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Julie Jorgensen

It is an endless battle, with no clear moment of victory – this semester, our son insisted on taking the advanced, interdisciplinary government and communications classes – and part of the deal is that he can’t turn things in late. But in this case, the teachers offered to meet with him every Tuesday and Thursday after school to help him check to see that everything is turned in, and if we have any doubt, we can bring him in ½ hour before school starts. The amazing thing is that he insists on taking AP World History next year, and the advanced path of math and science, even when I push back on it – which would not be the case had he failed his classes first semester. So his attitude is wonderful (his ability to keep the wheels from falling off periodically is still a problem).

What I think schools should do is offer this kind of approach for all students that can’t/don’t stay organized. It makes them “personally responsible” but doesn’t rely on the lottery system in terms of who got the parents who are working to solve the problem (vs. labeling their son “lazy” – as if – even if there’s a nugget of truth to it - that is the end of the role of the parents and teachers!). In fact, the schools are better equipped to identify the kids with this kind of problem, and they could even have a special “track” for it. And if parents found out how common the problem is, they would have a much more tranquil and constructive relationship with their kids.

To me, at the core, there should be a track that would flip this “personal responsibility” issue on its head and say, OK, if some percentage of kids’ (20%?) brain development means they lack personal responsibility, then let’s not treat them as if they have it – let’s take it as a given and structure their day around it. One component would be an after school study hall for any one with late assignments – ie, the consequence isn’t a 0 on the assignment, it’s that you have to stay and do the work. I think that immediate consequence is constructive and a big motivator to not have late assignments. And they would learn a habit of finishing, rather than procrastinating until it’s too late, but then they get away with not doing the work at all.

So I am glad you are working in this area, and my hat is off to you. I would love to see the results of your study.


William Draves

Last spring, Julie Jorgensen and her husband took an item out of their son's bedroom every time his homework was late. Soon there was nothing left. So last fall they switched strategies and negotiated with his teachers to have his homework guaranteed, even if up to a week late. It worked. His grades soared. Here's her latest update.

Grace Rice

My husband and I are educators. I just skimmed over your report and I have to say I felt as if you were talking about our 13 year old son. He has been the our district's gifted program since 2nd grade. He has consistently scored in the +-95 percentile on the standardized tests and even earning the superintendents award for being among the highest scorers. So, the fact that he was choosing to not turn in homework (when doing so would earn him an A in the class) was a mystery to us. And the nature of our jobs made us feel even more frustrated. We couldn't figure out why he didn't think it was even worth the effort but we knew we couldn't wait to see if he would "grow out of it." These were the words of some of our peers - educators, as well.

While I haven't thoroughly read and digested your study's contents, I feel vindicated by what I have read. In my son's case, I strongly feel that his school has seriously failed its students with its low expectations and zero rewards. With your study in hand, I know I can now approach the superintendent, the principal, and the coordinator of the gifted program with my concerns. They may not agree with it, but it will open doors to discussion, I'm sure.

Until your study, I was starting to question our parenting skills, our son's true potential and whether or not we had gone too far in "negotiating" with the teachers to accept his late assignments. I am more hopeful that my husband and I have made the right decision to be vocal advocates for our son and that we will gain a better understanding of him and his needs as he enters high school.

Grace Rice

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