Monday, August 25, 2014

Does late work deserve a reduced grade?

A battle that continues to rage in schools all across the globe is the battle about what to do when students turn their work in late.

One camp is going to make comments like this: 

What about student ACCOUNTABILITY? What are we teaching them? What are they learning? Just turn it in whenever they decide. Deadlines really don’t matter. We are suppose to be educating them, not just on subject content.

Why shouldn’t students be penalized if they can’t meet a deadline? What incentive is there for a student to turn work in on time if there is no penalty?

The IRS doesn’t care about deadlines, right? Your boss doesn’t care about deadlines, either. Work at McDonald’s? There is no deadline for making that Big Mac, right? You can take 4 hours to make it if you want.

Do you think a college professor is going to accept a paper WHENEVER IT’S CONVENIENT for the student? How are we preparing students for the “real world?"

Why don’t the little darlings just do what they’re supposed to and turn the work in on time? Enough of this pandering to spoiled brats.

The other camp is going to make comments like this: 

What’s the point of a letter grade students get at the end of the term? Shouldn’t it indicate the mastery of the subject matter? If so, why shouldn’t teachers accept late work?

Penalties for late work distort the accuracy of the grade which has the sole purpose of communicating academic progress and mastery toward a particular standard.

It’s a false assumption that students build moral fiber and respect for deadlines by slapping them with an “F” or a 0” for work not done. This teaches nothing but resentment and cheating. 

Teachers turn things in late all the time, as do workers in every profession. The idea that you can't get away with turning work in late in the real-world isn't true.

To say it must all be done at the same level of quality as everyone else by this one particular day of this particular week flies in the face of all we know about how humans learn. We all learn at different rates and at different times.

As you can see, there are great points being made on both sides... 

But if in the end, we expect and want our grades to accurately and precisely reflect what a student is able to do when it comes to a particular standard or learning objective, then we can't and shouldn't reduce a student's grade based on when the student turns the work in. Obviously we have quarters and semesters when we eventually have to finish out our grades, but until that date students should receive some sort of 'incomplete' or 'not yet assessed' to ensure overall grade accuracy.

As educators, we should teach responsibility and accountability, but those need to be separate and not tied to a student's academic mastery grade. Academic indicators must be kept separate from non-academic indicators to ensure the accuracy and fidelity of both.

Check out Rick Wormeli's thoughts on late work below: