Homework is Meant to be Practice and Not to Demonstrate Mastery

Panel #5
Homework is Meant to be Practice
Not to Demonstrate Mastery of Standards.
it Should Not be Incorporated into the Academic Grade
Pro Position Paper
Carole Smith
California State University, Northridge
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
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
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
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