Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homework questions

We had a new arrangement for parent conferences this year.  Usually half of the teachers sit in the cafeteria and half in the media center at individual table,  parents wander around and talk to who they need to talk to.  It can get noisy and there's little privacy.  Also, most of the time is spent on "walk-ins", so you have no idea who is approaching your table.

Yesterday they tried something new.  We were all in our individual rooms and most of our time (4:30 to 7) was appointments only.  The last hour was walk-ins.  I was pretty excited about it because I'm usually not all that busy and have time to get work done.  I thought being in my room would help me get even more work done.

I was wrong about getting work done - I had a pretty constant flow of parents all night on.  I'm not sure if it was due to the new arrangement or what, but I had 7 appointments set up (usually have 1 or 2) and someone always waiting at my door during the last hour for walk-ins.

The good news is that I actually talked to a few parents that I needed to talk to.  Usually it's my Honors Precalc parents whose kids have 95+ .  I saw them, too, but also saw some parents of Algebra 2 kids who are struggling.

One mom really got me thinking.  Her son is a sophomore in Algebra 2 and has a middle B. Not too shabby.  When I looked at the breakdown of his grades, though, it really got me thinking.  His homework average (checked on completion) is a 69%.  There was a week where he didn't do anything.  When you look at his test and quiz averages, though, both are in the 90s (A and A-).

At this point, for this kid, not doing his homework is obviously hurting his grade.  But he's shown on assessments that he knows the material.  In the past I would have said that he's not fulfilling the requirements of the class and his grade is reflecting that.  Now, though, after seeing all this talk on twitter about people not giving points for assignments and grading using sbg, I'm at a point where I'm not sure which way to go. 

I was thinking about this on the way home last night.  Is there a solution?  What if I told the kids that I would drop all of their missing assignments for a chapter if they got an A on the test?  But then what if they don't do anything and fail the test?  What if I don't check homework at all?  Then I'm afraid that so many kids wouldn't even give it a shot - especially the CP and below kids.

What to do, what to do.


  1. Last year, halfway through the year, I stopped checking homework. But only after discussing with the kids what would happen if you didn't do homework. (Your test grades would suffer because you wouldn't know what to do.) It took almost half the period to discuss with them- many of them did homework to get points for "effort" and I told them that the state standards say nothing about effort and therefore I shouldn't have to grade them on that. (Of course, half the PreCalc standards aren't in there either, but they didn't know that.)

    At the end of the year in their reflections letters almost every letter said "you should do the homework even if it's optional because it really helps you on the tests."

    Just a thought...

  2. Someone last year (Jonathan?) had a choice strategy--you can either do all of the regular assignment, or you can just do the 3 hardest problems (I don't remember if they were the same problems on the regular assignment, or if some of them were harder than that). It sounds like this kid might be willing to do 3 hard problems to avoid doing 20 medium problems.

  3. LSquared, I do that somewhat with my precalc classes. I have two different assignments that they can choose from to do. One is longer but easier, one is shorter but harder. I honestly didn't think about doing that with Algebra 2, but it might work with some of the smarter, lazier kids. I might investigate that a little more when we start our new chapter.

    Amanda, not requiring homework in Algebra 2 scares me. It's such a basis for other math classes that if a kid doesn't do an assignment s/he really could be in trouble later.

    Thanks for the input!