I accept late work for full credit

There.  I said it. I accept late work for full credit literally until the day I submit grades.

I know there are detractors to this policy, even in my building.  They say, “It teaches bad habits.  Students must learn deadlines!  The real world doesn’t work that way!”  I don’t actually disagree.  I would like my students to only have good habits, and the real world does have deadlines.

This is school.  My job is to teach a year of material to my students. Period.  Technically, its hard to find due dates in my class.  I will say things like, “I will collect this at the end of the period” or “bring this completed tomorrow” and I expect the students to submit the work.  Every week we have a quiz, and the feedback on the regular classwork helps them on the quiz.  That’s their payoff for timeliness.  So, I do accept work late, but if you turn it in late, you probably will fall behind.

Here are the things that are the biggest factors in my “late” work policy:

  1.  If it is worth doing, its worth doing late.I only assign things that are worth doing.  I assign them because I want you to know and understand the material.  None of it is filler.
  2. If they do the work, then I want to give them credit for doing it.
  3. Turning things in when asked for means they get valuable feedback.  I want students to learn the value of managing their learning, and that an assignment is an opportunity to learn, and not just an opportunity to earn points.

Is accepting work late more work?  I don’t actually think so.  I try to set up my assessment of work so it take less than a minute for most items (because hey, when you have to grade a hundred of the same thing…) The students who turn in work “late” usually do for only a couple reasons:

  • Forgot it/left in locker/left at home
  • Was sick/absent
  • Didn’t want to (or in a few cases, just completely checked out for a month)

So, in the first case I’m looking at deducting points not for the quality of their work, but for their organizational skills.  In the second, I do have to give students who were absent (even if it was unexcused) the number of days plus one to turn in their late work.  That would take me so much more time to figure out than it takes to just grade their work.  And the last case, well, a student who thinks they’re going to fail will NEVER try in your class.  What’s the point?

Story time.

Our amazing administrators (actually, our junior high and high school vice principals) have started Saturday School.  Based on the data I saw yesterday, Saturday School is a powerful deterrent for behavior violations in our building.  I have sent students straight to Saturday School for using cell phones in my class. (I am so grateful to my admin backs me up on that!)  While at Saturday School, students “have the opportunity” to make up late or missing work.  Many teachers say, “No!  I don’t take late work!” (citing bad habits and a lesson in personal responsibility), but not me.  I had a student who had not turned anything in all quarter, and his name came up on the Saturday School list. During class on Friday, I confirmed with him that he would be at Saturday school, and told him I would leave work for him and I expected to see it Monday, and Monday, I would give him full credit for all his work. I stayed late after school Friday, putting together a copy of every assignment he missed, printed copies of my science notebook, a textbook, and a box of school supplies just like we have in class.  I was delighted that he came into school Saturday, participated, and by Monday had completed almost all the work he hadn’t turned in the rest of the month.  (This happened again with another student a few weeks later.)  He passed the quarter, based on his work, despite not being good at keeping up the beginning of the year.

I know some districts are moving toward policies where students “can’t get a zero”.  Many people – teachers, parents, the public – are often outraged about this.  Here’s why these policies happen: when students realize they can’t pass, mathematically, they become a behavior problem.  They quit working entirely, lose interest, and distract other students during class time.  Allowing students to turn in work late means that when they realize they are about to be held accountable for their time (usually the last week before parents get a report – for me, twice a quarter) the ones who have not been paying attention start to work.  If I said, “nope, no credit for late work”, then not only would these students not bother to learn the material, they would just count the quarter as lost and try again next time – or worse, they figure if they failed first semester they’ll fail the whole course and the last semester is a bear.

My goal is for my students to learn the material.  My goal is for them to learn the value of keeping up with a course.  Some students even ask if they can redo an assignment and turn it in for more points.  There is great educational value to reviewing your own work, and I usually allow this (particularly for daily work and notebook checks, but not for quizzes.)

So what have I gained?  I have students who sometimes take an extra day on an assignment because they want to do a better job.  Students who are busting their butts at the middle and end of each quarter before grades are due. Students who know I’m there for the material and to teach them to learn, rather than deduct points for technicalities.  I have students who might fall behind but still try to catch up.  My students will learn a lot, and they won’t fail for making mistakes that children make.

9 thoughts on “I accept late work for full credit

  1. I’m conflicted on this but I have a similar philosophy. At the college level I think I really do need to hold them more accountable, but I really would rather them do the work than not bother because the point is to learn something, not to just be busy.

    1. When I taught at the university level, I made myself feel better about this by making everything due towards the end of the quarter (basically, so I had time to grade it) but also had incentives to early submission. If it was submitted by a certain date, I promised “feedback”, and gave them other suggested dates through the quarter for students. I told them those dates were so that the students could “spread out” the work through the quarter. For instance, in my pre-service teacher course I gave them an assignment about misconceptions that they had all the info they needed from me after the second week, but it wasn’t due until about week 8. I made a “suggested” due date in the 5th week, and most kids turned it in then.

  2. Teachers can either value time or learning. If we value time then learning is inessential. If we value learning, time should not be a factor.

    I ascribe to the idea that school is about learning. And because I do, it narrows down what I expect students to do to demonstrate learning. I ask, “What is essential?” then expect my students to revise their work until it meets ALL expectations.

    Besides this, I give Incompletes rather than F’s in most cases. I only give an F at semester if my students were absent and have no evidence they are capable of meeting course expectations. Incompletes are given to students who have not met all learning objectives and they are expected to meet them in order to earn credit. Why make a kid repeat the class? Do they really need to?

    Anyway, I enjoyed your piece.

  3. I completely agree with you. I believe grades should be about what students know, not how responsible they are. I accept late work and let students redo assignments so they can improve their grades.

  4. I think accepting late work is great and I usually do on a case by case basis, however in our school cheating is a huge problem with accepting late work

  5. I searched and searched my State standards (I was on the committee that wrote them), and I can find nothing about holding kids accountable.They`re focused on learning. Nothing about behavior.

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