All summer I have been considering the changes proposed by my principal to improve my classes. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around his one recommendation especially, so I wanted to open it up to the #MTBoS for advice.
The first recommendation (and this was to my whole department, not just me) is to eliminate homework. His perspective is that since we are in a Title I school, assigning homework just widens the gap between students that have access to tutors and parents that are able to help with homework and those that do not. I can't say that I disagree with this point. My perspective has always been that students need to experience doing the math on their own, without me there to help them. It is also my perspective that students need more time to interact with the material. We only have 42 minute periods. I can barely get through everything I have to teach as it is. How could I possibly create more time for students to practice?
The solution I've been considering is changing the name from "homework" to "daily practice." I don't care if students do their homework at home or during study hall or during lunch or while waiting for sports practice to begin. All I care about is that they put forth the effort to try it. I think if I call it "daily practice" instead I'm sending the message that math is something we need to practice daily. Not that we have to do this at home. Just for context: A typical homework assignment in my class generally 4-5 questions long. It should not take longer than 10-15 minutes to complete.
The second recommendation is to eliminate test corrections and retests. My policy is that students may take a retest after completing test corrections. My rationale is that I simply want students to improve. Students traditionally take a test on the unit, and think they are done with it whether they were successful or not. Having the test corrections/retest policy encouraged students to spend more time learning and understanding material that they found difficult. My principal's perspective is that a student's class grade should be similar (within 5-10 points) of his/her regents score, and that allowing students the opportunity to retest is inflating student course grades. I disagree with this because a class grade reflects a student's effort over an entire year, and a regents score reflects how a student did on a longer test under more stressful conditions on one day.
My solutions so far include intentionally spiraling quiz and test questions, having shorter quizzes more often, and adjusting percentage weights for calculating grades. I am currently reading Make It Stick, and it sounds like more frequent quizzes with spiraled questions will solve many problems for me. However, the thought of eliminating test corrections and retests makes me feel icky inside. (I don't know any other way to describe it.) I've always done test corrections. I don't know what taking this opportunity away will do to my students, and I also don't know that more quizzes will help my students for sure until I try it. As I write this, I am forming an idea for using the quizzes to replace test corrections - moving in the direction of a standards based grading approach. Just for context: Final test grades are 50% the first test score, 25% test corrections, and 25% retest score - this was my principal's suggestion a few years ago.
My questions for my fellow #MTBoS members are:
(1) What are your thoughts on "Daily Practice" vs. "Homework?"
(2) What are your thoughts/experiences on eliminating test corrections/retest procedures?
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