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Schools

Homework penalty may lose some teeth

New guidelines are on the table to prevent teachers from failing students who miss homework assignments but do well on tests and quizzes.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published September 18, 2005


BROOKSVILLE - It could be a slacker's dream come true: Hernando teachers would be forbidden from flunking students who don't do their homework.

Top school district officials are proposing new guidelines that would limit how much teachers can count homework when calculating a student's final grade in a class. Under the new guidelines, homewould would represent no more than 10 percent of a student's final average in kindergarten through Grade 8 and no more than 15 percent of a student's final average in grades 9 to 12.

District officials tried to enact the change around the end of last school year as a way to keep students from failing just because they had forgotten a couple of homework assignments. But several School Board members shot down the idea, saying teachers should have the authority to design their classes and grade their students as they see fit.

On Tuesday afternoon, administrators will present the idea again to School Board members. If the board agrees to the plan, the new homework guidelines would take effect immediately, and teachers would have to follow them.

Superintendent Wendy Tellone said the proposed guidelines had come up over the course of meetings with principals, teachers and other staffers. Tellone said there was concern that students doing well on quizzes and tests were sometimes needlessly failing a class because they had forgotten to turn in homework assignments.

"Homework teaches responsibility, but it should be a component," Tellone said. "It's an extension of what you do in the classroom."

In recent years, various school districts around the country have experimented with scaling back homework. According to the Chicago Tribune, administrators at the Marya Yates School in Matteson, Ill., decided in May to make homework about 10 percent of a student's final grade, with some teachers counting it even less.

Other school districts in Texas and Georgia have also set guidelines to make sure students are not burdened with too many assignments. But those regulations were prompted by parents who complained that their kids had too much work, not by district administrators.

Hernando currently has no policy governing homework. It's up to teachers to decide how much to weigh homework when calculating grades.

Brian Phillips, the president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, said Friday afternoon that he could not comment on the guidelines because he had not had a chance to review them.

The likelihood of the board agreeing to the new guidelines is uncertain. School Board member Sandra Nicholson said she still had several concerns about setting up a districtwide requirement for homework.

"It should be more of a teacher's choice," Nicholson said.

Lauren Frazier, 16, said homework often counted for more than 15 percent of her final average in many of her classes at Hernando High School. Frazier said her homework assignments help prepare her for quizzes and tests.

She said she would keep doing homework, even if the assignments no longer counted for much. But she wasn't so sure about her friends.

"If it counts for more, they'd be more likely to do it," Frazier said. "If it counts less, they're less likely to do it."

Times correspondent Brittaney Kiefer and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.

[Last modified September 18, 2005, 02:15:36]


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