To Give Full Credit, or Not to Give Full Credit…

…That is the question.

I realize that late work is a touchy subject for some teachers. We all have various policies, and some schools have a blanket policy for all teachers. But this is my policy that I have adapted and changed over the years. I finally have a plan that I really like, so I want to share it with you.

Until a few years ago, my policy was any homework turned in late was worth 60% of the total points (our lowest D is a 70). So I would grade it, and as long as they got a 60% or higher, that was their grade. If they got 59% or lower, then I gave them that grade. What I did not like about this policy was that when I (or a parent, administrator, or student) looked back at the gradebook, you couldn’t tell if the low score was the result of incomplete work, the student not comprehending the task, or just that it was late. And then I had a group of students that forced me to change (so looking back, thanks kids). Their mindset was that it was better to turn in work incomplete (and I’m talking REALLY incomplete) than to get points off for being late. I’ve gone to great efforts to make sure that any homework I assign is enrichment and will help the students deepen their understanding. It’s never busy work or just because I feel the need to take up every free moment they have. So because they weren’t completing the work, they weren’t getting the information. And everything else they were doing in class was suffering as well.

So I had two big issues here; getting kids to complete the work and being able to tell if students were getting the knowledge and skills. Here’s what I now use: I will accept all late work until the day of the test for full credit (see, controversial… I warned you), but I will not accept ANY incomplete work. If a student hands in an incomplete assignment, I hand it back to them and explain the value of the work and that it’s worth more complete and late than the other way around. I rarely have a student hand in incomplete work more than once.

Now before you go thinking I’ve lost my mind, yes, I do know that turning work in on time is an important life skill. So when I say they get full credit for late work, that’s a tiny bit untrue. I keep a separate grade in the gradebook for “on-time” points. They get 15 points per quarter. Any time they turn in something late (or without a name), they lose one of those points. So there is an incentive for turning your work in on time, but turning in one or two late won’t trash your grade. It also makes it super easy to look at the gradebook and see if a student’s grade is low because they aren’t doing well on the assignment (which was complete, of course) or because they turned work in late.


This policy has been working really well for me and my students. I know that in a perfect world, students would do their work well, on time, and completely finished. But this isn’t a perfect world. So for me, it is about choosing which skills are the most important (and realistic) for my kids and putting my emphasis there. I hope this is helpful to some of you. I’d love to hear your class policies in the comments!


5 thoughts on “To Give Full Credit, or Not to Give Full Credit…

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  1. I teach classes where 50-65% of the students have IEPs, and many have accommodations allowing them an extra 1 or 2 days to turn in assignments. There was so much variance that I adopted the same policy you did, in terms of allowing them to turn in late work for full credit up until the day of the test. Much easier for me, rather than trying to keep track of who had how many extra days. And, like yours, my assignments were designed to help students learn and understand the concepts, so as long as they did the assignment before the test, it supported their learning. So it might be controversial, but you aren’t the only one out there with the same belief!

    I do like your idea of “on time” points – I think I will adopt that for this coming school year. Thank you for a great idea!

    1. Glad to hear I’m not alone here, Kim! I also have many IEP students that get time extensions. Anytime an IEP student turns something in late in terms of the rest of the class’s due date (regardless of how late), I have them write “turned in on DATE”. This way, when I sit down to grade work I can refer to whether or not it is considered late according to their IEP (I keep a post it note in my grade book with the students’ initials and how many days they get). I also record the date they turned it in on their grade in the computer, that way when IEP time rolls around it is easy to see if that one or two day extension is really being used.
      Thanks for commenting! =)

  2. Ugh. Late work. I like your “turn it in until the test”, I have tried that one in the past as it seems reasonable to want them to know the information before doing the test. Here is my ongoing problem–after grading the assignment and handing back work, the student who still hasn’t turned in the assignment copies the work and turns it in. What do you do about this problem??

    Our department has a policy, one day late gets 70% of earned points, after that–nothing. I modify this so kids will do the work for some points. So–the first day late is 70% off (per dept policy) and every day after that is 10% more until it is no longer worth anything. That way students can get some points but not full points if they indeed just copied the work of someone else (makes me feel better). Our grading system has a place to check if work has been turned in late, and often I will include the date in the comments box of when it was turned in.

    1. Another catch 22… if you hand the work back quickly, students have feedback. If you wait to hand it back, no one can copy. I don’t think there’s anything you can do here other than instilling value in the homework as a practice for the assessment. It also helps when students have to put things into their own words/descriptions/drawings on assignments. Calling a kid out when you think they copied is so much easier when they can’t explain what they wrote.
      And if they’re copying something word for word from the book, is that really any different from copying it from someone’s paper anyway?
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I have used a similar policy in the past. Similar, but not the same. The actual due date for the unit was the day of the exam. It was for AP level classes, and they could handle it, I thought… But I lost something important. I lost the chance to give them feedback on their work before the test…

    I haven’t found a great solution. But I’m always cognizant of the fact that I’m not teaching adults. For kids who really, genuinely struggle with organization, I don’t want to be constantly evaluating them on their weakness, just as I don’t want to evaluate a student with dyslexia on her ability to read a science passage. So it’s kind of a moving target for me. Year after year…

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