A Thesis Regarding the Intention and Success of the No Late Work Policy
Posted by Michael Dickens on February 2, 2010
This is a modified version of an essay I wrote for extra credit in English class.
Recently, my school implemented a new policy, stating that late work will no longer be accepted. I will be evaluating the successes and failures of this policy in relative circumstances, and proposing that under certain personal circumstances, the policy is ineffective and should not be enforced.
The original intention of the policy was to prevent students from abusing the leniency previously offered regarding late work. Many students treated late work not as an exceptional circumstance but merely as an option resulting in a few points being deducted from one’s grade. As a consequence, many students were intentionally procrastinating until after their work was due and suffering only minor consequences.
The secondary intention of the policy was the fact that it is more difficult for teachers to grade late work; when students are allowed and almost encouraged to turn work in late, it puts more pressure on teachers to be flexible beyond reason.
I will address both of these intentions and evaluate them with respect to the No Late Work policy; I will also evaluate the policy regarding my personal circumstances.
The No Late Work Policy acts as an effective deterrent to abusing the ability to turn work in late, simply by making it impossible to turn work in late. It also effectively addresses the second concern by giving teachers predictable times in which they will need to grade work. However, it has caused numerous problems, which I will now address.
Firstly, the policy causes issues for students who are sick or otherwise have external circumstances causing them to miss a deadline. These students suffer due to something which was for the most part out of their control. This issue is easily remedied by allowing teachers to give extensions in particular circumstances.
Secondly, the policy is ineffective regarding students who otherwise uphold integrity regarding their schoolwork. Suppose a student normally upholds academic integrity, but forgets to turn in a large assignment. His or her grade would suffer disproportionately, and would no longer reflect that student’s level of academic excellence. Under such circumstances, the No Late Work policy effectively supports neither intention.
The primary intention of the policy would not be abused by allowing such an exceptional student to turn in an assignment one day late with only minor grade deduction. Such a student would not have a history of abusing the late work policy, but rather a history to the contrary. But due to a single mistake on one heavily-weighted assignment, the student’s grade may suffer very severely. The student’s grade in that class would no longer appropriately reflect his or her level of achievement or academic integrity. Therefore, the grade is failing to serve the primary purpose of grades themselves, and is instead reflecting the academic integrity of someone who is presupposed to have a history of failing to get in his work on time, which our student does not.
An argument that could be made in response to my argument is that rules are rules, and they should be followed. But this prompts me to ask, Why? Maybe it’s because if one exception is made, then other students will want exceptions too, many of whom will not be deserving. But the trouble with this argument is that it relies on the premises that a) other students will know about the exception; that b) other students will then want unjustified exceptions; and that c) the teacher will be unable to refuse. Each of these premises is flawed, and exceptions have been made in the past. For instance, two years ago I wanted to go off campus for lunch; at the time, I was required to go in a group of three, but could only find one person. I asked for permission to go off-campus with only one other person, and an exception was made, because the administration trusted us. Did this open a floodgate of students looking for exceptions? No, it did not.
As a response to this series of outcomes, I propose a new grading system. The student’s first late assignment should be deducted by 20% per day. The second time the student has a late assignment, the grade should be deducted by 40% per day, the third time 60%, and so on. Such a system would still discourage late work, but would be less severe for otherwise excellent students who make the occasional mistake.
The purpose of the No Late Work policy is to prevent students from taking advantage of the ability to turn their work in late. This has been successful, but other serious problems have arisen. My proposed solution can ameliorate all problems involved.