Deadlines for school papers and projects: Better late than never?

I had two recent conversations that highlight what seems to be a growing practice in schools — not holding students accountable for deadlines.

A few weeks ago, I talked to a group of high-achieving teens about school policies that bugged them. They shared a frustration over the reluctance of schools to enforce deadlines.

Stopwatch hanging on red ribbon against white background, close-upThe teens said a teacher announces a deadline for a paper. They put hours into the paper, stay up late to perfect it and deliver it to the teacher the day it’s due.

A quarter of the class doesn’t. All the teacher tells those students is, “Have it to me by tomorrow.”

Students complained most teachers now accept late projects, reducing deadlines to suggestions.

Don’t teachers detract points from late submissions?

Seldom, said the students. Even more annoying to the teens, no extra points are ever awarded for turning in every assignment on time.

In the book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,” foreign high school students spending a year in U.S. schools commented that American students weren’t held to deadlines by teachers and late work triggered no consequences.

This brings me to the second relevant conversation. I met a veteran literature professor from a top northeastern college and asked if students today were really that different from earlier generations.

Yes, he said, they’re better prepared. Many have traveled out of the country with their families or youth groups. They’re interested in the larger world, and want to live or work abroad someday.

But the professor also said today’s students expect more accommodations. They believe they ought to be exempted from an assignment or turning in a paper on deadline because, “I had to go home for a family wedding,” or “My parents were visiting from Ohio, and I just didn’t have time.”

He blamed high schools for allowing students to shirk deadlines. As an example, he cited the “farce of high school summer reading.” He said most students don’t complete the reading or scan a few chapters of the book the night before classes start.

When the college professor asks high school teachers why they don’t hold students responsible for summer reading, they say it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

The teachers don’t want to devote their first classes to scolding students for failing to read over the summer. And some teachers aren’t involved in creating the reading list, so the book may not be a priority for their class. If the book is integral, teachers realize that a lot of their students will only open it once class begins.

The professor said he quickly rids college freshmen of the assumption deadlines are flexible with a few “dramatic failures” for even being an hour late emailing a required paper.

Should schools reconsider their laxity on deadlines?

Are such policies — designed to increase passage rates — sending a wrong message to both the students who make deadlines and those who put them off ?

 

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Reader Comments 0

81 comments
Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

In the face of complaints from parents, most school administrators have backbones that make banana's look like they are made of concrete in comparison.  School administrators focus on avoiding complaints and weeding out the teachers about whom parents make complaints.  Lack of merit in the complaints is not so much the the point as cutting back on any public fuss.


As a result, having clear, enforced standards will set a teacher on the road to finding another job once parents complain. The proof in is the pudding -- far too many college students who can't manage to manage themselves to graduating in four years.


We are soon coming to the point where having undergone a prefrontal lobotomy and maintaining full dosage of tranquilizers will be a prerequisite to a long teaching career in the public schools.


We've hit the point in many of these baby sitting facilities where the teachers are treated more like the children than the children and get more tender loving care from assistant principals than the resident delinquents.  







And the beat goes on...
And the beat goes on...

My superintendent told my high school principal that teachers should allow students to turn in work late or at any time during the grading period, and they should also be given multiple opportunities to retake tests, re-do projects, rewrite papers, etc.  When it was pointed out that college professors did not have such policies and that our system was not adequately preparing our students for college and the real world, the principal was told by the superintendent that "the colleges are teaching wrong."  How arrogant and asinine can one human be!  Apparently, very arrogant and asinine!  

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

I had a teacher in 12th grade who assigned a term paper (this was the year 2000 for reference).  The rules were very simple:


1. One minute late, and you fail.

2. One spelling or grammar error and you fail.


The teacher made these points very clear.  The basic idea was that with 3 months to write the paper, there was no excuse for being late or these minor errors.  Somehow, everyone in the class managed to meet those requirements.


