Late marks, old news: A world without penalty

By   —   November 30, 2019   —   in Opinions

Walter Murray Collegiate in Saskatoon, SK, photographed on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. | Riley Deacon

How many times have you received a mark-reduction penalty for handing in an assignment late? 

Sure, we all have our excuses. It goes without saying that most of our time management skills are probably lacklustre at best, and the constant barrage of unexpected complications thrown at us in life can make things extremely unpredictable. Not to mention the burnout you feel in the latter half of the semester. 

Given all these kinds of circumstances, what if you could not receive a late mark? No matter how late you handed in your assignment in the semester, a penalty could not be given. Is that not the dream? At the Prairie Spirit School Division, this is very much a reality.

As much as this no late-mark policy sounds akin to birds singing on a warm, spring morning, there are still many complications attached to it. 

First, students — especially those in high school — need discipline. Without the prospect of deducted marks, there is no strong incentive to hand in your work on time. It becomes significantly easier to push things off until the final week of classes. 

According to the Prairie Spirit School Division Learning Superintendent Dave Carter, the rules surrounding this policy are quite lax.

“In terms of consequences, schools deal with [late assignments] in a variety of ways. If [students] haven’t handed the work in by the deadline, maybe they have to work on it during break times,” Carter said.

In theory, this may sound like the perfect solution, but considering that most of the schools operated by the Prairie Spirit School Division are located in small towns, most students would not have anything to do during break times regardless. A harsher punishment than losing a lunch break would have to be put into place.

The manner in which students are held accountable in high school needs to translate well into the way they will be in the future. This policy does not prepare students in the way that it should. 

To illustrate, deadlines are much more strict and the workload more intense in university. If work is handed in late, instructors will often penalize the student by docking marks or not accepting the assignment at all. Even for people who decided not to pursue post­-secondary education, most jobs will still have deadlines in some capacity.

If students are not taught the habit of meeting certain target dates at a young age, it is not a skill they will have when they are older. This can seriously hurt them in the long run. 

According to Chris Hodges, a Ministry of Education spokesperson, “the methods by which students are evaluated and the reporting procedures used by classroom teachers are left to the discretion of school divisions.” 

So marking processes are not universal across all schools in the province. 

Hypothetically, this means that your schooling and marks may significantly vary depending on whether you go to a school next to you or one that is in a different division 10 minutes away. The issue with this is that when applying to colleges and universities, your high school marks are a large indicator to what gets you accepted or rejected. 

If a student took advantage of this policy within the Prairie Spirit School Division, they could have immense amounts of time to fine-tune projects or have extra days to study for tests. This could lead to them getting better marks compared to somebody who was in a different school division but had the same amount of knowledge. 

As a result, the student from Prairie Spirit School Division might be more likely to get accepted into a college before someone from a different district. If this policy was at the very least province-wide, it would be considerably fairer. 

The main goal of this late mark policy is to separate the understanding of content from behaviour. It is important to note that the Prairie Spirit School Division does have a separate mark on report cards for behaviour; however, it does not yet influence admissions into universities or colleges.

Next time you have a due date, think about what it would be like if you did not and the implications it could have.

Cameron Heo

Photo: Riley Deacon

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