Arlington schools to delay proposed homework grading changes

School officials in Arlington, Virginia, are planning to table proposed changes to the school system’s homework policy to give staff more time to evaluate the impact of some of the recommendations.

The proposed Homework Policy and Policy Implementation Procedure calls for more consistency in grading practices. It includes changes that would eliminate consequences for students who miss homework deadlines and prevent teachers from grading homework. Grades would mostly be calculated using tests.

While the proposal is scheduled to be presented to the school board for information and action at two meetings in June, a source familiar with the policy proposal said staff this summer will recommend that the proposal be moved to next year, so staff can see how the changes work in practice.

The school system is still collecting feedback from schools piloting the changes and hasn’t yet publicly disclosed its findings. The proposal was the subject of an October work session.

If passed, the changes would alter the way teachers compile grades. Critics of the plan say students won’t be motivated to complete homework assignments if they’re not graded, and suggest the lack of consequences for late submissions would result in a large amount of grading for teachers toward the end of a semester.

Conversations about how school systems handle homework stem in part from Joe Feldman’s book “Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms.”

Todd Truitt, affiliated with the group Arlington Parents for Education, said the policy change could make grading policies more consistent. There’s no clear standard for the amount of weight given to a type of assignment, he said, and things like class participation could be subject to bias.

“Grades are one of the primary ways that the school system communicates the academic performance of children to parents,” Truitt said. “That’s why grades are so important to parents, because it lets the parents know how a kid is performing.”

While many elementary schools use a standard-based grading system, which the proposal is largely based on, Truitt said the change would be more impactful at the middle and high school levels.

A school system spokesman said teachers have been able to share thoughts and observations with school representatives working on the revision efforts and have the chance to share their thoughts via the Engage online dashboard this month.

The policy proposal is expected to be brought forth for information and discussion June 9 and for potential action on June 23.

The proposed changes to the policy are available online.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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