I guess the point is that if you want students to perform better, raise the bar.

straker
straker

living - "I think you're a bit off on this one"


You obviously never worked for the companies I did.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@straker  I have worked for many kinds of leaders.  Some are more flexible than others.  Some were jerks, some were visionary, some were operationally strong.   But to make a sweeping generalization that no company will allow you to miss a deadline is just plain wrong.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

I think this is a bit overblown.   Yes, deadlines are important.  But students have things happen in life.  Maybe a personal issue - a death, a parent losing a job, etc.    Is it special needs student who works slower and is entitled to certain accommodations? Maybe there's an important class trip for a club or with a sports team.  I have no issue with such strict adherence to deadlines.   Deadlines are important so that students do not learn to let things happen at the last minute and learn how to plan.  It's a motivator.   But teachers can be a little flexible.  An extra day or two isn't a big deal.   A week or more?  That would be something to discuss further.

redweather
redweather

@living-in-outdated-ed I don't view a deadline as a motivator. Rather, I see it as one of a number of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to earn full credit for an assignment. For example, when I assign a research paper I establish a minimum word count, typically 1,500. I also require a certain number of research sources that must be used and correcetly cited in the paper, typically half a dozen. I also establish a deadline. In order to earn full credit for the assignment, students must meet all of those requirements; otherwise they lose significant points. If I let the deadline slide, then won't I also have to let the other requirements slide? 

straker
straker

When these students eventually make their way to the corporate workplace, they will find that deadlines MUST be met or they will be out of a job.


These teachers aren't doing the students any favors, and Big Business will hammer that home in no uncertain terms.

dg417s
dg417s

@straker While I agree, if the governor gets his way next year and teachers allow students to fail because they don't do the work, then they won't graduate on time, the school's CCRPI will fall, the governor's crony will take the school away from the community and all the staff in the school are liable to lose their jobs. Then the students still lose out because of the massive change in staff.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@straker That is not necessarily true.   Sometimes deadlines slip and delays are permissible.   Maybe a superior is out of town for personal or business reasons and the meetings have to be rescheduled to a later date.   I wouldn't want to work on your team if you only run a tight ship and don't leave a little wiggle room for contingencies.  I think you're a bit off on this one.

Mom71555
Mom71555

@living-in-outdated-ed @straker Totally different context!! Wouldn't the superior know AHEAD of time if he/she has to be out of town or has a doctor appointment?  If you show up to a meeting and your superior doesn't show, saying he forgot--or something like a family dinner came up--how long would he/she have a job?!  There ARE contingencies, but there needs to be communication BEFORE the deadline!

Ifollowtherulessoshldyou
Ifollowtherulessoshldyou

Teachers are told by administration that a viable grade has to be shown in the gradebook, because the parents complain otherwise - it offends them to see a "zero."  So once again, the teacher is to blame for the parental helicoptering effect which seems to dictate the movement of public education. And you wonder why the teachers are disgrunted and feel like a second hand citizen? No authority in the classroom.

Ifollowtherulessoshldyou
Ifollowtherulessoshldyou

@class80olddog @Ifollowtherulessoshldyou according to the helicopter parents who run the school board and administration, a grade of zero is not viable nor reflective of student "attempt." In my mind it reflects perfectly - the student didn't care to attempt - therefore a grade of zero was EARNED.

BCW1
BCW1

We are all to blame for this and the general apathy of our society right now. There are no absolutes any longer.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

"Are such policies — designed to increase passage rates..." 

And once again, "holding teachers accountable" for students' actions rears it head.  When you put laws in place to hold scapegoats accountable for events outside of their control, there will be unintended consequences. Then you change the law and make things worse, AND then blame the scapegoats again, the unintended consequences get worse.  Repeat, ad nauseam.

Now the conservatives will respond: 

"THEY'RE NOT SCAPEGOATS!!!!!  They ARE responsible  We need better teachers.  All kids can learn.  If the teachers would only do their job, these problems would go away.

