Guest Blogger: Muddled Thinking in Middletown, Ohio

Today’s guest blogger, Amanda Cockshutt, writes her thoughts on a Middletown, Ohio, editorial, which opposed a school board’s proposal to eliminate the grading of homework. Amanda, who lives in New Brunswick, Canada, was instrumental in getting her local elementary school to reexamine its homework policy. Her school now has no homework on nights of major school events and there are two weeks per year where there is be no homework other than reading.

Muddled Thinking in Middletown, Ohio
by Amanda M Cockshutt, PhD

I read with interest the editorial by the concerned folk of Middletown concerning the school board’s proposal to stop the grading of homework. I think that the proposal is progressive and clearly attempts to preserve standards rather than lower them.

The authors of the editorial seem absolutely convinced that stopping the grading of homework will lower standards and ruin their children’s chances of success. Having not seen the proposal I can’t be sure, but I would be surprised if the lowering of expectations was a stated policy of the school board’s initiative.

Rather, it seems, that the board wants to level the playing field. I would interpret this to mean that all the same benchmarks of student performance will be used, except the grading of homework. In other words, tests and exams will be as difficult.

All teachers, professors… know that when student work is completed outside of the classroom there is a very good chance that others have “participated” in that work. If that work is graded, then the student has been rewarded for work they have not completed alone. If the work is not graded, then the contributions of others are either neutral or actually serve to help the student understand how the work should have been done. It’s a win win situation.

I cannot understand why parents would oppose the elimination of grading of homework unless they are participating a little too actively in the homework process. If they are strong in their conviction that homework improves the academic achievement of their children (a position that research does not support strongly), then they should feel confident that the time spent on homework does in fact contribute to their children’s performance on tests, exams…

The authors suggest that the new policy will be a burden to teachers. I can’t exactly see how eliminating masses of marking is going to burden them. Perhaps the time teachers would previously have spent marking will now be devoted to designing more thoughtful and useful homework assignments. This is something that will benefit all students.

Kudos to the school board of Middletown! Editorial authors, please think hard about what is motivating your reactionary position.

One Comment on “Guest Blogger: Muddled Thinking in Middletown, Ohio”

  1. Kathryn Cramer says:

    I attended my senior year of high school in the German public schools (1979-1980). While there was a substantial homework load, grading of homework was illegal in order to prevent parents from inflating their childrens’ grade by doing portions of the homework themselves or hiring tutors to do so. My recollection is that this was a national policy.

    June 7th, 2007 at 11:33 am
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