Sunday, July 10, 2011

LAUSD, 10% Homework policy and Class Categories.

Seems okay to me that homework is limited to 10% of a student's grade. I think that's probably about right since I can never really be sure that the homework wasn't
  • copied from a friend
  • done by a parent
  • cut-and-pasted from Internet sources.
  • removed from the older brother's notebook from two years ago and handed back in! (Happened to the chemistry teacher this year - pretty damn funny.)
For me, there are two categories; "graded" and "practice".

"Practice" includes homework, classwork, some group projects, notebook checks and some ungraded quizzes that are up-front "Will not be graded - just for seeing your understanding." If it's done fairly completely, I give it 5 points, 3 if half-assed and 0 if not at all. Anything given out as a worksheet is placed on the Moodle and can be completed later for full credit. "It's practice!"

If students did it with help and it's not all individual work, it probably falls into this category. Since "practice" implies errors and improvement, this work is not graded for correctness.

"Graded" : quizzes, projects, tests. If you did this on your own and YOU have the understanding, then it fits into this category. I am not a fan of group grades. We can argue about that later.

How does this balance out?

The younger the grade and ability, the higher the practice portion of the grade. Weak 9th graders in pre-algebra get a 60% graded - 40% practice to encourage the notebooks, homework, classwork. It also gives me leeway for the IEP and 504 students who have so much of their work completed for them by the Resource Room Staff.

Thus, 10% for homework will work just fine.
For the AP seniors, there is no "practice" category. The grade is based on quizzes, labs, tests, and binder-questions. Daily homework is for practice and has no effect on the grade, positive or negative. (There are some graded problems for homework, but that's specified ahead).

It's high time they get some experience in deciding what and how much to do, and figuring how much they truly understand - now, while the education is free. Conversely, those who know what's going on can focus on their science or English on any particular day, or on their soccer game since I have a lot of soccer players in my AP calc.

My ultimate goal is for the student to leave the class prepared for what's next. If she passes Algebra I with an A, then she'll be fine in Algebra II. If they get a "A" in calc, then I expect they'll get an "A" in MA121 at RPI.

Code in a nutshell:
  • I try to always be aware of the social promotion aspects of grading. It does no one any good, least of all the student, to pretend that he passed Algebra I so then he gets put into Algebra II. Don't pass him on "Effort" alone. It's not fair to him. 
  • There's nothing wrong with repeating a math course.
  • The assessment of their abilities should be reflected in the standardized test scores they earn: SAT, NECAP and Regents results. If my students are consistently doing poorly on standardized tests, yet get As and Bs, I need to consider whether and what to change. ME, not the school or the district, or any silly value-added measure.
  • If the transcript says "Math" then I have freedom do work on whatever I feel is appropriate for each student. I can take a two-week detour into fractions and basic math if that is what they need. If the transcript will say CP Geometry, then I base the course and the grading on what that means in my school.
  • I refuse to differentiate if it means I am not teaching what the transcript says I am teaching. Differentiation should happen by class - if he isn't capable of CP Geometry then he should switch into a class more appropriate. The one-room schoolhouse lump-them-all-into-one class and differentiate is utter bullshit and was only done last century out of necessity. Since it's no longer necessary, I don't do it. 
  • I don't "pass" a misplaced student if it means he'll be more badly misplaced next year. By all means, I'll help him pass on his own but I won't pretend.

"I won't lie to you and I won't lie for you. Here's the straight dope."


  1. I usually make homework worth 20%. I wish that it was 0%.

    I despise the carrot-and-stick approach to which students have been habituated. They figure that if they're not going to get a grade on a certain assignment, then they just won't do it (or will really half-ass it). You have to threaten a 0 in the grade-book to get them to work. (Not all, but a majority.) The point of homework is to get the ideas down, nothing more. You then prove that you know your stuff on the tests.

  2. The homework policy has already been canceled: