New Teacher Advocate — KDP New Teacher Advocate Summer 2015
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The Pink Sheet: Proving A Negative
Lisa Arter


“He turned in all the work. He says you must’ve lost it.”

Lost it? Not possible. I had organized my room and routines, including turning in homework, effectively and methodically. There was no way that I could lose an assignment—much less eight of his.

“I can’t prove that your son didn’t do the work. I can only assure you that if he had, there would be a grade for it,” I answered the angry father.

Concerned about students’ progress, focused on documenting assessment, and convinced that proving a negative was impossible, I continued to wonder: What could I do to prevent this situation from happening again?

A few months later, I slid into the back of a conference workshop as a small lady in her 50s stepped to the podium.

“My first few years of teaching were a nightmare,” she began. “I had paid attention in all of my credentialing classes, organized my room, and Planned for every contingency. However, one of my biggest difficulties was what to do about a student who didn’t turn in his work and claimed I had lost it.”

“How could I prove a negative?” she continued. “By having the proof in the child’s own handwriting.”

She had the solution: the Pink Sheet (worthy of capital letters). I implemented the Pink Sheet the following Monday with this process:

• Make several copies of the Pink Sheet (see sample). You can fit two on an 8.5” × 11” piece of paper. Colored paper is easiest for tracking. Obviously, I print mine on pink, but each department could have a different color in middle or high school. Download a printable version from

• Have students hold their homework above their heads. Anyone without it receives a Pink Sheet that must immediately be filled out. Before long, students who do not have their completed homework will remember to pick up a Pink Sheet from the stack by the door when they enter the classroom.

• Ask students to hand homework and Pink Sheets across the rows to the left. Passing to the side, instead of forward, helps with classroom management as well as record keeping.

• Instruct students to continue passing papers only as long as there is something from each person to his or her right. This way you know exactly who didn’t pass in homework or a Pink Sheet by where the movement stopped.

• Collect (or have a helper collect) from each row, confirming as you do that a piece of paper was submitted by every student.

• Place the Pink Sheets on top of the homework stack.

o For an “Absent” or “Lost it,” remind the student to get the make-up work.

o For a “Didn’t understand it,” students stay after class for help. This also helps with Response to Intervention (RTI) decisions.

o For anyone marking “Chose not to do it” or “Don’t have supplies at home,” contact the student’s parent or guardian.

o The rest are allowed to turn in work the next day per your late credit policy.

• Keep Pink Sheets on your desk until the next day to coordinate with and document late work. Then the sheets are placed in each student’s file (have an information file for each student), along with all signed grade reports, notes from parent communications, and other documentation. Having all of this information in one file for each student is an invaluable aid for decision making as well as meetings with parents, students, colleagues, and administration.

As my students learned that they would be held accountable for submitting something for every assignment, the amount of completed homework increased and the number of Pink Sheets decreased. Parent and student conferences focused more on problem solving than finger-pointing, and tensions lessened. Other teachers in the school, rookies and veterans, adopted the practice with equal success. I cannot imagine teaching without it and now train all of my preservice teachers on the benefits of being able to prove a negative.

Dr. Arter is an Assistant Professor of English at Southern Utah University where she coordinates the English education program, supervises student teachers, and teaches K-12 methods courses in English, writing, grammar, and young adult literature. Previously she taught English language arts and literacy intervention at Mt. View Middle School in Beaumont, CA.