Sunday, June 26, 2011


Because I'm a serious teacher who actually cares about students and wants them actually to learn the material, I support this policy--but not because LA Unified is right about it:
The nation's second-largest school system has decided to give students like these a break. A new policy decrees that homework can count for only 10% of a student's grade.

Critics — mostly teachers — worry that the policy will encourage students to slack off assigned work and even reward those who already disregard assignments. And they say it could penalize hardworking students who receive higher marks for effort.

The more that homework counts, the easier it is to pass a course--precisely because some teachers do grade on effort. I don't grade on effort, I grade on performance.

In my classes, homework counts for 20% of a student's grade--still too much for LA Unified, but much less than so many others teachers. This means that 80% of a student's grade comes from tests and quizzes, which are measures of performance.

In my classes, students must demonstrate some level of mastery of the material in order to pass the course; I don't give courtesy D's for those who learn nothing but "try" all the homework. That practice is what will end in LA Unified, and I don't think they'll get the results they're looking for, despite their stated aims:
According to the new policy, "Varying degrees of access to academic support at home, for whatever reason, should not penalize a student so severely that it prevents the student from passing a class, nor should it inflate the grade." It was distributed to schools last month.

I could be wrong here, but I predict that grades will go down instead of up with this policy, and it will be modified or replaced within three years. I give that long because it will take a year to notice the drop, another year to confirm it wasn't an anomaly, and a third to make the decision.


Anonymous said...

The criteria for grading shouldn't include effort, at least beyond a point or two to raise an F or a D to the next grade (but not to move from C to B or B to A) in a non-inflated grading scheme. I was burned on that as a kid, because I could get As without trying in ES (tiny school) and my kids were burned on that in big schools. One of my kids was given a B+ in honors algebra II because of incomplete homework, even though he had no quiz or test grade below 95 - we didn't have a problem with that until we found that a classmate who had one D, one C and all other quizzes and tests below that was given an A because her homework was complete and correct. That is outright fraud and did the teacher ever wonder who did the homework?

Ellen K said...

We weight grades accordingly. Homework/Daily grades-20%
Short term assignments (more than one day)-30%
Projects or exams-50%

W.R. Chandler said...

I agree that grades will go down. At my school (middle), doing the homework is the only thing that has saved many a student.

Darren said...

Sadly, though, Mr. Chandler, those kids who didn't really learn anything but pass go on to high school where we assume they've learned something--and so do the kids.