With new homework protocol in place, dozens of Merrimack teachers predict their students' grades will declineBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
March 12. 2018 11:40AM
MERRIMACK — Six months after the school district implemented a new protocol that no longer factors homework into a student’s overall grade, many teachers say their students are less likely to complete homework and their grades are likely to decline as a result.
A survey was recently administered to teachers and parents in an effort to gain feedback on the new protocol.
Although homework may still be assigned by teachers, it is no longer considered a graded assignment.
About 132 teachers completed the survey, with 93 teachers saying their students are now less likely to complete homework. The majority of teachers who participated in the survey say their students have less motivation to complete homework assignments, are taking less ownership of their assignments and their grades will likely suffer.
Mark McLaughlin, assistant superintendent, said he firmly believes that students understand that homework is an important part of the learning process, and that homework is a very valuable tool even if it is not being graded.
About 900 parents completed the survey, with 508 of those parents saying their children do not have a different outlook on homework since the new protocol was implemented.
However, about 410 parents say their children may be less motivated to complete homework over time, and 358 parents believe that their child’s grades will decline.
About 200 parents say that at least some portion of homework should be graded and factored into a student’s overall grade for a class.
“This can really cost people scholarship opportunities,” said Chris Frank, a junior at Merrimack High School.
Frank said his grade-point average has decreased from 3.6 to 3.3 since the beginning of the school year.
He said several students, including himself, registered for certain classes before the new homework protocol was announced — classes they might not have selected if they knew homework would not be factored into the grade.
Devon Mitchell, a junior, submitted a letter to the school board claiming she feels robbed of success because of the homework change.
Without the homework buffer, some grades have dropped from an A to a C, according to Mitchell, adding it has been extremely discouraging.
“I have never been more stressed in my life. This will be the year that stains my high school transcript,” Mitchell wrote.
Two other students shared opposing stories with the board, saying they are pleased with the new homework protocol because it prepares them for college, provides them with extra free time, helps promote strong study habits, places more responsibility on students, eliminates busywork and allows for extra study time or school club participation.
“It allows the students some flexibility to focus on the areas that they need to,” said School Board member Michael Thompson.
Still, Thompson said there seems to be inconsistencies among how teachers assign the work and when it is required to be completed.
While previous homework grades may have falsely inflated a child’s ability to understand a concept, School Board Chairman Shannon Barnes said school officials must still look at the big picture.
While changing the culture at the school, she said the district must provide students with all of the tools they need to be successful.