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CNI Import - Teacher allowed to continue not grading homework

Some test new policy to be implemented next year

Feb. 4, 2009

Not grading homework would harm the final grades of students who are not good at taking tests, parents said at a forum on a new Whitefish Bay School District grading system.

It could take away incentive for students to do homework at all, they added.

About 30 residents attended the forum on the grading system to be implemented in the 2009-10 school year for all grade levels. A goal of the system is to erase differences in how teachers grade the same course.

Many came because teachers in one Whitefish Bay High School department are not grading homework this year, saying the new policy is the reason why.

However, parents were reassured homework will be graded under the new system, but maybe not all of it.

In the meantime, teachers will be able to continue not grading homework this year, based on preliminary grading data that shows students got as many As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs last semester as students did in the fall semester last year, Principal William Henkle said after the meeting.

Working out the details

Director of Instruction Anthony Frontier said not grading homework is not the policy's intent; it is intended to give students a chance to practice new concepts and skills before they are graded on how well they have learned them.

Frontier said the new policy is meant to try to get students' focus off of grades and try to nurture a desire to learn for the sake of curiosity and creativity. That will be done partly by a heavy reliance on teacher feedback, he said.

Teachers at all levels are hammering out the details of how to apply the new policy. Grading homework will be part of those details, Frontier said.

Grading group work so teachers are aware of the contributions of each student also is a goal, Frontier said.

The new policy eliminates factors in grades that are not measures of student learning, such as extra credit for nonacademic activities. For example, Frontier said, students will no longer be able to get extra credit for bringing donations for charitable drives, which happens occasionally.

The teacher teams will have their plans for grading ready for administrative approval by May.

A reflection of learning

Parent Alane Harrington, who teaches in another school district, said grades reflect learning.

"If you learn the material, you get your 'A,'" she said.

But Henkle said students who end up mastering the subject should be given an "A," even if they do not understand the material at first. Then he asked: "Should I get a 'B' because I did not do well on the first homework assignment?"

The question was raised again whether the schools should grade a random sample of students under the new system this spring to measure its effect before implementing it this fall.

While there had been some interest months ago when the question of a sample first came up, administrators said little would be learned.

"This is not a whole new grading system," District Administrator James Rickabaugh said after the meeting.

It is applying what teachers are already doing and applying it more uniformly, he said.

Frontier agreed, saying what is in the policy is, in large part, happening already.

Jane Ford-Stewart can be reached at (262) 446-6607.

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