HW policy in low SES districts

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by waterfall, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 4, 2012

    I heard this in a classroom management training that was part of our orientation yesterday and I thought it was really interesting. This guy is a middle school principal, so it's very possible my P won't feel the same way and we'll have to go with a different school policy anyway, but I thought it was worth discussing anyway.

    He was talking about "picking your battles" and that in low SES districts there are so many things that are out of your control as a teacher (home life, parent support, etc.) that really effect how well kids do in the classroom. His point was that you need to really focus on what you can change in the classroom rather than focusing on outside factors that you can't change. Then he brought up homework and mentioned that it wasn't one of his "battles" because if kids don't have a permanent home or are worrying about just getting food for the night, of course they can't always sit down and do it. He said his policy was "change the consequence, not the expectation" because you should think about the benefits for the 50% or even 30% of kids who actually are doing the homework.

    So rather than not giving homework because many don't turn it in anyway, you should give it but not necessarily have big consequences for not turning it in. I thought this was interesting and it's something I've been worried about for next year. In my last position I didn't give homework, but in classrooms they only had about a 40-50% turn-in rate, and kids had to stay in at recess to do it. Literally 10-12 kids from every class would have to go in at recess, every single day, meaning that the teacher had to stay in and babysit them rather than eating in the lounge or getting work done, and then the student didn't get any recess time to blow off steam either. We usually only had one person on recess duty, and we went out even though it was snowing most of the time, so "sitting on the wall" or doing it outside was just not an option. I always thought that probably wasn't the best policy, but I also struggle with the idea that you say the homework is "required" but then don't have a consequence for kids that don't return it. I'm afraid that would somehow transfer to the rest of your classroom management (well, she didn't mean it when she said I had to turn this HW in, so she doesn't mean __________ either). I am planning to do a reward/incentive chart for kids that bring it back, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do for kids that don't yet. This will likely be decided by school policy anyway, but I still thought it was an interesting topic. What do you think?
     
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  3. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    My kiddos don't know it, but the only grade I give them for homework is a single conduct grade - either 4 for completed or 0 for not completed. They know I grade it, just not the extent. I have been known to give partial credit (mine is a weekly packet) for those who I could tell put forth a sincere effort but something outside their control, illness, or some such kept them from completing it. Aside from reinforcing the skills we have learned, my main secondary purposes are to teach them the responsibility of keeping up with the folder and to turn it in on time. All but one of my kiddos attended a free after school tutoring program at our school last year, and they have time and get help with homework.
     
  4. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    One thing I do is a reward system for those who did complete their homework. Each Friday, if a student turned in all their homework, they get to draw from the coupon jar and they win prizes like lunch with teacher, free computer time, a gum pass, sit by a friend, etc. All rewards that don't cost any money.
     
  5. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    We used to have an afterschool program that helped with homework and it was awesome- but last year, the agency that runs it (it wasn't the school) decided to do away with the homework time in favor of giving them "enrichment experiences" instead. They did some cool stuff, but it made homework even worse b/c the program ran until 6 and many kids were on the bus for around an hour to get back home. I don't think my new school has a program.

    I wasn't planning on really grading it for sure, but I think at the elementary level most kids aren't that concerned with grades anyway. By "consequence" I meant more like making them make up the work by doing it at recess or something like that.
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I can see why the idea makes sense. Things in low-SES schools are just so different from other schools that many "tried and true" strategies just simply don't work.

    Homework is a battle that I don't really fight. Most of the "homework" I assign is really just unfinished in-class work. Homework accounts for a small percentage of a student's overall score. I figure that the students who do it will get a small payoff in their overall grade, while students who don't do it won't be completely screwed over when report cards come out. I think it's a fair method.
     
  7. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    That's exactly my policy.

    I cannot change what goes on in their homes. I had a 10 year old this year practically raising her younger brother, I had another kid who's mother would lie to me and say she helped him with hw everynight while he would say she's never home to help him, another kid couldn't read or write or speak English and I was just too overwhelmed to provide alternate hw for him everynight.

    For my own records I keep track of who's doing hw assignments so that if a particular student is not progressing and admin starts to question me I can fully explain and show how that might be a factor. I can also bring out that information at parent teacher conferences and show parents how that's impacting their child's performance.

    The only consequence I really had was that I marked it on their homework sheet and their parents had to sign off at the end of the week so that I knew they were aware. But then there were some students who didn't have legitimate excuses and who were just unmotivated and lazy. Some of these students even had parents who were trying to help them and do the right thing.

    Also, for kids who really struggled I had different homework sheets. They would get a grade, 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 on each assignment each day. If they had a certain number of 1's or 0's in a week there was a consequence. (Different depending on the student) If they had a certain number of 3's or 4's they got a prize. I didn't do it with everyone because not everyone needed it. But it did work for some students. I might consider doing something like that with the whole class in the future.
     
  8. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Definitely agreed. I like the concept of "offering" homework as someone mentioned, and potentially even rewarding for completion, but not having consequences, and certainly not relying on homework as an integral or even secondary component of your instruction.

    Another issue with HW in lower-income schools is that the diversity of instructional levels in a classroom is likely to be much greater, and the likelihood of your HW being actually appropriate is just not very good. So, it's not just a matter of home support, but worthiness of the HW. I've worked both in school and after-school, and can say that a good amount of the homework assigned by teachers was inconsiderate of the instructional level of students. Even if teachers happened to be differentiating during certain parts of their day (such as small group reading), they definitely weren't differentiating with homework.
     
