No homework grading for third year in Merrimack

A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Merrimack School District over its decision to discontinue grading homework, despite an advisory warrant article vote from residents who said teachers should have the discretion of factoring homework into a student’s overall grade.

MERRIMACK — After a failed lawsuit to halt the practice, for the third year in a row the grades local students earn for homework won’t count toward their overall semester grade.

Bob Bevill, a local parent and attorney, filed a civil lawsuit against the school district earlier this year after the school board said it would make no immediate adjustments to its revised homework protocol, despite a call from voters to reverse course.

The protocol adopted two years ago discontinued grading homework. Although homework is assigned, school officials say it is meant to better evaluate what academic skills a student has or hasn’t mastered, not inflate or deflate their grades.

“On June 26, the superior court ruled that the board and the legislative body had and has the statutory power to create, maintain and change the Merrimack School District’s homework policy,” said Shannon Barnes, chairman of the school board. “On that basis, the court dismissed Mr. Bevill’s lawsuit.”

School officials had refrained from commenting on the matter until last week when the window for Bevill to appeal his case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court expired.

Bevill sued after voters supported a warrant article seeking to change the district’s new homework protocol, and the school board made no immediate adjustments.

The citizen petition warrant article was placed on the school district’s April ballot asking residents if the local school system should amend its homework protocol and allow teachers to decide for themselves whether homework grades should be factored into a student’s total cumulative semester grade. The warrant article passed with a vote of 1,770 residents in support of the change and 1,463 votes in opposition.

In justifying the district’s defiance of voters, Barnes said earlier that the district’s lawyer deemed the warrant article to be advisory only.

“Over the course of this year, the board, through its administration, will be studying whether the change in grading homework has been positive, negative or neutral in its impact,” Barnes told the school board last week, adding that there will be a future presentation on their findings.

Although the state Board of Education previously affirmed the district’s decision to discontinue grading homework, Bevill said earlier that Merrimack students are no longer being judged at the same level as other high school students competing for scholarships and college acceptances. He has approached the school board on several occasions asking it to reverse the revised homework protocol.

“I am pretty disappointed in this,” Bevill said earlier, explaining homework grades can be used to show effort, competency and growth, and help contribute to a higher grade point average.

He said that not all students are great test-takers, and homework grades may help balance out their overall grade for a course.