Should Homework Count for Less?

Written on July 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm , by

The L.A. Unified School District recently passed a policy in which homework can’t count for more than 10 percent of a student’s grade. The idea is to give students a break—especially those who need to shoulder real-life responsibilities outside the realm of reading, writing and math assignments, like working long hours or caring for younger siblings.

But many critics balk at this policy. What if some students don’t do homework at all? They can still get a 90 percent in the class, and that’s unfair, they say.

As a student (and recent former teen) I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Homework, after all, is meant to reinforce learning, not be the teacher. According to the article, research shows that students who do their homework perform better than those who don’t, because they’ve gone over the concepts again and again. But what about students—the “smart” kids—who can score a 90 percent in a class without doing homework?

Limiting the percentage homework counts for grades gives students more power to take charge of their educations. If they’re confident in their knowledge—and okay being docked points for not completing assignments—they can skip the hours of busy work that teachers often assign. With the ridiculous amount of homework given in accelerated and Advanced Placement classes, it’s hard for a high school student—and his or her parents—to balance other valuable learning experiences like sports, jobs and other extracurriculars. In high school, I would often be at rehearsals and club meetings until late at night, leaving me little time to tackle pre-calculus problem sets at home. (It cost me a letter grade—I never made it to calculus.)

Concerned about college readiness? Limiting homework as a grading factor is actually much closer to the higher ed model, where assignments don’t receive letters and numbers, but knowledge is reflected in results of papers and exams. Not having time to do all my homework in high school was actually a blessing in disguise—it gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage my time and balance schoolwork with extracurricular responsibilities, which helped me transition to campus life. Instead of squandering the free time I have between classes like many co-eds, I prioritize the tasks on my to-do list—a skill I learned from juggling that pre-calc class with musical theater rehearsals.

But I’m also aware not every student is like me, and some teens may need assignments in order to be productive, stay out of trouble or reinforce the concepts that really give them trouble.

What do you think? Is 10 percent too little or too much? Do high school students need the structure of homework, or should they take responsibility for their own education?

—Corinne Chin