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Queens middle school teachers bemoan proposed policy that would require them to accept late work without penalty

2020-01-16

A proposed grading policy that would require teachers to accept late work from students until the end of the academic quarter without penalty is sparking ire at a Queens middle school.

The draft policy, introduced in September by Henry Schandel, the principal at Marie Curie Middle School in Bayside, immediately drew concern from teachers who said it would send students the wrong message and undercut teachers’ ability to hold students accountable.

“We are supposed to be preparing them for college,” said one teacher who asked to stay anonymous.

“And I think if these kids go to college and say to the professor I’m not handing in the paper until whenever I want to, that’s not going to work.”

The draft policy, a copy of which was reviewed by the Daily News, reads: “For late/missing work due to student failure to complete an assignment on time, students must also be given multiple opportunities to make up or turn in work regardless of due date and without academic penalty, up until the end of the current marking period."

School officials say the policy is still under review and hasn’t been officially implemented.

“We are laser-focused on students mastering academic content and the draft policy as written is academically sound and was distributed to teachers to solicit their feedback," Education Department spokeswoman Danielle Filson said Thursday.

"It is not the current policy in place, and it was communicated to staff and watermarked as a draft for that reason. The school and School Leadership Team will continue to work together to create a revised grading policy that the entire school community is comfortable with.”

Teachers say they haven’t gotten clear communication about the status of the policy and some are already following it.

How to handle late work is a perennial challenge for teachers, with some arguing that students should be evaluated based on their mastery of the coursework rather than their punctuality. But other educators say penalizing late work can teach important lessons.

One teacher who said they already adopted the policy noticed students turning in more missing work than usual in the days before the end of last academic quarter.

“I have additional work," the teacher said. “I still have deadlines.”

Under Education Department rules, schools are granted significant latitude to set their own grading policies.

Previously, teachers said, they were allowed to set their own late work rules, including marking grades down for each day the assignment is late.

Marie Curie enrolls almost 1,100 students and has almost double the pass rate on state exams than city schools on the whole. Students routinely go on to the city’s selective public high schools.