.  This means less worksheets, less busy work, and much more emphasis on effective assessments.  If a student fails to meet the standard then she fails to pass the class.  It sounds pretty great, right?  I am all about it because it cuts out tons of little grading assignments for teachers and puts the focus back on teaching and focusing on the core standards.

Of course the idea of something and the practice of something are often two very different things.  Once we started really thinking about what it would mean to do standards based grading a few potentially sucky situations presented themselves.  They always do, those little rascals!

Potentially sucky situation #1:
Standards based grading would mean no more extra credit.  Either students can meet the standard or they can't.  Extra credit isn't going to help them either way.  While I personally wouldn't mind a bit if we axed extra credit completely, plenty of parents and students would be upset.  They rely on extra credit to get them to the grades they want and I don't know if teachers and administrators would ever hear the end of it.

Potentially sucky situation #2:
Standards based grading would mean a student can do an assignment over.  And over.  And over.  I have no problem with a student doing work until she gets it right.  I do have a problem, however, grading that student's work until she gets it right.  I have 100 students now. (And I am part time!  The full time faculty has closer to 200 students).  That's 100 essays I read.  100 research papers.  Let's say the students, on average, redo the research paper twice.  That now means that instead of reading 100 research papers (takes me about 10 hours of grading), I am now reading 300 research papers- 30 hours of grading.  Also, if students are allowed to redo an assignment over and over until they reach the standard, where does the motivation to do it well the first time come in?  Wouldn't they just hand in pure crap so that I can correct everything for them?

Potentially sucky situation #3- the suckiest of them all:
Standards based grading would mean a student is not penalized for late work.  A student could hand work in anytime during the quarter and receive full credit.  Meeting the standard and proving that she has that knowledge and ability is our priority- not when she turned something in.  We say high school is to prepare students for the "real world"; the argument has been brought forth that not allowing students to turn late work in is not like the real world at all.  In the real world I can pay my bill late, I can come to a meeting late, I can pay the mortgage late.  Therefore, not allowing students to turn work in late is actually much more severe than the real world.  Or so the argument goes.

This is the part of standards based grading that terrifies me.  If I am allowing students to redo assignments and to hand assignments in whenever they want without penalty, my workload has just intensified dramatically.  Almost of my writing assignments have rubrics- I can't imagine the end of the quarter, with countless assignments coming in from different times of the quarter and me trying to remember the criteria for all assignments and grade them accordingly.  Not to mention trying to regrade work and remember why it was docked points in the first place and how much they have improved since their last go around.

Right now my late policy is this- every day an assignment is late it is docked 10%.  The latest they can hand an assignment in is one week.  After a week they lose the opportunity to do the work.  At the end of each quarter I do give students a three day "grace period".  Students can choose any one assignment from the quarter and redo it or do it for the first time for 75% credit.  For many students, my late policy is challenging- so so many struggle to get work in on time.

My solution is to allow students to hand work in late, but to charge them $1 for every day it's late or for every paper that has to be regraded. Just like I get charged when my mortgage is late! The money from the late work is a bonus for the teachers. That way students have a non-grade based incentive to get work in on time and teachers are not upset about the extra work they have to do to grade and regrade all the assignments.  I know this would never happen in a million years in public education but gosh, I wish it would.  In college, my tests were offered for four days.  If I chose to take the test on the last day I had to pay $5.  It'd be similar to that, except that the teachers would get to keep the money to reward them for all their never ending patience, sweetness and hard work.  Or something like that.

I am interested to hear from those of you with kids in school.  Are you kids allowed to hand work in late?  And do you think they should be?  Would you prefer that there were no late policy- that students were graded simply for meeting a standard and were not penalized for when they met that standard?  What are teachers' policies that are hard for you to follow or that you don't agree with?

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