readcritic
readcritic

@class80olddog @OldPhysicsTeacher Administrators have all the power and none of the consequences. A teacher would have to hire an attorney to get some of the inaccurate and unfair comments corrected and removed from their evaluations. The circumstances and conditions of the teacher's workload are never taken into account. Many teachers are not aware that a bad evaluation will dock their contract salary the first year and then cause them to lose certification from the Georgia State Board of Education the second year of an unfavorable evaluation. Teachers have no recourse. It would be great if they got to evaluate their administrators somewhere other than a meaningless online survey, which in no way affects the administrator's earnings or job security. The system is most unfair. Administrators favor the new, younger, and cheaper recruits. It is easy for the administrator who schedules classes to stack the deck against a targeted veteran teacher who costs more. Just give him/her large-sized classes of problem students and provide no administrative support, then nail the victim teacher for everything and anything possible. It is so easy for an administrator  to slant an observation/evaluation. Once the evaluation is typed and electronically sent to the state by the administrator, this is the point of no return. The teacher can't counter the administrative comments in any way that will make a difference to the teacher's job. The damage is done. No one cares that the teacher had 35 to 40 students who were three-time repeaters; had parole officers, anger management counselors, ankle bracelets, and/or were on drugs; were absent frequently due to incarceration, suspension, or expulsion from another school; suffered constant classroom turnover due to transiency, and administrative schedule changes; and include special education students with learning disabilities and behavior disorders or many others with 504 plans in each class. It is a no win situation.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I think it is also a matter of vision.  Teachers want their students to plan for the short- and long-term future.  We think about what is age-appropriate--we would not assign a month-long project to a first grader.  We know that working daily on a long-term goal is more appropriate, more likely successful, than trying to cram it at the last moment.  We want to steer our students toward that.


On the other hand, some others, including some parents, may have a more short-term goal:  Just get through the day, or the week, and we will worry about that project later.  Their idea of long-term planning might be thinking about what they will have for supper tomorrow night.  Therein is the clash.  Kids pick up on their parents' ways of dealing with the world.  Parents who bounce from crisis to crisis tend to have children who do the same.


Both parents and teachers want their children/students to turn out well; we sometimes differ on how to get there.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady Yes, parents want their kids to "turn out well", but they are teaching them things that actually will make them "turn out worse".  Kids need the "tough love" but most parents are afraid to give it.  They want too much to be their kid's "best friend". 

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@Wascatlady When I taught high school English my first year of teaching and assigned a term paper, I put in almost weekly deadlines for things like an outline, note cards, etc, so they couldn't wait until the last minute to do the whole thing.  This worked for most students and helped them set short term goals to accomplish a long term goal.  One student was blowing off all the short term goals and I was concerned that he would fail the class and said so in a conference.  He said not to worry about it; he would just take the class again in summer school and they didn't make you write a paper.  In disbelief I went to my department head and was told summer school consisted of doing pages in the grammar book-no paper.  

PJ25
PJ25

Barring some document emergency it's either in on time or it's a zero. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

It's not the students' fault. It is also not the teachers' fault.

The blame lies with parents who don't love their children enough to allow teachers to hold them to high standards and prepare them for adult life in the real world.

I wonder if some of this is because single moms (especially) identify with their children as buddies/friends as well as children, leaning on them for companionship and support instead of maintaining high standards and helping them grow up to be responsible adults.

PJ25
PJ25

@AlreadySheared It's not just the single mom's, this buddy/best friend nonsense is rampant throughout married families as well.  No wonder most of these kids come out of HS and college all but useless. 

readcritic
readcritic

Teachers are forced to accept late work and that directive is written into school board policies because superintendents don't want to deal with parents who think their offspring are special. High school principals also provide endless opportunities for student slackers to earn credit for late or missing work with creative programs with catchy titles such as Boost or Target. All of this "bending over backwards" is done to stay off the dreaded failing school list and to up the graduation rate. It just adds a bigger workload to the teacher's already overloaded schedule. I had to run off 100 additional copies of the written assignment many chose to lose or not submit, fill out a form for every one of those 100 students missing the work, and deliver it to the location for the students' convenience. After all that, only 2 students actually cared enough to show up to make up the missing work. The teacher is still held accountable for too many failing grades. Students are not responsible for anything. That is what is wrong with education today.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

@readcritic Late work shouldn't be accepted. It's not fair to the kids that did the work on time.

