December 31, 2006

If Student A...Then Student B -- Can't you C?

I spent a large chunk of my day grading the projects that my students turned in the week before break. I had hoped to get to them before the break started, but there are a lot of weeks that I cannot get a lot of grading done until the weekend. That last week was one of those crazy weeks...

The last week before break I was frustrated with quite a few students who did not turn their projects in on time. I spent too much time hounding them because it was such a large project, which means if they fail it, they will likely fail this quarter.

As I've been going through the projects I have once again encountered strange phenonmenon.

The project was due on Monday, December 11. I offered extra credit, what I call an "early reward," for students who turned the project in on Friday, December 8. This early reward idea is something I came up with last year as an opposite for the penalty that late papers receive. I often do it for papers or projects, and I sell it hard to students who could use extra credit, but it's usually the top students who turn their work in early. That's fine, though. Those students see the early reward as a challenge to complete a project quickly. It's gives them their jollies.

For this particular project, only 10% turned the project in early, and of those students only one or two really needed a grade boost. All of them, however, enjoyed a worry free weekend, unlike their classmates who busted their buns to finish the project by Monday.

In my class, the penalty for each day an assignment is late is one full grade drop, until the worth is 50% of possible points. It's my little compromise to not wanting to accept any late work at all, but never wanting to have to compromise my integrity by being made to cave to parents and students who cry over grades that cannot be made up.

Now on this project, as I mentioned, I had several students who did not turn it in on time. There were those students who turned it in, without my prodding, one day late. I don't see why they needed that extra day, but whatever. They were living in reality and took responsibility.

Then there were the other students who thought this project would just go away. So, by Wednesday, when we were starting to wind down our week with a few smaller assignments that could be completed day by day, I started hounding these clueless students. In fact, I would not allow them to participate in the regular assignment, giving them more time in class to finish their heavily weighted projects. By Wednesday, the best grade they could get was a 75%. And I didn't say I excused them from the regular assignment. They just could not do it until the project was turned in. Trust me, completing a little reading comprehension lesson on holiday traditions does not make up for THE PROJECT.

If you are anyone other than a teacher, you might expect that a student who has had 2-4 extra days work on a project would turn in far superior work than students who have turn in the project on time, or even early. Furthermore, knowing that taking a few extra days past the deadline would penalize the worth of the project, you might expect that the student would work extra hard to produce quality work to avoid further penalty.

For some odd reason this is so far from the truth. The projects turned in 2 days early were of the the highest quality, along with those turned in on time. A few of the projects turned in a day late were of high quality, but NONE of the projects turned in 4 days late had much merit. In fact, a large number of the projects turned in 4 days late, that is for a maximum grade of 50%, were actually incomplete. In reality, those projects, with the late penalty applied, will actually receive a negative grade.

(Okay, they won't. I'll given them some pity points. Can you imagine how I'd explain to parents that their students earned a -10%? "Mrs. Parent, according to my late policy and the criteria on the rubric, you student certainly did early a negative grade." Baaahahahaha!)

Am I wrong, or is this just one of those incredible universal truths that, as crazy as it is, we teachers accept as absolutely true and predictable? It would make me feel much better if you would all chime in to disagree. I suppose I'm making this a much bigger mystery than it really is. It boils down to the fact that some students will, and some will not--no matter how much time or prodding they have.

1 comment:

Clix said...

I *almost* wish I could disagree. But no; what you've proposed is completely accurate.