On Reflection (is it right to mandate a late work policy school-wide?)

homeworkLast year we created a late work policy for our freshman class.  We asked teachers to let them have two weeks past the due date to turn work in, and if they did so, as long as the work was satisfactory, the work would receive a passing grade.  The idea was not to allow these students to take an F on an assignment.  If a student had missing work, the assistant principal would literally hunt them down….well call them in, and design a plan to for them to get the work finished.  This plan usually included a call home and assignment to stay after school and attend our teacher led study tables.  This did not cure all of our freshmen, but it made a very big impact on a group of these students.  It did make some more work for the staff, and I commend each and every one of those teachers for taking the extra time to make sure that students had their missing work and for grading those assignments.  There are students who literally owe those staff members and Mr. Cox, our assistant principal, a huge debt of gratitude for saving them credits and possibly giving them a chance to graduate with their class.  Okay. So that is the story about last year.  It was semi-successful.  So what should we do about it?  We (admin team) decided that we should expand it school-wide.  All students should be given extra time to complete work for passing credit.  No student should be allowed to simply take a zero and not turn things in.  I asked my staff what it is we are measuring?  Are we measuring the behavior of turning things in on time? Or, are we measuring growth and learning?  If we allow students to take zeros, we are saying that the learning is not important…..in my opinion.  If assessing progress on a particular skill is important enough to assess it and make it a part of a student’s grade, then we should make sure they do it right?  If we don’t, how do we know they can do it?  How do we know if we successfully taught the skill or concept? Some of my staff and I do not see eye to eye on this and that is alright.  What is not alright though is to continue to do things the way they have always been done and expect different results.  I am malleable on this issue.  If someone has a better idea than me, so be it.  Last week I caught part of a chat on Twitter that was exploring about late policies and exchanged in a dialogue with a fellow administrator:

I think Reed has some good reasoning in the linked policy above.  What do you think? I realize that I may have made this top down decision without making all the considerations I should have.  Maybe I should have spent more time with staff thinking about it out loud and addressing their concerns.  In my mind, education is a practice much like medicine.  Sometimes we find out what we have been doing was the exact opposite what we should have been doing.  We (I) need to be smart enough to assess what we are doing, gather the evidence, do a little research, and try things to address the “what do I do to get kids to turn things in” question.  I want your thoughts and opinions here!  To be continued…..(are we just putting a band aid on a symptom here? Is the real issue the fact that we are asking our students to do things that are completely irrelevant to them?  Tune in next week…..)

Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Watson’s photostream on Flickr