Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why *Not* Penalize A Kid For Not Doing Assignments?

I don't understand this kind of thinking, I truly don't.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Students who don't hand in homework won't receive a zero anymore under new rules for a new semester that started on Monday at Council Bluffs Community Schools.

Students and teachers are encouraged to use the new grading techniques. School officials said that under the old regime, a student who received a zero had a tough time recovering a grade in the course. Administrators said that by making the failing gap smaller, students still have a chance to bounce back and pass at the end of the semester, even after a mistake.

When you reward or reinforce a behavior--good or bad--you get more of it. Wouldn't a better plan be to get the students to do their work in the first place, rather than need to be forgiven for not doing it later?


Fritz J. said...

I don't understand it either. I can understand giving a student a chance to make up a missed assignment, but not lowering the penalty for missing one and not making it up.

As I see it, there is a big difference between failing an assignment and not doing said assignment, and actions (or lack thereof) have consequences and those consequences need to be applied. If that is heartless, so be it.

allen said...

If you keep firmly in mind that education is only one consideration in policy-making decisions it makes perfect sense.

For instance, if administrators have to deal with irate parents, if they have to spend their valuable time trying to explain the importance of homework, is that the best use of their time? Certainly it'll be uncomfortable and they'll find themselves in the position of defending their underlings. Could their time be better spent in other ways?

Anger related to the completion of homework might even escalate to the school board and there's little enough time to get everything done as it is. Is it worth tying up precious school board time listening to complaints about GPAs tanking because of failure to complete homework?

The answer's purely dependent on the make up of the school board and that's the problem. In districts in which an insipid rationalization like "making the failing gap smaller" sells, education takes a back seat to other considerations. Even worse is the fact that education becomes just another factor in the any decision rather then the reason for the existence of the district. That gets you a "race to the bottom".

Without some minimum acceptable standards that are not subject to political compromise the only questions about the "race to the bottom" are how fast it'll hit bottom and how deep that bottom'll be.

KauaiMark said...

When school teachers/admin types participate in cheating for the benefit of money and jobs, this isn't surprising.

see-> http://www.rd.com/content/caught-cheating-on-tests/

nebraska girl said...

As to the argument about irate parents, maybe it's time we stopped letting mom and dad give their kid's grades. The school need to take back some authority, and parnts need to stop coddling the kids. If doing homework is no longer a requirement to passing, why even have class. just mail out a diploma when the kids turn eighteen.

Ellen K said...

And what then is the result? I will tell you. A local middle school department that feeds into mine embraced this concept of "so long as you get it in before grades go in, it's on time." The result is that I have numerous freshmen failing my class because I make assignments with due dates that are expressed verbally, in writing and on the board DAILY. Their parents are dismayed. But how will these kids function in the REAL WORLD if they think all deadlines are bendable? I think these are the people who will end up on Cops and Judge Judy explaining how they didn't understand that rent was due EVERY MONTH. It's almost criminal.

Donalbain said...

I VERY rarely grade homework. I use homework as more formative that summative assessment, and will use it as an opportunity to make comments and give advice. And research that I have seen (and my own experience backs it up) suggests that if you give comments AND a grade, then only the grade gets looked at. The only things that get a "grade" is an end of module test, and that is mainly for admin purposes.

Darren said...

If these students were paying attention to either comments or grades on homework, though, we wouldn't be worrying about homework being the difference between passing and failing. There was nothing on which to comment here.

Donalbain said...

Well, there is the difference. In (most of) England, you don't pass or fail anything until your actual GCSE exams and coursework at the age of 16.

Ellen K said...

I am currently reading Dr. Maureen Stout's book on "The Feel-Good Curriculum". I think you find much of this book to your liking.

Dr Pezz said...

Isn't education about learning? Why even grade homework?

It's the mastery of content and skills that should determine a student's overall score. In my classes I record who turns in the work and who does not, but I only provide feedback on it rather than a score. If a student isn't doing well on tests, papers, and the like I only have to point to the lack of practice as one possible reason. Additionally, the conversations with students change from "turning in" work to what needs to be learned when grades are based on mastery.

I can't say that's what's happening in Iowa, but it works here.