Let’s talk about late work, incomplete work, and low quality student work. This is too often the bane of a teacher’s existence. Last year, I read Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers and my content team revised our late work policy to better meet the needs of both teachers and students.
First Attempts in the “Real World”
I ran a stop sign and failed my driver’s license test the first time. I didn’t see it and drove right through the intersection. Like all drivers, I had a second chance, and infinite chances, to take the driving test again. I passed the test the following week and to this day I’ve never been pulled over (knock-on-wood). Sometimes a first attempt isn’t the best reflection of our understanding or ability.
Since the DMV and a plethora of other organizations allow retakes, why don’t schools and teachers do the same? After reading Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers, I have come to the following conclusions:
- The consequence for not doing the work should be doing the work.
- Deducting points for late work often means that grades reflect behavior rather than achievement or mastery.
- Refusing to accept late work trivializes assignments and learning.
Can you imagine if potential drivers were only allowed to take the test once? Failure would be a lifelong disaster, making it difficult to get to school or work or to get groceries. Everyone should have the opportunity to earn a drivers license because it is important to their daily life. The same is true of learning and I want to effectively communicate that message to my students.
When students are not allowed to make up or revise their work, we are telling them that that understanding is only allowed to an elite few or that it isn’t an understanding that they really need.
Either way, we are trivializing the work that we and our students do.
As a result of these considerations, my planning team made a change to our late and missing work policy. We created a policy with clearly stipulated second chances for student learning.
What are Stipulated Second Chances?
Basically, it’s a fancy way to talk about your late work policy. Stipulated second chances are clearly articulated opportunities for students to do work that was not done initially, with a meaningful deadline. These chances allow students to demonstrate academic proficiency while still teaching responsibility and accountability for their assignments.
Are Second Chances Feasible on the Teacher’s End?
- Blue for missing assignments.
- Orange for any assignments with a D or F grade.
- Yellow for any assignments with an A, B, or C grade.
The class featured at right was particularly excellent with only a couple missing assignments. There were spreadsheets with a lot more blue than this one.
I discovered that stipulated second chances would be manageable. I had no idea how many missing assignments I had across my classes before completing this analysis. It turns out during this semester I had a grand total of 79 missing assignments across 92 students.
This stipulated second chances policy applies to less than 5% of work assigned over the course of a semester. Students would need to make corrections or in some cases, simply turn in missing assignments.
The New Late and Missing Work Policy
Late and Missing Work: For any late or missing assignment, students will be given an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of material with a possible alternative assignment. This opportunity will occur in BOOST or ICE (extra-help and intervention opportunities) with an assigned teacher and due date for possible full credit. If the opportunity is not taken advantage of then the maximum point value will be 75% up to the unit test for that given assignment.
Our policy gives our Earth Science team flexibility to work with students on the original or an alternative assignment based on each student’s circumstances. It is important to us that students work with a teacher at a specified time. This allows us to ensure students are asking questions and improving understanding and to deter students from copying the assignment from a peer.
If students do not take advantage of the assigned opportunity to make up their assignment for full credit, there is a consequence.
How to Manage Second Chances
Spreadsheets, Of course! I knew that I needed to keep track of who needed the second chance and when that additional opportunity would take place. While my gradebook allows me to mark assignments as late or on-time, there isn’t a great spot to write out a plan for a second chance.
I looked around on Pinterest and created the general format for the spreadsheet below. I fill in student names for each section of Earth Science once my rosters are finalized. As students turn in assignments, I fill in the assignment spreadsheet below. Then we can have conversations about the stipulated second chance and make a plan for when students will do the work.
Communicating with Students
Students receive a pass like the one below that they will need to fill out and hold on to as a reminder of our plan. I can fit 4 passes on a page, which keeps this from eating into the printing budget.
Students fill in their name, and choose a date and time for their second chance to do the assignment. The time includes ICE on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (student-teacher work time in our schedule), BOOST during their off-block (intervention for at-risk students), or after school if we schedule in advance.
As we move through the semester, some students accumulate missing or incomplete assignments. I have a second format of the pass, shown below, that lets students know what they are still able to correct and when they need to make that happen.
Lastly, in between the original due date and stipulated second chance, the gradebook will show that the assignment is incomplete rather than missing. In Infinite Campus, I can select a few options, such as missing, late, or incomplete. Students and parents recognize incomplete means the students must make corrections before the assignment is put into the gradebook.
Second Chances Post-Implementation Reflection
Stipulated second chances were a challenge, but I was determined to update and improve our late work policy. Making the passes seemed like a lot of work the first year, but it is second nature this year. I have the formats set the way I want them and my students quickly understood how to respond to them. I delegated the task of writing out the passes each week to my student aide.
Stipulated second chances have completely changed the conversations that I have with parents and students. I feel like we are on the same page in terms of our goals and in taking action that benefits kids. Discussions are slowly moving from getting work done to doing work in order to understand. Students struggled initially with the idea that I not only required them to turn in completed assignments but that if they weren’t done well they would have to make corrections.
Share your late work policy, a blog post of your own about grading, or feedback in the comments! Grades and grading are too often private and personal decisions. I hope that this post is one small step towards opening up collaborative conversations about secondary classroom grading.