Homework by Sophie Boucher

Homework. This is a word that some students dread, some students don’t care about, and very few students find essential and meaningful. At Naugatuck High School, the policy has recently changed so that homework must count for 5% of a student’s final grade in every department. Some departments, such as the English department, have lobbied for a change and are piloting a new policy in which homework – or practice – counts for 10% of a student’s final grade while the Social Studies department got rid of the “homework” category all together in order to avoid the 5% mandate. With all of the opposition seen by teachers and department heads, the question of why the homework policy was changed so that it would count for 5% of a student’s final grade was voted favorably upon.

It all started a couple of years ago when the administrators at Naugatuck High School recognized a problem. Students weren’t doing homework and it made a huge dent in these student’s grades. Furthermore, these administrators wanted to see student’s grades reflect their performance on summative and formative assessments more than they wanted to see their grades reflect their homework. As a result, homework, in all departments, was dropped down or maintained at 5% of a student’s final grade.

Unfortunately, this policy has not found much success at Naugatuck High School. Mrs. Mariano, a math teacher, when asked if she has found success in the current homework policy in the math department, said, “No, I find that less students do their homework now that  it’s only as five percent”. Not only has the math department found this new policy to be unsuccessful, but the science department has also found that the homework policy has had a negative effect on whether or not a student will complete his or her homework. Mrs. Lancaster, a science teacher, when asked the same question, answered saying “I would say that in my upper level classes that there are more students not completing their homework because their not seeing that it’s weighed as much”.

Homework is crucial in the learning process of a student. Homework is practice, it reinforces learning, and accelerates a student’s mastery of specific skills. In fact, research has found that high school students feel as though homework has a positive influence on achievement in a class or on an assessment (Homework). In order to attain the maximum benefits from homework, increasing the percentage at which homework counts for a grade would motivate more students to get it done. In addition, in a survey conducted at Naugatuck High School, over half of the students who participated either said yes or maybe when asked if an increase in the weight of homework would motivate them more to complete it. An increase in the weight of homework from 5% to 10% in all departments would have a positive effect on the students at Naugatuck High School. Not only would more kids be more motivated to complete their homework, but they will also evidently score better on their summative and formative assessments.

Moreover, increasing the weight of homework inevitably lowers the weight of summative and formative assessments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Matthew Spira, a writer for the Ehow website, wrote an article about the disadvantages of summative assessments. According to Spira, “There is a direct correlation between performance on a test and self-esteem”. Those who score poorly on tests generally have a lower self-esteem, which will result in a reduced willingness to put in effort (Disadvantages of Summative Assessments 2011). A student’s grade should not just be a reflection of their performance on a test or quiz, but it should also be a reflection of a student’s hard work and effort. By changing the criteria of homework from accuracy and/or completion to effort, students will be forced to work harder on their homework in order to receive a good grade for it.

Any teacher asked will always say that homework is extremely important for a student’s education. By increasing the weight of homework from 5% to 10% and by changing the criteria so that homework would be graded on effort as opposed to accuracy and/or completion, students will be able to achieve the maximum benefits homework has to offer for them.

 

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