School dramatically changes late work policy

With the new late work policy, teachers are being asked to give a behavioral consequence instead of a grade consequence for work that is not turned in on time.

With the new late work policy, teachers are being asked to give a behavioral consequence instead of a grade consequence for work that is not turned in on time.

Savannah Whitmer, News Editor

The Student Handbook for 2014-2015 has a subtle policy change that affects a major aspect of school. Starting this year, teachers will no longer deduct points from their students’ grades for late work. The change has come as a result of a look by the administration into the reasons behind grading, with the decision that not turning in work on time can be a behavioral rather than academic issue.

“What we’re asking teachers to do, and really as a campus, we’re going to be more vigilant and diligent as to when work isn’t turned in, to follow up quickly with students to assign consequences if there need to be consequences assigned, so that they understand they need to turn the work in on time,” Principal Chris Mayfield said. “It’s so that we’re giving them a grade for what they know.”

While teachers will not be penalizing students for late work by taking points off grades, consequences deemed more fitting for what is now considered a behavioral issue will be decided by individual teachers or departments.

“We want to address the behavior as a behavior,” Mayfield said. “So if I’m not turning in work, that’s a behavior, that’s not how much math I know. What we’ve really tried to focus on is how to provide some structures that help make sure that the work that we’re asking for, students are taking seriously and doing.”

According to the Student Handbook guidelines, students can receive full credit for late work after turning in the assignment and attending a “mandatory tutorial.” Other consequences for late work can include established actions previously reserved for other issues.

“We’ve always had structures in place like AR, that’s not a new thing,” Mayfield said. “Thursday night school, that’s not a new thing, teacher detention, that’s not a new thing, contacting parents when students aren’t doing work is not a new thing.”

Because teachers are free to decide what they think will work best to motivate students to turn in their work on time, there could be a variety of assignments required for late work. For English teacher Roxann Ward, the policy change means that the English department will be assigning a student to Academic Recovery much more quickly than in recent years.

“I’ve got to have some way to hold the kids accountable for it,” Ward said. “What we’re going to do is students not taking care of business in the classroom are going to have to come in on their own time and do it, is basically how I see it. So it’s more about the behavior than the actual skill, which is what we’re grading. And for the grade, there could be a cutoff time where they’ll get a 0. Because you’re given the opportunities, and you’re making a choice not to do it. I wouldn’t assign [homework] if I didn’t want people to do it.”

Other teachers will be implementing similar consequences to try to curb late work while encouraging the core idea of the policy change: that knowing the content is the sole purpose of grades.

“If they’re late, they have to come in to tutoring and demonstrate that they know all the material,” AP Psychology teacher Elyse Hall said.

“What we have talked about a lot as a staff is that grades that are put in the gradebook are really supposed to be a reflection of what students know and don’t know,” Mayfield said. “That’s why you take a test, that’s why you turn in an assignment, it’s how you figure out what you know and don’t know. So really, that part is no different, it hasn’t changed.”

Even though a student’s grade will not suffer if they eventually turn in their late work, students could potentially receive a 0 if they wait too long.

“What this doesn’t mean is that hey, I’ll just turn in all my work at the end of the six weeks,” Mayfield said. “Because really what should happen is if I don’t turn it in during the first week of the six weeks or the second week of the six weeks, there should be a detention, or there might be a Thursday night school,” Mayfield said. “There is a long list of consequences that should be done, instead of not doing anything.”

While the school is not the first to adopt a new policy for grading, treating late work as more of a behavioral rather than cognitive issue is still a very new idea, and with the first semester barely under way, it is unclear how effective the transition will be.

“I like the idea behind the policy,” Hall said. “But I worry that we don’t have the systems in place to make it work. I don’t know if making kids come in to tutoring will scare them into turning [their work] in on time, but it does make sure that the kids that turn them in late have to study them.”

Despite some understandable uncertainty about how the policy will unfold, students can expect a more accurate representation of what they have learned with late work now categorized as a behavioral factor.

“What we’ve really shifted to is a difference in how we manage the behavior, versus saying that because I turned it in tomorrow, I know it 20 percent less,” Mayfield said. “If I know it 100 percent, there’s a consequence for turning it in late, but you get credit for what you know. Grades just aren’t the consequences now.”

To learn about how other schools have changed their late work policies, click here.