Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Late Work

I was catching up on my blog reading tonight and ran across several blogs I had not read before. The Daily Grind intrigued me enough that I left an extremely long comment on late work that I decided to post here as well.

I have been teaching math for 17 years. Math homework is assigned practically every night, and it is a monumental task to grade. I accepted late work the first few years of teaching, and I found myself getting further and further behind. At the end of my third year, I spent about 6 hours one day grading only late assignments. I promised myself I would never do that again. It is much easier to grade 30 of the same paper than 30 different papers.

The following year I went to a no-late-work policy. I was surprised to see that my homework grades went up! When I accepted late work, the students would procrastinate and leave more than they could finish by the end of the grading period. When I didn't accept late work, students would move into high gear once they knew they had a couple of zeroes and do all of the rest of their work.

This past year I changed my policy slightly to match the other 7th grade math teacher at my school. Students began procrastinating again, and I was once again overwhelmed by late work. Their test scores were also affected when they waited until after the test to do the accompanying work. I switched back to my old policy at the end of the year, and I will never change it again!

I do have one exception...If there is some type of emergency or illness that prevents a child from having time to do their work, I will accept late work if accompanied by a note from a parent. I probably get 3 or 4 of these notes per year. I save the notes and warn the children I will thank their parents for writing the notes if I ever have a conference with them. I will also call to see if there is any way the school can help if there has been a rash of deaths in the family. This has eliminated forgeries. When I explain this policy to parents, they seem to appreciate the opportunity for their child to learn to meet deadlines and do their work when it is most beneficial to their learning.

If I were teaching a subject in which I did not make 40 assignments per grading period, I would probably have a different philosophy. One zero in my class will not hurt a child's grade much at all. All of my assignment are weighted equally. I am planning to assign projects each grading period this year, and I will probably accept them late.

Late work is a tough one. Our 7th grade math teacher has students in at break and after eating lunch when they haven't completed their work. Math is one of those things that really requires a student to keep up.
I wish I could bring the students in during the day. We don't have a break (which I am fine with because I have taught in that situation before, and it brings its own set of difficulties!), and our lunchtimes are staggered so I am leaving the cafeteria as some of my students are arriving.

I like your suggestion on your blog of assigning homework the first night of school and calling or emailing the parents of everyone who doesn't bring it back. I am sure that nips some difficulties in the bud at an early stage. I always assign work the first day, but I have never called about it before. I think I am going to try it this year, and maybe keep it up for the first few weeks to see if that makes a difference!

Thanks for the comment!

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