Monday, February 20, 2012

The achievement gap, III: forgetting to hand things in

In J's case, this most recently made the difference between a B and a C in one class, and an A and a B in another. It has dogged him throughout his 9-odd years of homework assignments.

It's chronic, and it's widespread. Troll through the various autism/asperger listservs and you'll find discussion after discussion of AS students losing substantial points for failing to turn in completed assignements, with parents wracking their brains about how to get the schools to "accommodate" their kids. It's painful to imagine the total number of man hours consumed by parent-school meetings specifically devoted to this problem (checklists? graphic organizers? communication books? reward systems?)--not to mention the hours of befuddled brooding and stress.

J's teacher told me that she's aware of the problem, but that, what with 30 kids in the class, it's really hard for her to remember to make sure everyone has handed things in. I nodded and bit my tongue.

Sympathetic though I feel towards overwhelmed teachers, I just don't get it. Back in ancient times when I attended K12 classrooms, forgetting to hand things in was a non-issue. Teachers explicitly asked for and collected our assignments at the beginning of class, and it was immediately apparent to all concerned when a student wasn't turning something in. No checklists, graphic organizers, or reward systems were necessary, and the entire process took a fraction of a percent of the time it would have taken to have a single meeting about it.

As for deducting a whole letter grade for chronic forgetfulness during class time? Well, let's just say that all this ancient history took place well before the diagnosis of Asperger's began its short-lived tenure in America's "inclusive" classrooms, and well before teachers started giving out grades for autism.

18 comments:

Barry Garelick said...

It doesn't seem that hard to me. When I was student teaching, we had a daily checklist for homework and other assignments. The teacher kept a record of missing assignments and allowed students to make up missing homework. On some assignments, there was a penalty for turning things in late, but it wasn't counted as a zero.

lgm said...

If the student doesn't have an IEP here, the missing hw is a zero. This can be 1/10 of your quarter grade in some classes, or a minor fraction in others.

One of the best strategies to take down an acheiving student: assign them to the second half of a double period math class. Collect the hw during the first period. When the kids arrive for the second half, immediately start your class. Don't dismiss until bell rings and don't accept anything late. That will assure equity. true story

Hainish said...

Yes, why isn't the teacher simply asking for and collecting the homework at the start of the period? Or does she want students to construct knowledge of how to hand things in, themselves?

GoogleMaster said...

Is it possible that the "not turning things in" is because it's not "perfect" yet and s/he doesn't want to turn in imperfect/incomplete work? I don't recall where on the spectrum your child(ren) is/are, but I seem to recall that's one of the behaviors/thought patterns. Somehow it gets rationalized that it's better not to turn it in at all than to turn in work that is not up to his/her own standards.

FedUpMom said...

You spelled "achievement" wrong in your post title.

Katharine Beals said...

Good lord--how did I miss that!

Katharine Beals said...

Good point, GoogleMaster. Perfectionism may be an issue in some cases. J, though, is no perfectionist; he simply spaces out, and doesn't care enough about his grades.

Philip said...

I don't understand this paragraph:

"Sympathetic though I feel towards overwhelmed teachers, I just don't get it. Back in ancient times when I attended K12 classrooms, forgetting to hand things in was a non-issue. Teachers explicitly asked for and collected our assignments at the beginning of class, and it was immediately apparent to all concerned when a student wasn't turning something in. No checklists, graphic organizers, or reward systems were necessary, and the entire process took a fraction of a percent of the time it would have taken to have a single meeting about it.
"


You say that it was apparent to all concerned when a child wasn't handing something in, but you don't say what happened to that child. There were no checklists, graphic organizers, etc... and the entire process took a fraction of a percent of the time... but what process? The process of knowing the student wasn't turning something in?

I'm not trying to be tongue-in-cheek here, I'm being sincere.

Katharine Beals said...

"but what process? The process of knowing the student wasn't turning something in?"

The process of walking around to each desk in the classroom and collecting homework from the student sitting at it.

Philip said...

