Panel #5 Homework is Meant to be Practice and Not to Demonstrate Mastery of Standards. Therefore, it Should Not be Incorporated into the Academic Grade Pro Position Paper Carole Smith California State University, Northridge SED 625SC As a secondary school science teacher, I am well aware of the inherent difficulties in not only covering the California State Standards in Chemistry, but also in ensuring that students have attained mastery of them. There never seems enough time, and the conflict between breadth and depth is always present. It is for this reason that I believe myself and the majority of educators do assign homework to our students. We want to ensure that students get enough practice of the material that is being covered in class to develop new skill sets and to be able to demonstrate understanding of new concepts. However, what students do outside of class should be just that -practice of concepts and skills taught in the classroom. Students’ academic grade should be a true and accurate reflection of their own individual ability to demonstrate their own learning. When a student turns in a completed homework assignment, a teacher can never be 100% confident that it is indeed done by the student only. Often, parent’s can “help” their children with their homework to the point where it no longer becomes the students own work. Many students often have tutors, and again the question is how much of the homework was completed, and comprehended fully, by the student. Their also is an inherent inequity here, as students whose families cannot hire a tutor, or whose families are unable to help them with their homework, will produce less “correctly done” homework. It is in my opinion unjust to give a student an academic grade for work that they may or may not have done or even understood. Unfortunately, there is also a culture of cheating that is prevalent in today’s high schools, and this is especially the case with homework assignments. In fact, many students, and even parents, to not consider copying homework to be cheating, but rather some form of “group work.” Homework also rarely gives teachers feedback on student learning, as the majority of teachers do not individually grade homework assignments. Instead, they are often graded by teacher assistants or peer graded by students, or merely glanced at by the teacher for completion, rather than accuracy. I certainly understand that – with the multitude of tests, quizzes, lab reports and projects certainly grading homework assignments does not seem to be of high importance. However, again – if it is not of high importance than why should if be counted significantly in a student’s academic grade? Here then is created the problem of grade inflation caused by homework assignments. If the average weighted percent of homework is a third (C. Leon Knore, 1996, page 12) then clearly a student can substantially raise his or her grade by turning in homework that he or she might not have done without assistance. The primary functions of grades are to report student achievement and learning. Students demonstrate this learning through a variety of assessments, both formal and informal. Homework is a form of practice, not an assessment, and therefore should not be counted as part of a student’s academic grade. Part of our responsibility to our students is to encourage life-long learning skills and an attitude of a “love of learning”. Students view homework as a “chore”, so clearly assigning homework does not accomplish that goal. There are many new research studies suggesting that doing homework may not even improve academic performance (Kohn, 2006, pg 13). There is not even evidence that supports the idea that homework provides nonacademic benefits, such as better work habits (Kohn, 2006, pg 16). Although educators can debate and cite research on whether homework is academically beneficial to students, it should be clear that if a grade is to reflect a measure of the student’s demonstrated academic achievement in learning skills and concepts then students’ ability to turn in neatly done homework should not be a factor in determining their academic grade. The opposite situation also occurs, with students demonstrating mastery on assessments such as tests and quizzes, but earning low academic grades due to their not turning in homework assignments. Many gifted and talented students find homework, often consisting of worksheets and bookwork, to be “busy work” and do not do them. If the practice – for this is what homework is meant to be- is not needed for them, as they prove by attaining excellent marks on assessments- why should their academic grade by negatively affected? Students such as these can be given low work habit grades while still achieving high academic grades that reflect their understanding. In conclusion, it is ethically and professionally wrong to incorporate homework grades into a student’s academic grade. Student’s academic grade must be a fair reflection of what they can demonstrate they have achieved understanding of. Learning goals need to be achieved in the classroom, not at home. References 1. Bempechat, Janine. 2004. “The Motivational Benefits of Homework: A Social Cognitive Perspective.” Theory into Practice 43 Summer 2004: 189-196 2. Knore, C. Leon. “Grade Inflation in Elementary or Secondary Students’ Progress Reports: The Contribution of Homework of Extra-Credit Projects.” American Secondary Education v24 1996: 11-18 3. Kohn, Alfie. “Abusing Research: The Study of Homework and Other Examples.” Phi Delta Kappan 88 Summer 2006: 9-22 4. Anderman, E.M., T. Griesinger, and G. Westerfield. 1998. “Motivation and Cheating During Early Adolescence.” Journal of Educational Psychology 90: 84-93. 5. Butler, R. 1987. “Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Properties of Evaluation: Effects of Different Feedback Conditions on Motivational Perceptions, Interest, and Performance.” Journal of Educational Psychology 79: 474-82. 6. Butler, R, and M. Nisan. 1986. “Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance.” Journal of Educational Psychology 78: 210-16. 7. Cooper, H. 1989. Homework. White Plains, NY: Longman. 8. Dewey, John. Interest and Effort in Education. New York: Collier, 1963. 9. Grolnick, W.S. and R.M. Ryan. 1987. “Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52: 890-98. 10. Jongsma, Eugene. “Homework: Is it Worthwhile?” Reading Teacher 38 (1985): 7024. 11. Kohn, A. “From Grading to De-Grading.” High School Magazine v6, n5 March, 1999 pp. 38-43. 12. Kohn, A. “The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation.” Chronicle of Higher Education. November 8, 2002, pp. B7-B9. 13. Salili, F., M.L. Maehr, R.L. Sorensen, and L.J. Fryans Jr. 1976. “A Further Consideration of the Effects of Evaluation on Motivation.” American Educational Research Journal 13: 85-102.