Suggestions for a Parent Re: Homework

Way back in March of 2009 I posted Session Notes on Homework With Rick Wormeli from the NCMSA conference.  Recently I had the following comment posted in response to my notes (emphasis mine):

Thanks for the great notes above. I’m on a school board and also the parent of 2 girls – junior and sophomore in high school. Rick Wormeli did a workshop for our local educators and our principal was raving about him so I googled his name and came up with this site. I appreciated the notes above and wish I could bring Rick back again for the high school teachers. My sophomore is very social, full of life, bucks the systems, comes to the aid of those she sees are being treated unfairly, looks at things with common sense – yes, she’s a rebel but she’s smart too and has missed some homework assignments that resulted in a zero. Ok, I can live with that. But, I’m having a little back and forth with her math teacher about homework that she did do. My daughter completed a 3 page packet but because she didn’t have it out on her desk and wasn’t “prepared” for class, the teacher gave her a zero. I pointed out to the teacher that I felt being prepared for class and having homework completed were 2 different things. But she doesn’t see it that way and maintains that she’ll continue to get zeros on completed homework unless she is in the class, sitting in her seat, homework on desk, pencil and notebook ready to take notes. I’m very frustrated. Any suggestions or constructive thoughts I can pass along to the teacher or should I just let it go??

This is definitely a tough situation as grading policies are a MAJOR struggle for many teachers. In my own classroom, classwork and homework account for a total of 15% of the student’s final grade.  The other 85% come from things which I feel are final determinations of mastery: tests, quizzes, projects, lab activities, and a notebook test.  In this respect, getting a 0 for not completing a homework assignment doesn’t have a dramatic overall effect on the final grade.  At the same time, I’m generally pretty open about a student completing the homework assignment after it is due.  The point is that they learn the material, if they are making a good faith effort to do that, then I’m fine with them continuing to work until they master the content.  Not every student makes that good faith effort however, and that’s when things become difficult.  What do you do when a student NEVER turns in a homework assignment, especially when homework is only assigned that moves the students forward in their learning.

Back to the point…

I would carefully steer the discussion with the teacher to the points of: A) what does the final grade in your class mean? and B) what is the reasoning behind your grading scale/practice?  These are tough questions, and in some instances grading scales may be mandated by a department.  Additionally, a teacher may only have the grading scale they do based on what the other teachers use, even if it is not “mandated.”  To me the grading scale plays a major part in the impact and fairness of giving a zero on an assignment.

I know there are many out there with widely varying opinions…please add your thoughts in the comments!