Standards-based grading and homework

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Standards-based grading has become the latest hot fashion in education, especially in lower-scoring, urban areas. The plan is to give credit based on how well students have mastered state and national standards. Students are not graded on homework. They are expected to do the homework without receiving technical credit for their efforts. In theory, they will do this homework so they can do well on the standards-based tests that determine their grade.

Uhhh… I want the guys who came up with this latest bright idea to come to my classroom. Today I asked a class to brainstorm ideas on how they would improve the school if they were school administrators. A boy chipped in immediately to say that the girls should be allowed to wear short skirts. Before I could remonstrate with him over this sexism, the girls chimed in to support him. Students improved the school lunch, extended their lunch period and eliminated a number of reforms intended to improve academic achievement.

The idea that these kids are going to do homework solely to do well on a test smacks of an adult maturity that my students lack. A number of these kids will do no homework if they can pass by passing the test. Since the administration will never let a large number of them fail, that means many students will stop bothering with homework.

This system could work if we actually failed students who did not master the standards. I doubt we will. We will simply blame the teachers, instead, for not having taught those standards, after having eliminated the best incentive to do homework — grades for homework — that we possess.

Eduhonesty: Plans to improve education that rely on the maturity and self-interest of our students are problematic at best. We have used regular grades for years. Grades are not responsible for lack of academic excellence in some school populations.

I’ll lay it on the line: In many cases, students are responsible for their own lack of academic excellence. They are trying to figure out how to sneak short skirts into school when they should be doing homework. Told to read a chapter in the evening, they play video games instead. By high school, it’s time to stop blaming everyone EXCEPT that kid playing video games who left his book in his locker.

It’s also time to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. We don’t need a new grading system. We need to honestly enforce the system we have. The problem is not the grading system. The problem is passing almost everyone regardless of what they know.