Not sure I understand one of your points though. How does accepting late work add to a teacher's expected workload? Is there an expectation that you won't have to grade as many papers as you have students?

readcritic
readcritic

Had to run the 100 copies a second time for the 100 of the 180 students who lost or did not bother do the assignment, fill out instructions and info forms that had to be attached to each and every one of the 100 copies, deliver the copies to a student work location for their convenience, and then accept and grade all late work right up until grade posting time in addition to all other daily assignments up to that point. Grade posting time was a burden with late assignments coming in whenever students felt like submitting, Teachers are held to a deadline, but students are not. In fact, students are allowed to turn in work just about anytime so that a passing grade can be issued. I was expected to accept and grade work over the summer so that an AP student could pass. .@jarvis1975 @readcritic

class80olddog
class80olddog

People are continually comparing American schools to schools in other countries and saying that we don't measure up.  Well, part of that is that I bet the other countries hold their students accountable for their work and don't give grades that are not truly indicative of the quality and timeliness of the work.

You don't have to pay teachers more, you just have to expect more of students (and their parents).  It all starts in the home.

redweather
redweather

Since fall semester classes started yesterday, I've been doing my introductions. I tell students that assignments submitted late forfeit 10 points for each day late. I also remind them of this a number of times during the semester. It works for the most part. What I hate is when a student submits a very good assignment, but it's three days late. Nonetheless, I subtract the points and hope it won't happen again. If I didn't, word would get around that I don't mean what I say. Gotta be consistent. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather 

You're a softie. When I was still teaching at a state university, I would lower an assignment's grade by a half-grade (from a B to a C+, etc.) for each day late....and always note on the paper the grade it would have received if submitted on time.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

This is all the continuing headache of the "self esteem" movement that started back in the eighties. (A second headache is the "everyone wins a trophy" nonsense.)


When teachers enforce deadlines like this, they get nasty telephone calls and emails from parents asking "what is your problem.?" When it happens to a graduating senior, who then is flunked or barred from graduating in time, the Media inevitably gets involved and in newspapers such as this one ask the silly question "Is this fair?"


Teachers are human. (Gasp!) How many screaming, bitchy parents would you be willing to listen to before you fold??

class80olddog
class80olddog

The disease is called "political correctness "

class80olddog
class80olddog

As some posters have accused me - I long for the sixties, when I was in school - when if you received an A in a class, you d*mn well earned it.  If you were late with an assignment, you usually received a zero, or at least had major points taken off.  They knew what worked back then, and it has gone downhill ever since.  Now a diploma is not worth the paper it is written on because there is no way to tell if the diploma was GIVEN to the student or if they EARNED it - it is the same diploma.  So we in business just treat them all as so much trash.  I am sorry to say, but sometimes a GED says more about their level of achievement than a HS diploma!  At least you have to pass a test to get a GED.

heyteacher
heyteacher

Standards based grading practices have made it impossible to hold students accountable for deadlines -- ie, if the student can show that they've mastered the standard then they should get a good grade. Many districts have "work ethic" type grades (at least at the high school level) but most students have learned that no one really cares about those grades anyway.  Ditto for so-called "formatives" -- I don't call my quizzes "formative" anymore b/c my students won't try if I do. 


I do find, though, that the students who turn papers in on time are generally the ones who make the good grades. Even if I don't take off points from a student who submitted a late paper, 99 percent of the time the student with the late paper isn't doing quality work. 



class80olddog
class80olddog

@heyteacher "Standards based grading practices have made it impossible to hold students accountable for deadlines -- ie, if the student can show that they've mastered the standard then they should get a good grade."

There needs to be a "standard" about timeliness.

But when a student has clearly NOT met the "standards" they are given passing grades and promoted!  So where is the "standards based grading"?

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

When I taught, a student who missed a deadline would get a "pink slip" indicating they were "fired" because they didn't turn in a project on time.  I was surprised by how many parents were supportive and didn't ask for their child to get "special treatment". 

class80olddog
class80olddog

"Are such policies — designed to increase passage rates — sending a wrong message to both the students who make deadlines and those who put them off ?"

Yes and yes.

I guess we will have to turn to charters to right this wrong, since traditional schools have no interest in correcting their failures.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Why do you think employers don't have any respect for a HS diploma - why they require a college degree for the important jobs these days. 

And you wonder why so many people are down on the current educational establishment?

Even the good STUDENTS are complaining about the policies - THAT should tell you something!