Got it. But what happened to the students that didn't have anything on their desk? What should a teacher do if even in walking around and collecting the homework, the student's desk is empty? Are you suggesting that there's no next step and the student deserves a zero? Or are you suggesting you skip giving that kid a homework grade? Or are you suggesting that walking around and picking up the homework works 100% of the time? Or something else entirely...

Ray said...

It's not clear how having the teacher pick up the assignment off of the student's desk is going to solve the problem of homework that is not turned in. Barry's suggestion sounds more effective, but it hardly sounds all that easy. The teacher will need to create around 200 homework forms. Then he'll need to walk from desk to desk each day picking up the homework while leafing through the forms and checking them off. Each student who does not turn in homework due that day will be told to bring it in the next day. Homework problems tend to be chronic, so a student can easily end up with a backlog. When other students see that homework assignments can be ignored without any consequence, they follow suit. This sounds like a huge headache. How does any of this help to prepare a student for the real world in which missed deadlines have serious consequences?

Katharine Beals said...

This blog post is specifically about students like my son, who are forgetful about turning in assignments. If a teacher were to walk up to his desk and ask him for his assignment, he would give it to her and not lose points.

I'm proposing that it would take far less time for the teacher to pause long enough for this to happen than it would take for the teacher to attend anything like the number of conferences we've had to have about this problem.

Barry Garelick said...

The checklist method I mentioned had one form per week. Each day, the students had to show their homework. It was basically a freebee: if they had their homework done, they got a checkmark. If they didn't have it, the box was marked with a yellow highlight. She kept the checklists in a binder, and she told kids to make up their assignments. If they were really behind, she got after them, or called the parents. Kids were by and large good about making up assignments. The teacher would then check the box for the missing assignment and make a notation for adjustment in the computer.

Yes, it was complex; too complex for me but it worked for her, quite well. I would collect the homework and make a check mark on a form like she had and make that available to the students in a notebook like she did, so they could have a chance to make up assignments.

Barry Garelick said...

I meant to say, "if it were my class I would collect the homework". Didn't mean to make it sound like that's what I did in her class.

I recall my high school algebra teacher who collected our homework everyday. The homework was never returned. It's obvious to me now that she collected it to monitor who was doing their homework.

Philip said...

I agree that it would take less time.

I often have students that don't turn in their homework. Sometimes they have it and I can collect it from them. Usually though, they say it's in their locker.

I've had several instances where I let them go to their locker to get it, with a paraprofessional if possible, but they still come back empty-handed.

It's frustrating for everyone involved.

lgm said...

Philip,

The math teachers here have solved the hw hand-in problem. They simply use another page in the gradebook. Each day there is hw, they walk around and look at each student's hw and check off for completion. A student that doesn't have it out is asked for it, if he doesn't have it with him he receives a lunch or study hall pass to come to math and get it done (or turn it in). The students are working on the 'do now' while the teacher is circulating.

Others, that don't collect daily hw, use a hw box on the desk...students throw it in and are given a time slot to do so.

Parents and students are given the strategy of having the child use a binder containing a pocket plus divider for each subject. The hw goes in the pocket when completed and is pulled out when ready to be checked or turned in.

Katherine, passing hw up to the front stops around 3rd grade. The issue is the lost children. Some that don't do hw will take the paper of a child that is excelling, copy, turn theirs in with the late penalty ("oh, I found it Miss; it was in my backpack" etc) while discarding the stolen one. In ms and hs the cutthroate competitiveness comes in to play. We have learned to always have a backup copy and to take pictures of any project components. The cc's are pretty slick - they'll take part of a project rather than the whole thing by hs.

lgm said...

Katherine,

In middle school these days, the teams generate a daily list of who owes what hw. Those children are sent to that teacher's room for their next study hall, where they work on the assignment. They receive a lunch detention also until they are done. If it is chronic, they sit down with the counselor and come up with a plan. Many have no home support, so endup in mandatory free afterschool tutoring, or in double period math (first period for catch up in skills plus doing hw).

Catherine Johnson said...

I found a fantastic app for iPad -- which I now realize I need to be using IN the classroom, not when I get home.

GradeBook Pro

I've also been recording on a class blog who's turned in HW & who hasn't. That's hard to keep up with, but it's not bad so far.