Homework no longer making the grade
Region 10 tweaks its homework policy
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The 2016-2017 school year has brought with it a new homework policy.
The policy states that homework can now only make up 10 percent of a student’s grade and was implemented by Director of Student Learning Cheri Burke with the help of teachers and the Board of Education. Although some students and parents have questioned why the district adopted a new homework policy, Burke assured that it was time for a change.
“What was in writing wasn’t appropriate any longer,” said Burke, noting that the policy was 30 years old.
All board members agreed that the 1985 policy was outdated, and the variety of homework grading methods from teacher to teacher only proved that point. When they spoke to teachers, the board discovered that some teachers didn’t factor homework into students’ grades at all, while others factored homework in to take up as much as 50% of a student’s grade. Additionally, the board consulted other schools in places such as Ellington, Farmington and Canton and discovered that they were also reconsidering their homework policies.
After questioning why the policy was revamped in the first place, parents and students began wondering: why 10 percent? It wasn’t random, said Burke. The team spoke to professionals that recommended 10 percent as their magic number for homework to be factored into a grade. This percentage ensures that homework doesn’t account for too much of a student’s grade, nor does it account for too little. In addition, this percentage helps guide Lewis Mills towards a more authentic learning policy, that is, a curriculum that incentivizes growth rather achievement. In August, educational consultant Rick Wormeli spoke to teachers about another issue: how can teachers challenge their students? As part of this conversation, Region 10 developed the “I can” statements directly linked to learning. They have also been working towards non-incentive learning which emphasizes assignment completion without reward. The homework policy has played a huge role in directly linking class curriculum to a student’s individual learning by making homework more about practice and less about grades.
Some teachers have voiced their input on the policy. For math teacher and department head Jesse Darcy, “The new homework policy doesn’t necessarily change the difficulty of grading for [him] because it was similar to how [he] normally factored in homework into [his] grade.” However, he did mention that the policy has received negative attention from students.
“Some said that they use homework as an opportunity to boost their grade. These same students also said they typically do their homework,” said Darcy.
Obviously, students that once relied heavily on homework as a grade booster are not too fond of this new policy. Before, they could do poorly on tests and quizzes while still maintaining a decent grade only by completing their homework every day. Now, more weight is placed on large assignments such as projects, tests and quizzes. Due to this, students are forced to study more and can no longer rely on homework to keep their grades up. On the other hand, Darcy explained that some students’ grades suffered due to their lack of completing homework, so the new policy is a good change for them. These students have said that “[homework] usually brings down their grades.”
When asked what Darcy personally thinks about the policy, he discussed the authentic learning factors which make the policy effective. Rather than focusing on homework as a percentage of grades, Darcy believes that students should view homework from a different perspective. He elaborated, “[homework] is used to support the in-school learning process to ensure concepts are being understood, to expand thought processes and elicit questions.”
Junior Jessica de Atienza agrees with Darcy, adding “I feel with homework being worth only 10 percent, it doesn’t help your grade as much as it used to. It’s more for your own benefit and to help understand the material better.” Therefore, homework is assigned to improve a student’s personal and individual learning, not to “make someone’s night miserable,” as Darcy said.
Although the policy came with a mixed bag of reactions, it was about time for a reconsideration of homework and its impact on a student’s grade at Region 10 according to Burke and school officials. As for the next big goal, the Board of Education intends to address the concepts of authentic learning, or learning without incentive, and personalized goals — some of which they have already begun to integrate. This signals a shift in how the curriculum has been previously taught, with the product more in-line with a progressive education movement that aims to more accurately measure the mastery of skills and concepts.