students are not benefiting from a specific homework task and which students
When homework is
may know the content so well that they counted in a student’s
don’t need to do homework. Patricia
Scriffiny (2008), a teacher at Montrose
grade, we produce
necessarily have to be made up; it makes
sense to prioritize homework for stu-
dents who need more work on relevant
concepts. When the focus switches
from working to learning, students
High School in Colorado, makes the
a murky picture
understand that they can improve their
final grade by demonstrating mastery,
When I assign homework, I discuss
with my students where and how it
applies to their assessments. . . . Some
not through the “Hail Mary pass” of
an extra-credit assignment two weeks
before the end of the semester.
students don’t do all of the homework
Both formative and summative assess-
Teachers and administrators need to
that I assign, but they know that they are ments are weighted as 0 percent, but
put forth solid effort to help teachers
accountable for mastering the standard
connected to it. (p. 72)
because there is no overall grade on the determine how to assess student
monthly profile, students and parents
learning and how to know when
At McNally High School in Alberta,
have to look at all the assessments to get learning has occurred. Rethinking the
Canada, teachers don’t grade home-
the big picture of how a student is doing deeper purpose of homework and
work. They think carefully about which in the course. Students don’t receive an adopting policies that reflect that
homework tasks will help prepare
overall grade until the end of the course. purpose are healthy first steps. EL
students for both formative and sum-
Figure 1 (p. 62) shows a partial list of
mative classroom assessments and
the formative and summative tasks for
offer those tasks as options to students. this class. If students don’t complete a
Baker, D. P., & Le Tendre, G. K. (2005).
Some formative assessment tasks may
set of homework assignments and then
National differences, global similarities:
be assigned as homework; others may
World culture and the future of schooling.
fail the related summative assessment,
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
be completed in class. Students decide
they must go back and complete all the Cushman, K. (2010). Fires in the mind: What
whether completing the task will further formative tasks before they can retake
kids can tell us about motivation and mas-
their understanding of the topic.
In English 11, for example, students
decide which homework and forma-
tive tasks they need to complete. For
instance, a student who has demon-
Practice 3. Focus on demonstration
of learning, not task completion.
McNally High’s homework system, like
tery. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for learning K– 12. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:
O’Donnell, H. (2010, October 8). Grading
for learning: Dealing with the student
strated mastery of all standards for oral other standard-based systems, respects
who “won’t work” (Revisited) [blog
presentations with his or her first forma- students’ innate drive for mastery,
post]. Retrieved from The Thoughtful
tive oral presentation may choose to not autonomy, and purpose (Pink, 2009).
Teacher at http://repairman.wordpress
complete other formative assessments
Perhaps because of this, students are
of oral presentation skills. Having more motivated to do their best on assign-
choices about assessment helps McNally ments. “Teachers can’t believe students Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth
students feel more ownership of learning and become more engaged.
English 11 teachers send home a
monthly feedback form that shows the
are actually asking if they can redo
a piece of work to improve it,” says
McNally’s principal Dale Skoreyko.
When homework is graded, teach-
about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books.
Scriffiny, P. L. (2008). Seven reasons for
standards-based grading. Educational
Leadership, 66( 2), 70–74.
number of points a student earned on
ers spend an inordinate amount of time Vatterott, C. (2009). Rethinking homework:
each of 19 formative assessment tasks
and 5 summative assessments. The
and effort chasing makeup work. As
Hugh O’Donnell (2010), a retired social
Best practices that support diverse needs.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
number and type of assessments may
studies teacher and consultant, explains,
vary based on the teacher’s judgment
“If it’s simply a matter of homework not Cathy Vatterott is an associate profes-
sor of education at the University of
of student needs. There is no minimum completed by a student who scores high Missouri–St. Louis. She is the author of
number of formative assessment tasks
in the test on that subject matter, what’s Rethinking Homework: Best Practices
students must complete; they are only
the point of hassling the kid or reduc-
That Support Diverse Needs (ASCD,
required to submit summative work.
ing the grade?” All homework doesn’t