March 06, 2009

Late Work?

The overarching goal of education is that kids LEARN the material, and let’s face it, not all kids learn at the same pace. I have a unique approach to late work. I encourage students to turn their work in early by offering extra credit incentives. I do charge a 5% penalty to work that is turned in late, but I always accept late work so long as I can grade it before the end of the official grading period. Of course teachers should penalize laziness and irresponsibility, but sometimes that type of behavior can be confused within a struggling student.

I teach heterogeneous classes. My classroom is filled with not just all high school grade levels, but an even broader variety of learning styles and speeds. Some students are very quick in some areas of study, but can be very slow to absorb other aspects of the curriculum. One of my goals is that ALL students learn the curriculum, and giving them an out by making a zero an option is not a sound practice in my opinion. Yes, some students do fall short and will fail to submit all of their work, but those students are the rare exception.

When I assign a major project that will take more that a few days to complete I offer all of the students an early turn in option. If the student turns in their completed project three days early, I offer the 15% extra credit; if two days early, 10% extra credit; if 1 day early 5% extra credit. Then I offer the early birds an addition opportunity to earn points by encouraging them to become a helper. A finished student who helps a struggling student submit their completed work by the due date gets additional flat rate extra credit points.

For students who are tardy in their submission I do charge a 5% late fee. But this fee does not grow with the number of days it takes to complete the work. There are many reasons why students do not turn their work in on time. Only one of those reasons is laziness. Telling a student that they can either turn the work in on time, or not, gives the languid student permission to not complete their work. If they are not completing the work, they probably are not learning, or at least, I can’t tell if they are learning.

I have to admit that assessment is my least favorite part of teaching. I really enjoy reviewing the students work and offering them constructive criticism. But I hate the hours upon hours that it takes to grade, and having to write the same note over and over and over again on multiple students’ rubrics. But assessment is a fundamentally important aspect of education. We need to know what the students need to learn and when they have learned it. Yes, it makes me cranky to grade late work, but my crankiness is less important then the students’ learning the material.


  1. Interesting... I hadn't thought of it quite like that before. (The part about, " the languid student permission to not complete their work.")

  2. Great points. I will accept work all the way up the end of the grading period as well. If figure that's it better to turn it in late than not turn it in at all. Of course, some of my students don't even take that opportunity and I don't penalize them for the late work (although it's something I probably should do).

  3. I take a different approach, in part because I teach AP classes and if the student is getting weighted credit and possible college credit I believe they need to be held to a higher standard. I take late work but I take points off for each day it is late. I also do not take any late work once it has shown up on the progress report. We give progress reports every 3 weeks and report cards every 6 weeks. So if something was due in the first three weeks of the grading period once it gets to the 4th week I no longer accept it. They can rewrite essays for a better grade and retake tests for a better grade as well. I also give extra points for turning projects in early and if they stay for tutoring.

  4. I really like this system. It seems to fit the reality of life better as well. I've thought about that concept before. If someone fails to pay their mortgage, the bank won't say, "Oh well, you failed." They'll say, "Turn it in late, but you'll be penalized." Why can't a classroom have a similar system?

    I have a similar system. I take two percent off per week. If it's eight weeks late, it's sixteen percent off. If it's a week late, it's only two percent. I have a few students who genuinely take longer and I don't take any points off. It might seem "unfair" by I think it's an equitable solution.

  5. I love this so much I am going to STEALIE IT for next year!

  6. I love grading and writing notes on papers! Am I a complete freak? The red pen is my best friend.

    However, students don't fear my red pen. I remember my grandmother's adage: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Good papers are covered in just as much red ink as not-so-good ones, full of phrases like "great use of metaphor" or "you make a really interesting point here."

    Comments are a terrific opportunity to communicate individually with students--communication which would never occur if I had to schedule face-to-face time. And from what I've seen, lots of comments yield positive results.