Last week I worked in a high school just outside of Omaha. One of my tasks was to help reduce referrals. Last year alone close to 7,000 were written. Fortunately, a significant percentage (75%), were of the “minor variety”: “late to class” or “late to school.” In the very first 9th grade class, three students were late, two were late second period and third period had two more. So it went on for the next three days of my visit.

Teachers are required to keep track of each late in a grade book and then write a referral after a student gets his second. Two ‘lates’ without an excuse equals an after-school detention. Concerns were raised that the chronic offenders have detentions lined up every day until Christmas and school is just 5 weeks in! Obviously this system is not working.

My suggestion: If you value something that directly promotes teaching and learning then grade it! Give students an “A” each day they are on-time, seated, and ready to work. Ten consecutive “A’s” equals a 100% quiz grade. The system is quietly modified so that for some students it might be five days and for others it might be only three. The goal is to get them to class on time.

This school, like many others, was punishing students for not being on time, but they were not rewarding those who are. It is not necessary to reward with tickets, stickers or a pizza party, but with the easiest “A” a student can ever earn. We want to reward the majority that do the right thing most days and make it really difficult for most offenders to pass up an easy grade.

Many teachers are told only to grade academic work. This is fine for students that do well academically. But I believe that a grade is merited when students show important behaviors they need for success in life and in school. Some teachers will have to get creative with exactly how to enter and keep track of these grades, since some districts do not allow anything but academics to be recorded. That is why I recommend having a certain number of consecutive successes equal a real quiz grade. Once your system is in place it can be modified and updated based on student needs. For example, one student I worked with earned another “A” for influencing his friends to get to class and behave for five consecutive days.

As always, do not be afraid to email me directly with any questions about this or anything else you might be struggling with in your classroom. I look forward to seeing you at a seminar in your area soon! If you are on facebook, please “Like” The Teacher Learning Center for updates, seminar video clips, and discounts on new products and materials. Best of luck and keep up the great work!