Recently a teacher wrote in liking our post on late work but had the following question: “How can my feedback be effective if student work isn’t timely? How can I be expected to give late work the same attention as work that comes in on time?” This is a very real concern for teachers when considering whether or not to eliminate late penalties in their assessment practices.
Tom Schimmer writes:
The question about teacher time is an important one that can’t be ignored. In order for any new practice to be successful in the long term, we need sustainable routines or we risk “burnout.” No late-penalties doesn’t mean no deadlines, however. When deadlines are missed, we need both an individual response and a “system” response in order to make sure that students are as current as possible. Some quick points…I’ll try to be brief.
1) Distinguish between “can’t do” and “won’t do” issues. A “can’t do” means the student actually doesn’t fully understand what to do to complete the work. A “won’t do” is not necessarily outright refusal; however, it does mean that the student knows what to do but hasn’t done it. Each of those requires a slightly different response.
2) “Won’t dos” need a place to go (AM/at lunch/PM) to complete the missing work. Who supervises, who confirms attendance, etc. are all “system” questions that principals and teachers have to come together on. If they “no-show,” then who gets the referral? Is it a “code of conduct” issue? Something else? “Can’t dos” need further instruction and, therefore, need a different response from the teacher.
3) In the schools I’ve worked in, we set an unwritten guideline of two weeks. That meant that we wanted work to be missing for no longer than two weeks. We actually preferred one week, but knew there would always be extenuating circumstances and/or the scope of what’s missing may take longer.
4) Ask yourself whether the missing “evidence” is necessary or whether the standard(s) addressed in the missing work will be addressed again very soon. I call this overlapping evidence. Taking a standards-based approach means we look at “meeting standards” and not necessarily “getting everything done.” For example, missing homework could likely be covered on an upcoming quiz, so it might not be necessary for students to complete all of the homework as you know you will be assessing the very same standards shortly after. The big question with missing work is this: Is this piece of evidence necessary for me to accurately assess the student’s level of proficiency? If yes, then you need it; if no, move on.