Late work is of the most annoying classroom management challenges for high school teachers. If your late work policy is not working out for you, there are alternate options. Let’s look at a few of the most common classroom management solutions.
Student: “Can I turn this in?”
Teacher: “When was it due?’
Teacher: “No, I’m sorry. It’s too late.”
Student: “What do you mean? Final exams aren’t until tomorrow!”
Teacher: “Jeremy…it’s December. That assignment was from first nine weeks.”
Student: “Oh. Well, can’t you go back and change the grade?”
Maybe that conversation comes across as comical, but when it happens in real life (and it does), it’s enough to send us into a little bit of a crank fest. Teachers don’t need to spend hours at the end of the quarter or the semester grading a stack of papers a mile high that was due weeks ago. A consistent late work policy helps students to learn responsibility and timeliness…both important skills for real life. What’s more, a late work policy makes classroom management more reasonable.
In today’s post, we’re exploring three different late work policy options for the high school classroom. Needless to say, more than these three policies exist, but they are among the most common that I have witnessed and experienced. If you have a different system that works, please tell us about it in the comments. Help us gather a teacher-tested bank of late work policies to help educators solve one of their most pressing classroom management issues.
Before choosing a course of action, make sure to consider both your teaching philosophy and the expectations of your administration. You will want to have a late work policy that reflects your beliefs about teaching and learning, and you also need to know that your administration will support your decisions regarding students’ grades.
3 COMMON LATE WORK POLICY OPTIONS
Don’t accept late work. Period.
Why? Not accepting late work puts a strong emphasis on the importance of the work you assign. Students know you mean business, and the work from your class should be considered a priority.
Advantages: Students will turn more work in on time because of the urgency. They will learn responsibility and the importance of deadlines. You have no paperwork headaches to deal with. By collecting more work on time, you are able to assess students’ ability with a given topic more quickly.
Disadvantages: Parents will be upset. It penalizes all students, even conscientious ones who make a mistake every once in a while (everyone make mistakes). The zero on the assignment won’t reflect students’ knowledge of course content. Compiling that many zeros will cause some students to give up early in the nine weeks.
Things to consider:
- If you choose to adopt the “no late work ever” policy, I highly encourage you to seek support from your administration and to clearly communicate this policy with parents early and often.
- It might be a good idea to offer students a “Whoopsie!” pass, which students could use once per quarter. That way, every student has four times per year that he or she can legitimately make a mistake and not suffer unwarranted consequences. After all, zeros are detrimental.
- Also, consider the ability of your students. I’ve seen this type of policy successfully used with enriched / advanced high school upper-level classes, but with younger students or at-risk classes, this policy would fail.
- Ask yourself how you will allow students to practice the skills so that they master the content. If we are being honest, most high school students will not complete a late assignment they know they will not receive credit for just to “prepare for the test.”
Deduct a % or a letter grade each day the assignment is late.
Why? This approach offers students an opportunity to earn credit for their work, but there is still a learning experience involved, and students who turned the assignment in on time are rewarded with full credit.
Advantages: More students will be passing the class because they won’t have as many zeros. The fact that students know the percentage or letter grade opportunity declines every day motivates them to turn it in more quickly. This approach is more than justifiable to both parents and administration.
Disadvantages: It’s a little bit of a grading nightmare. Knowing how many days late the assignment would be is usually dependent on the accuracy of the date submitted (which the student typically writes on the paper). If your students are anything like mine, we’re lucky if they write down their name…let alone multiple pieces of information. In addition, because students know they will be able to receive some credit for the assignment, they might wait until the last minute to turn it in.
Things to consider:
- Will you have a cut off? In other words, after a certain date (let’s say a week), will students still be able to turn in the assignment?
- How will you ensure accuracy of the date the student submitted the assignment?
Give a % (let’s say 50%) of credit for all late work within a unit up until the unit test.
Why? Like option 1, this approach is still a major motivator. No one wants a bad grade on an assignment. Yet, the penalty is not so severe that it causes students to fail.
Advantages: It’s simple for teachers to grade late work because it’s all worth the same amount of credit. Students are encouraged to complete their assignments within the window that the information applies to the test.
Disadvantages: A student who turns in the assignment one day late is earning the same amount of credit as the student who submits the assignment two weeks late. With this approach, students still fail the assignment (if you choose to use 50%), but the grade is not as detrimental to their overall score as a zero.
Things to consider:
- What percentage would motivate your students to turn in the assignment?
- What percentage would keep your students passing if they demonstrate understanding of the concept on the assignment (if that’s your goal)?
- Will you automatically give students the predetermined percentage, regardless of accuracy of answers, or will points be deducted from the highest percentage they can possibly earn (for incorrect or incomplete responses)?
Choosing an effective late work policy largely depends on the age, subject, grading system, and track of your students. Teachers need to select a late work policy that encourages independence, responsibility, and work ethic without alienating or punishing students punitively. Which late work policy is the “right” one? The answer is different for each instructor.
What other late work issues and policies come to mind? We’d love to hear your suggestions and questions! Leave your comments, and let’s start discussing.