Post #1 – Homework (April 19, 2015)
Before I started reading the Taking Sides issue on homework I was leading towards the side of no homework. After reading the “Yes” segment, I was leaning even more that way. This segment brought up some valid points on why homework is harmful to students, including: disruptions of family life, time pressures and the academic issues for the nearly 20 percent of kids who live poverty in the U.S.
After reading the “No” segment I was still leaning towards the side of no homework. This segment also brought up some interesting points, such as research showing that the relationship of homework with student achievement is positive for both middle school and high school students and that only one out of 10 parents believe there is too much homework. These points, however, were not enough to sway me towards keeping homework.
Then I started thinking about the issue from my perspective as a parent and I realized that I agreed with the “No” segment. As a parent of a fourth-grader, I actually see some benefits to homework in elementary school. As a parent, the most important benefit of homework for me is that it gives me a chance to interact with my son with the daily work that he is doing at school. It gives us a chance to discuss what he learned in school that day, which would be much more difficult to do with a memory-challenged fourth grader without homework. It also gives me a chance to reinforce the teacher’s instruction and gives my son a more comfortable environment to ask questions and explore new ideas. My son rarely has more than one hour of homework a day, so it typically does not cause much of a hardship on him (besides getting him to sit down and actually start it). Homework also fits in with John Marzano’s Brain rule #7, repeat to remember.
Each family and student is different of course, and homework may have more benefits for some students than others. Overall, however, homework still seems like it’s a positive education tool as long as there is not too much of it.
Post #2 – Religion (April 28, 2015)
The session #2 Board Policies on religion provides very useful information for teachers for dealing with the controversial issue of religion in school. As the introduction of the Board Policy states, the First Amendment has clearly separated the role of government and religion, and that the school district must be neutral in matters of religion.
One of the Board Policies that seems especially important is the one that states, “a student may decline to participate in a school activity that is contrary to his/her religious beliefs.” I know science teachers in the Lake Washington School District that have a fairly high percentage of students who are Mormon and every year when they teach the evolution unit the Mormon students will go to a different class room. I personally don’t agree with letting students not learn about such an important science topic (you can still believe in creationism while you are learning about evolution), but I understand why there is a Board Policy for it.
I was not aware of the Board Policy on prayer and that non-disruptive prayer by a student is allowed at any time in school, as long as it does not interfere with learning activities. I agree with this policy and it will be helpful to know there is a specific Board Policy on this issue if it comes up with any of my students. It seems like the teacher or school would need to set up some guidelines for this, however, so that students don’t abuse this privilege. Guidelines could include a certain time of the class for prayer, a time limit and possibly providing a private area away from the class to avoid causing a distraction for others.
Post #3 – Grading (May 17, 2015)
To grade or not too grade students is an interesting issue brought to light in the Taking Sides textbook. The “no” side has some merit, but I agree more with with Robert Marzano’s arguments in the “yes” side. As Marzano points out in Taking Sides, grades shouldn’t be about rewards they should be about feedback. Research unquestionably supports the importance of feedback to specific learning goals. One study reported that providing students with specific information about their standing in terms of particular objectives increases their achievement by 37 percentile points (Evans, Taking Sides, p. 23). That’s a huge increase!
A good example of this is the grading system at my son’s elementary school. The school grades on a scale of 1-4 (exceeds standard is a 4, at standard is a 3, approaching standard is a 2 and not at standard is a 1). The teachers can also add in a .5 if needed, such as a 3.5 if the student is slightly above standard. This grading system has proven to be beneficial to the students, teachers and parents. The students don’t have an overall grade point average that they worry about. The teachers can adjust their planning if a number of students in a class are at a 2 or below in certain areas. The parents can see how their children are doing in certain areas and if they need to improve in some areas. For example, my son gets mostly 4s and 3s, but occasionally he gets a 2 or a 2.5. I only worry about these 2s if there is a consistent trend.
I believe that grading students in physical education, my endorsement area, is a must. In physical education, grades are based on attendance (makeup points are possible), participation, effort and behavior. Without at least a basic grading system, the students would not be held accountable for these items and the teacher would have a difficult time motivating some (possibly many) of their students’ efforts and participation. The grades are not based on skills or rewards, which is one area of grading that is deemed to not be effective in student achievement in the “no” side in Taking Sides. The grades are based on life-skills that will be important for students to learn and use throughout their life.