I applied this approach unthinkingly, and I did so for many years. The policy was clear-cut and seemingly fair. I had no idea how detrimental the policy was to my most vulnerable learners.
Punitive late work policies have little impact on high performing students. Those students, likely motivated by a fear of low grades and/ or a desire to please their teacher, rarely miss deadlines. Indeed, their lateness occurs so infrequently that it is often excused as an aberration. Struggling students, however, turn work in late for any number of myriad reasons. Lower performing students learn from an early age that their efforts and contributions are valued less than other high performing students. And students who grow up seeing that their work is worth less are at risk of eventually believing that their work is worthless.
My current late-work policy is simple: students can earn up to a proficient grade (B range) for any work submitted late. This policy is anchored in the premise that it’s my responsibility to cultivate learners, and that the purpose of assessments is to give feedback that helps students achieve a proficient standard of learning. Proficient B’s are the mid-range grade for students aspiring to college: a B is less than an exemplary A, but it’s more valuable than the less sufficient C. This approach trains students for college and beyond by reinforcing the fact that submitting work late isn’t exemplary, and that such habits do have consequences. But it also communicates to students that their work is worthwhile, and that they are worthy of whatever support I can provide to help them achieve a proficient level of learning.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)