Covid-19 Continues to Impact Late Work Policies

Valerie Brady, senior, studying at a Howard County library. “It can be hard, but I don’t turn in work late,” she said. “Will it be the best quality it can be? No. Will it be completed though? Yes.” (Photo by Zoe MacDiarmid)

As students grapple with this year’s changes, many teachers are amending their late work policies to help students readjust to in-person learning and a seven-course schedule.

Still, some teachers have returned to more traditional, pre-Covid policies, including the ten-percent-off-a-day rule was almost entirely left behind during online school. 

According to English teacher Ms. Sheinhorn, teachers became considerably lenient about accepting students’ late work because everyone was navigating uncharted waters. “It was this idea of extending grace to students because this was a completely new method of education,” she says.

As a result, according to Ms. Sheinhorn, late submissions mushroomed over online school.

However, junior Payton Roberts says that flexible late work policies were not her saving grace but another roadblock to finishing work. “It gave me a reason not to do work, and I ended up more stressed. I always waited until the last minute,” Payton said. 

This was common for students says English teacher Ms. Curtis who, in the last twelve hours of quarter four, had 97 late assignments submitted. 

“Students routinely turned in late work [before online school], but not in huge chunks like I saw at the end of last year,” said Ms. Curtis. 

Ms. Curtis says she still believes in the importance of giving grace to students but recognizes it can be counterproductive. “While some flexibility is good, this experience created a lot of stress for my students,” Ms. Curtis said. “Rather than reducing the stress, they postponed it and created a disaster.”

With no school-wide late work policy, teachers are being creative with their approaches. 

Ms. Curtis says she will accept summative assignments late if the student gives her a heads up and negotiates a new due date. Many teachers are adopting this case-by-case basis.

Science teacher Ms. Alcaraz says she accepts late work with no penalty up to the last week of the quarter. 

Another science teacher Mrs. Cooper says she aims to allow students to work at their own pace. “I don’t want [students] to give up because they didn’t meet a deadline,” she said. “I’d rather them continue to learn at a time and pace that works for them.” 

Ms. Sheinhorn says that she focuses on a student’s mastery by allowing students to resubmit after feedback. “Some teachers have gone back to the way it was, but some of us have tried to be progressive,” she said. 

Students with teachers with traditional policies like senior Valerie Brady have had to readjust. She says that she misses the “safety net” that flexible due dates provided. Now, Valerie says she has to lower her expectations to keep up with deadlines. “Will it be the best quality it can be? No. Will it be completed on time? Yes,” she said. 

Mrs. Cooper says she has observed her son become routinely exhausted after coming home from school to finish his homework. She says she has also seen this in her students. 

“Few things in life are one and done,” Mrs. Cooper said. “There are natural consequences to not keeping up with your work; your test scores are poor, just like there are natural consequences to turning in your mortgage payment late, your credit score goes down.”

“But life allows you to change to accommodate things at the moment,” says Mrs. Cooper. “You shouldn’t give up because it isn’t ‘perfect’ or ‘on time.’ The most important thing is to persist, and I think accepting late work means students persist.”