Late Grade Policies

One of my goals as a teacher is for students’ grades to more accurately reflect their academic abilities and growth within the New Jersey Common Core State Standards. For this reason, I don’t believe in giving late grades. The standards do not indicate that students do this in a span other than a school year, so there’s no reason why we should take off points because an assignment is given in late. Instead of giving a late grade, I have my students submit a reflective form before they submit their late assignment.

In this form, students are asked a series of questions:

  • Which assignment do you want to submit late and when was it due?
  • Did you need help?
    • Did you ask for help?
    • If not, why not?
  • If you needed more time, what do you think a more reasonable timeframe to finish this assignment would have been?
  • If extra-curricular activities got in the way, which ones? Students must also provide contact info here for coaches or advisers.
  • If other assignments got in the way, what were they?
  • Other: Explain.
  • A reflective piece explaining what they’ll do differently next time they foresee one of these things happening.

But we need to teach them about the real world, and in the real world, there are consequences.

We need to be real; I keep reading comments like, “But we need to teach them about the real world and in the real world, there are consequences.” However, in the real world, consequences for slightly late work are quite rare. The implicit consequences are worse–more time doing work that’s not relevant to current work, the feeling of playing catch-up, etc. The truth is, if someone goes to their boss, manager, or professor and asks for more time and gives a reasonable reason, punitive punishments are rare. Unless the request is excessive, you’ll most likely keep your job and continue receiving the same pay (this does not apply to commission-based work, however). Furthermore, it does not reflect a students’ academic ability. If a student does A+ work, it’s unethical for their grade to be any different based only on the time it took them to do.

But if there’s no punishment, what about the kids who always give things in late? Doesn’t it give them a pass?

No. The form is annoying and after doing it a few times, students either correct their behavior or don’t hand it in at all (this is a negative result). Students also don’t like doing it because it serves as a digital record that I can very easily show to parents.

Let’s be honest, they’re not getting a free pass. Students who excessively hand work in late are probably struggling and doing poorly to begin with, so why should we be in the business of bringing their grades down even more? To say to a student who is holding onto a 75, “Well, this was a day late so 5 points off,” doesn’t reflect academic ability, discourages them from seeking help when they need it, and damages the student-teacher relationship.

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