Sunday, November 6, 2016

So, You Didn't Know Your Kid Had Missing Work?

It never fails when interim reports or report cards are released that parents question the low grades. Well, I know that these low grades are MOSTLY due to LOTS and LOTS of missing work. Naturally, being the "typical teacher" I began reflecting on this issue last school year and knew something had to be done to keep parents more well informed.

I teach 4th grade and my teammates and I have discussed on multiple occasions the "thing" that happens in our school between 3rd and 4th grade. I don't know if this is something that happens in other places, but grades drop. And....parents are not used to it, not informed about it, and don't like it. UNDERSTANDABLE. I want parents to know. It is the missing work combined with more rigor. (I know all you guys know that. I just wanted to type it. Maybe parents will happen upon this somehow or I can send them a telepathic message just by typing it???)

In my school system the interim reports we send home in 4th grade have each individual assignment listed and what grade the student received. (Side note-we use a system which allows parents to log-in anytime and check grades, but from what I have seen most parents at my school do not utilize this tool. I am not sure if they are unaware it exists, don't have the ability to access the information, or something else.) This is great because the parents and students are more informed about how exactly their child has been performing rather than if we just sent home an average. 

Here is why this is not great-

My school has a policy that teachers are not allowed to give zeros on work. (I know the arguments on both sides for why people agree or disagree with this system.) When students have missing work, I check a box to show that it is missing. Unless I am just missing something, this, for some reason, does not show up on the printed interim reports. 

My options when I print my interim reports are that I leave this assignment blank to show it is missing, giving an inaccurate average, or put in the lowest grade we are supposed to give and confuse parents because the assignment has a grade. I always attach a note that says, any missing assignment will have a grade of *lowest grade we can give*. The issue with that is that then parents have no way of knowing if the child had a missing assignment or actually scored below that grade and I had to bump it up to that lowest score. Overall, I think doing this makes it very confusing for everyone involved. 

Alright. What was I going to do about this issue? When I say "Your child has quite a few missing assignments", the most typical response is, "Can you let me know what they are missing and I will have them make it up." a teacher, this is an issue for a couple of reasons...1. I most likely do not have a copy of whatever it was they are missing. (Yes. I should try to be more organized.)  2. It will take me a LONG time to go back to see each exact assignment and then gather them all up. (Yes. I should try to be more organized.) 3. I have done this so many times in the past and then I get....wait for it....NONE of the make-up work made up. 

What did I do? *See above about me needing to be more organized.* Each week on Monday I send home a slip of paper to each student who has missing work. It essentially says that the student is missing some work and I list each assignment that wasn't turned in. I give the student until the last day of the week to make-up whatever it is they are missing. Parents are then required to sign the slip to show that they are aware of what is going on with their child's work. My students know this is REQUIRED to be turned in with a parent signature THE NEXT DAY.

What happens when they don't turn this slip back in the next day? They call home and tell their parents of missing work. This is typically pretty effective in getting those slips turned in. 

Why else does this help? I now have a paper trail informing parents of missing work on a weekly basis. I don't have to keep up with extra copies of assignments and who is missing what for longer than one week! For some students, it makes a difference when they see that list on their desk Monday morning. I am constantly covered when I am questioned by anyone about whether a student was given a chance to make-up work or about grades or any other thing that could be questioned. And lets be real....teachers are questioned about so many things it is nice to have one less thing to worry about.

Below is what I send home. Last year I printed, as is, and wrote in the info. This year, I am keeping this in a weekly google doc. Each student will have one of these slips on the doc and I type in each missing assignment. Then I print as needed.

Dear Parent of ___________,

Here are the grades/assignments your child did not complete or turn in from last week. If your child was absent on the Friday they are still responsible for getting their weekly assignments turned in. Students will be given until the last day of this week to make up the work and turn it in. Your child was given the opportunity over the weekend to take the work home to complete it. Please sign and return to let me know you are aware of any missing assignments.

Missing Assignments:

Parent Signature_______________________________________

Feel free to use this and let me know if you have anything that works for you when it comes to missing student work. I am always looking for ways to make what I am doing more efficient and use the least amount of resources.

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