Upstate New York School Cuts Homework to 10% of Grade

A new universal grading policy that, among other features, limits the influence of homework on grades, has been approved by a 5-2 vote in Gloversville, New York. The final plan differed slightly from the draft being considered earlier this year, and will allow teachers to assign grades lower than 50 on all continuing assessment assignments — but 50 will be the lowest grade allowed on the end-of-marking-period report cards. The new system will be applied to all the city's schools and will go into effect next fall.

Teachers will be allowed to calculate the students' true grades, even if they happen to fall below 50, and will be able to append them in the comment section of the report card.

The new policy also was updated from the previous version to include examples and the definitions of terms such as formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are pop quizzes or worksheets designed to provide feedback to teachers and students. Summative assessments are given typically at the end of a period of instruction to measure what a student has mastered, such as a unit test.

The new policy will not include the results of Regents exams or other state assessment tests in the calculation of the students' final grade, but the schools will be required to administer either a test or a project that covers the course material taught during the term, and count that result as one-fifth of the students' final grade. Students who don't complete the assignment will be marked with an I or an Incomplete, for the course. The final grade will not be given until the work is completed and turned in.

The policy does not outline terms for making up assignments – leaving that to the teachers, students and parents. In the secondary schools, students have a two-week window to make up work. If the work is not made up by the end of that period, the "I" will convert to a 50, but if the "I" is in place at the end of a credit-bearing course, no credit will be given for the course.

Students who hate homework will find something to like in the new grading policy. It sets the upper limit of how much of a role homework can play in the calculation of the final grade at 10%.

Although the board of education plans an imminent deployment of the new policy, the Board President Pete Semione is quick to reassure that the policy continues to be a work in progress and is subject of review at the end of next year. The reason for the rush is the new state mandate that requires all schools to convert from letter to numerical grades.

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