Friday, August 05, 2011

Diversity is great except when it comes to doing homework

In my county, "reformers" want to institute a new homework policy that would mandate that teachers give students up to five days to hand in late assignment with the penalty for being late capped at only 10%. Students should also be allowed to take retests and have their higher score used in their grade. And they want to cut back on the amount of homework and how much it counts.

And why is there a need for a countywide policy for how teachers use homework in their classes? It just seems so unfair that different teachers have different policies.
Administrators have justified the need for changing grading practices by pointing to how inconsistently grades are handed out now.

For instance, teachers of the same subject at a school might have different policies on late assignments, how much to count retests and whether to issue extra credit.
Once again, we see the tendency to write a blanket rule instead of letting teachers use their own discretion. And we see the lack of trust in administrators to administer their own schools.

Having diversity is all well and good unless it's on homework policy. For example, for some subjects it might be easy to write a new test. I know that a math teacher at my school regularly offers retests. He claims that it doesn't take much time to take the same questions and insert new numbers into them. However, it takes me several hours to write a test. Since I teach Advanced Placement subjects, I give the students lots of practice with the type of multiple choice questions they'll face on the A.P. exam. It takes a lot of time to write decent multiple choice questions with good disguisers that don't make the right answer too obvious, but that test a student's mastery of the point I'm testing. There is no way I could put together two tests for each unit. Students either study and do well, or they pay the consequences. Hopefully, they'll learn the lesson that "luck" favors the prepared mind.

That's my testing philosophy, but I recognize that other teachers find a different policy fits their material and teaching style. But it just doesn't seem fair to these reformers that some teachers have different approaches.

What lunacy! For the ten thousandth time, I'm so glad to be teaching at a charter school where our administration has more respect for the teachers that they've hired. Their approach is to hire dedicated, smart people and then let them do their jobs. Good things will follow. It might be different in different classes, but children will also learn that not everything in life will be the same. Learning to adapt is also an important skill. Having to adapt to different homework policies is not such a big deal in the scheme of things.