Thursday, July 21, 2011

Homework Policy Canceled Before It's Ever Even Implemented

Less than a month ago I posted about LA Unified's new homework policy, that homework couldn't count for more than 10% of a student's grade. In that post I wrote the following:
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, 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.
Clearly I didn't give LA Unified, which is sometimes called "LA Calcified", enough credit for alacrity. The policy has already been canceled:
After considerable backlash from parents and teachers, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified suspended a policy that would allow homework to count for only 10 percent of a student's grade.

The policy was quietly approved by the school board in May in an effort to level the playing field for students with varying levels of academic support at home.

But Superintendent John Deasy called a halt to the policy after complaints that it would penalize hard-working students who complete homework assignments and strip teachers of authority over their classrooms.

There you go. The "hard-working" kids who still don't learn anything will be penalized. Somebody noticed the same thing I predicted in my linked post above, that grades would go down under this policy--and we can't have that, can we?

Let's continue:
(Deputy Superintendent) Aquino said grades should be based a student's mastery of the material and not whether they've finished all their assignments.

Excellent! But then he backtracks:
"I believe we need a balance - mastery of standards is vital but we also need to hold our students accountable for being responsible," Aquino said.
What's the point of "being responsible", which I believe is code for "doing your homework", if you don't accomplish the goal of actually learning anything? Are we really doing kids a service if we teach them that effort expended while completely wasting their own time is some sort of good?


HappyChyck said...

Did someone mention student responsibility? My favorite soapbox.

It's such a shame that those hard-working students cannot be rewarded in some the pride of learning and mastering concepts. In a perfect world, it works like, doesn't it?

Check out my reflection on the value of homework:

rwagoner said...

You hit the nail on the head - twice. That is why I am so depressed that the policy has ben cancelled. Make no mistake, it hasn't been put "on hold." We will never hear of this policy again. Totally depressing, in my opinion.

Go ahead kids ... you really don't have to learning anything until high school (where most teachers DO limit homework's grade effect). Then you can drop out.