  9. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Aug 5, 2012

    That's so true. I had a friend who would complain all the time because he son could read fluently and the homework he would get was to color in the letter "A" and would constantly ask "why do I have to do this?". She didn't have an answer, other than it's what's required. It only takes a little extra planning to send home differentiated work.

    I feel the same way about consequences. I might ask a student why they didn't do their homework. If it's consistently not getting done, I may ask a parent (sometimes they are telling the parents they have no homework and of course, the parent's not checking the folder regularly). But there's no consequence for not getting it done in my room.
     
  10. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I work in a low SES district, and prior to being hired there, the principal actually lengthened each period so that more work could be done in class and there would be no need for homework. Her thinking was that, if they're not going to turn it in, why assign it in the first place? I understand where she was coming from, but I do not agree with that ideology. We had a new principal start when I was hired, and although he did not shorten the periods, he felt like homework was necessary for success.

    When I taught resource, I taught math and a block of language arts. Because I couldn't do everything in math that I could in LA (just due to having one period a day versus 2), I had to assign homework occasionally. I would simply grade based on completion, but would spot check it for correctness to get a gauge of who might be falling behind. Now that I am co-teaching this year, we are talking about doing the same type of system. Give a grade for completion, but pick a few key problems to grade for accuracy.

    We have failed to make AYP for many years in a row. We are feeling a lot of heat from administration to improve our scores. As much as we pour into each school day, these kids don't have the necessary support at home. Some of them stay up until 3:00 AM playing video games, and fall asleep through the first three periods of the day. Others miss school on a consistent basis because they're taking care of younger siblings. No wonder our scores are lacking....we don't have the parents on "our side". No one (besides the teachers) is telling them that school is a priority.

    Next year, we are transitioning to a program called "Middle Schools That Work". One of the components of the program is nightly homework in each core subject area. I'm hoping that eventually the higher standards will require everyone (teachers, parents, students) to "step up" and achieve more.
     
  11. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I love reading about the various thoughts, ideas & experiences from so many different teachers! I have had people who hated the idea of my weekly packet, but honestly, I've had very little negative feedback at school. I've had a child who was actually staying in a homeless shelter finish every page (along with reading aloud for 20 minutes each night), and the child of a teacher who only half a** did the work. I've had a child finish the entire packet by Monday (they received it on Friday), and a few others who wouldn't look at it until Wednesday night (it's due Thursday morning). I have had students who were very low complete every aspect, and higher students who did not, and vice-versa. I keep doing my homework this way because I have had a large number of parents tell me that they love it, and that it teaches their children to be more responsible in general, and only a very few (maybe 3 in 4 years?) who disliked it. I even give homework packets over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring breaks - but I offer "tiger bucks" and trips to my treasure box for completing those! :lol:
     
  12. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    So if you don't have any consequence for not turning it in, do you think that has any effect on your classroom management or respect from the kids? Just thinking about how much time and effort the classroom teachers at my last school spent into making kids make up missed homework (and all the kids that NEVER got recess) makes my head spin...it would be such a relief to just "let it go" and just do a reward for those that bring it in. On the other hand, all I ever hear about working in urban/high poverty areas is "be consistent, follow through" constantly. I would think that saying the homework was required and then doing nothing if kids didn't turn it in would kind of negate that.

    Eded, in my last district we weren't allowed to differentiate homework and this seems to be an increasingly popular view. It's viewed as "cheating them out of grade level curriculum" which I assume is a result of the increased focus on the state test. I hope this isn't the case in my new district, but I'd be surprised if it weren't. I wasn't even allowed to put this on IEPs for my really low kids because we were supposed to be "holding the curriculum true" for them and not giving them "watered down" work.
     
  13. texteacher

    texteacher Companion

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    I worked in a low SES inner city school in first grade and almost all of my kids completed their homework. I did a weekly packet, given on Monday and returned the following Monday (years ago I didn't do a packet and had terrible homework completion rates). For students who returned a totally complete packet, and I mean not one thing left out, I gave them a prize from my treasure box. I didn't use treasure box for classroom behavior last year and used it soley for the homework so it was their only opportunity to get a prize. I had one child who consistently never did her homework and it wasn't because of a home sitauation. She just didn't want to do it. I usually didn't worry about it. Occasionally, if I saw her spelling grade slip, I would make her do the spelling portions of the packet at recess so she would do better on her spelling test, or I would make her read a little outside if I saw her reading was slipping. I don't think it changed my classroom management. In fact, I was a lot less frustrated than I used to be when I gave consequences for no homework.

    One thing that made my homework so effective this past year was that I aligned it very well to what we did in class. I actually had parents thank me for the homework this year. They said it was so organized and easy for them to understand and complete on their own. I think if you offer an incentive for completing it, and make a well aligned organized packet, then you will find a lot more kids completing homework.
     
  14. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's crazy what some people think is the right thing to do :). Not differentiating homework is the same as not differentiating the curriculum, because homework is part of the curriculum. Sort of confusing to think of how an educator wouldn't understand that.

    Anyway, I think the "be consistent" thing is huge, but I think you'd be consistent with your lack of enforcement through punishment. You'd still be checking it, just enforcing the reward component of it.
     
  15. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    But if the kids are NEVER getting to go recess, then the consequence isn't working. Just like if a child misbehaved every single day, and every single day his card ended up on red and ever single day you called his mother. After awhile the punishment doesn't mean anything anymore. I started keeping a child in everyday for never doing homework, but nothing changed. Then I asked myself what am I doing? I'm wasting my lunch time dealing with him, he's not outside socializing (which he really needed to be do) and it's not making him want to do his homework! I'll definitely be more consistent next year and stick to my gut of keeping hw records and not making a big deal out of it.
     

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