Lafayette students will need to pay closer attention to homework this upcoming school year after the Lafayette Parish School Board approved a change returning homework to the grading formula for sixth through 12th grade students.
Homework will now count for up to 5 percent of students’ total grade.
The change was proposed by board president Justin Centanni, who said he’d received calls from teachers requesting the board amend the proposed pupil progression plan to reincorporate graded homework. Homework was controversially stripped from the grading formula last year.
The pupil progression plan provides guidelines for student placement and progression to higher grades. It covers grading formulas, the letter grade a student must achieve in different subjects to advance to the next grade and how to re-engage struggling students in coursework.
The change was approved July 17 in a 5-3 vote, with board members Elroy Broussard, Tehmi Chassion and Jeremy Hidalgo opposing the change. Board member Dawn Morris was absent for the vote.
Homework made up 10 percent of the grading formula before it was removed last year, interim superintendent Irma Trosclair said.
Director of elementary schools Kathy Aloisio, who co-leads the pupil progression plan process, said last year that homework should be used to guide and inform instruction, but it should be considered practice instead of a graded evaluation.
“A grade should represent what the children do in class and the standards that they learn. Homework is very important… However, when we talk about homework, homework is practice. Practice is along the way. Practice is what they do to…master the standard,” she said.
The removal of homework in 2018 sparked confusion among Lafayette parents, with questions circling about whether homework would still be sent home and how parents would continue to motivate their children without the weight of a grade. There was also confusion about whether students would be held accountable if they didn’t complete their homework.
The questions prompted a public statement from then-superintendent Donald Aguillard, who made clear homework should still be offered and that it’s important for student development.
For middle and high school students, grading is broken down into two categories: summative and formative. Summative grades comprised 60 percent of students’ grades last year and formative grades comprised 40 percent.
The 5 percent for homework will be included in the formative category this year, Aloisio said.
Summative assessments are final assessments at the end of a learning unit to test mastery, like an exam, project or term paper, she said. Formative assessments are lower stakes assignments that are used to track ongoing student progress, like a quiz, exit tickets at the end of a lesson or homework.
The decision about whether to offer graded homework will be a teacher by teacher decision, like in the past, she said. Teachers leading physical education classes may offer no homework, while a physics teacher may offer work only once a week or an English teacher has graded nightly reading.
It all depends on the class’s needs, she said.
“There’s no rule that says they have to give so much homework. The teachers have the flexibility to give homework and they have the choice to grade or not to grade,” Aloisio said. “If they do choose to grade the homework, they’ll enter it into the gradebook, and it’ll be calculated at no more than 5 percent of their total grade.”
Julia Reed, president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators, said she thinks the 5 percent cap is a more palatable middle ground for the district and parents, while giving teachers the freedom to offer graded homework if they think it’s needed for their classroom.
At 5 percent, students can decline to complete the graded homework but still make an A in the course as long as they perform well in the other grading areas, she said. It could also help give students more motivation to complete the work, especially students who are lagging behind or are on the fence.
“I think it’ll motivate some students,” Reed said. “For kids in the middle who could go either way, points can be an incentive to push them in the right direction.”
Last year the removal of all graded homework from teachers’ tool kit didn’t sit well with a lot of people, Reed said.
“Any time you mess with a teacher’s autonomy in their grade book and classroom they’ll get upset,” she said.
Reed said the reintroduction of graded homework was an issue the teachers would have preferred to discuss during the pupil progression plan committee meetings from March to June, but she said central office staff told the committee members the option wasn’t on the table.
“They told us they weren’t interested in changing the policy at that time. There was no reason given and a lot of teachers were rumpled about that,” Reed said in a follow-up interview.
Centanni said several teachers called to tell him the same thing, and the exclusion is why he proposed putting homework back on the table at the July 17 meeting. Several teachers chimed up from the audience to support his statement and Reed also confirmed the statement during the meeting.
Several board members proposed returning the plan back to the committee to discuss homework, but the report was already past deadline. Interim superintendent Irma Trosclair said the report was due to the Louisiana Department of Education by July 1, and the district had already received an extension through July 19.