In the movie The Godfather, singer Johnny Fontane comes to his godfather, Vito Corleone, for help getting a role in an upcoming film. Fontane laments:
I don’t know what to do, Godfather. My voice is weak, it’s weak. Anyway, if I had this part in the picture, it puts me right back on top, you know. But this… this man out there. He won’t give it to me, the head of the studio.
But there are so many reasons why I continue to be committed to this style of instruction and assessment, known as standards-based learning and grading. One of the non-negotiables of this approach is that behaviors and work habits are never incorporated into the academic grade.
I love SBL/SBG more and more each year, especially as new ideas — universal design, passion-driven and project-based learning, choice and voice—seem to flourish within its more accommodating framework. But that’s not to say it hasn’t caused problems. As with most innovations, these problems certainly provide naysayers with plenty of ammunition!
How do I support students’ punctuality when I no longer rely on penalties within the subject-area grade?The main problem I’ve run into with SBL/SBG is getting students to turn work in on time. It makes sense that they wouldn’t: in a school where many teachers assign late penalties and prohibit redos and retakes, why would they prioritize my class, which does neither of these things? And with all the reports we’re hearing about stressed-out students, I can see wanting to get a good night’s sleep and waiting until the weekend to put the finishing touches on a paper for my class.
So to some extent I’m okay with all that.
But there are times when this can get out of control, when too many students are taking advantage of the policy (and of me). And then it can begin to snowball on students as they get further and further behind. How do I support students’ punctuality when I no longer rely on penalties within the subject-area grade?
I’m going to limit my answer to my own experiences in a school where I am the only practitioner of standards-based grading. In a later post, I may talk about what’s possible when a whole school gets on board with the core principles of SBL/SBG and can leverage school-wide policies for the common good. But if you’re like me and have little support, perhaps we have a responsibility to show how well this approach can work such that others will want to try it. In order to do that, we need to highlight the strengths and mitigate the challenges.
Here are some of the the ways I’ve tried to minimize procrastination in a class doesn’t assign late penalties and allows redos/retakes:
- Create a context of personal integrity
- Make it meaningful
- Communicate behavior outside the academic grade
- Hold the line