Saturday, July 02, 2011

The LAUSD ate my homework

You know what’s funny about the new Los Angeles Unified Schools’ homework policy?  It’s the right policy for the wrong reason that will get the correct results and still piss people off. 

Get it?

So L.A. is now stating that homework can only be worth 10% of a student’s overall grade.  The idea comes from the complaints that students have other things to do; and while the excuse seems to revolve around the image of a 15 year old meeting the needs of a single parent family with six siblings, the reality is usually that a 16 year old is too busy playing World of Warcraft to actually attempt to do math problems.  Regardless, now the debate has began.  Teachers are angry that they are being micromanaged and students are celebrating by inviting more people to play Black Ops on XBox 360.

So the policy is idiotic and it does reek of micromanagement.  What a fantastic way to attempt to appease lazy parents that don’t lord over their kids to do homework; just make the homework actually hold less value.  That way you can create the illusion that the kid needs to do less and that the teacher will somehow use the same class time to teach more.  But wait a minute.  For some reason this policy seems to assume that the homework is “busy work”, a daily assignment that is meant to reinforce material or waste the time of the student (based on your point-of-view).  So I have a question.  What if your homework is that you have to know “x” concept?  What if you have daily quizzes that demand that you have mastered the knowledge necessary?  Is that homework?  It’s not, and the result is that you’ll see grades probably drop because real data is going to become exposed.

Tests and quizzes represent nearly all my Advanced Placement grades and probably 3/4 of my college preparatory grades, projects and in-class work representing most of the rest.  “Homework”, in it’s classical design, is a very small percentage of my overall grade.  Guess what?  Most of my parents hate the fact that homework is not much of a factor.  Advanced Placement parents don’t mind because the value is possible college credit, but many college prep parents just want their Senior darlings done with their high school careers. They want the busy work to create grade inflation and often frown upon the necessity of their kid to actually know something.  More than half of parents often use test anxiety as an excuse for poor performance.  By the time they are high school Seniors, that doesn’t fly very strongly with me.  Quizzes are three times a week and they are not difficult.  More often than not, test anxiety is simply code for “just get them out of high school for Christ sakes”. 

I don’t think the LAUSD is going to like what is going to happen with grades when the 10% Rule is applied, and I think teachers need to protect themselves by documenting everything.  I also think that teachers need to use this opportunity to reevaluate their classroom instruction to focus on what they need to know and if necessary, make the practice problems voluntary while making the primary concept mandatory.  Put the onus of learning on the student.      

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