Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The Team came back from Fall Break, rested, rejuvenated, and refreshed, only to notice that, one week into the new grading period, our kiddos were doing pretty much nothing. They weren't doing homework and even some of them couldn't manage to turn in in-class assignments.

My homework turn in percentage the past few years has been really high. For one, I assign it on Monday and it's due on Friday. I usually give the students a choice on which assignments they want to do (I'll list four, they do two). The homework itself is practice for what we've done in class, but if they have questions on it, I do have homework helpers that they can use during am homeroom, pm homeroom, or check out to take home - some of my special education students get the helpers stapled into their agendas or emailed home to their parents. It essentially gives the answers to the homework, so even if a kid is completely clueless, if he or she copies down the correct information, at least it was in front of them for that one time. (That idea isn't original - it came from an NMSA conference I went to a few years ago.) However, even with choices, even with four days to do the assignments, and even with the answers right there in front of them, they didn't bother to turn any work in - this is a huge change from previous years when I had nearly all my kids turning in work.

I wasn't alone. All the teachers in the seventh grade have the same problem, and even some of the eighth graders are exhibiting vast degrees of laziness. One of the eighth grade teams has implemented a homework clinic during lunch where the kids who owed work had to eat in a teacher's classroom and work on their homework at the same time. This seems to work pretty well as the kids started turning in work, rather than miss their social time, and at the same time their test scores and grades started to improve (especially in Math.)

Our Mr. Math was at another school last year that really targeted these kids who turn out to be, for the most part, our at-risk population. We took a little of what he did at his old school, a little what the 8th graders were doing, and came up with the Friday Homework Clinic.

By Monday afternoon, the teachers on my team have emailed me the names of all the kids with missing work for this grading period. I can cut and paste all this into an Excel spreadsheet (PowerSchool, our new grading program, makes this soooo easy), sort the kids by name, and have a print out of who owes what work.

On Tuesday morning I hand out to the kids a slip of paper with all their missing assignments listed. They have until Thursday afternoon to get this work made up and turned in, otherwise, they miss their first period elective class on Friday. Instead of doing art, or PE, or band, or computers, they are assigned to one of our rooms where they have to sit and work. We try to assign the kids to the teacher they need the most help with (for example if most of the work they owe is Math, Mr. Math gets them). This way they can get more individual attention. (I also make sure all my teammates have a copy of my Homework Helpers so that is available to help the kids as well).

The first week we did this, out of 120 kids, we had 88 who initially had to attend the clinic.

By Friday morning that number was down to about 68.

They were not happy. At all. However, they did turn in a lot of work. For some kids this was the first work we'd seen out of them all year. When I went home and graded papers this weekend, I couldn't believe how many students had managed to not only turn in their missing assignments, but managed to pull their grades up as well.

The Principal, by the way, absolutely loves that we're doing this. I got her blessing before we started. As she says, we have absolutely got to get these kids growing academically, and if it means having high expectations and accountability, so be it.

This week our number of kids missing assignments is 73. Of that number, about 20 of them are kids who owe one assignment and can, quite honestly, get that turned in before the Thursday deadline. That would give us about 53. That's still a high number, but better than the week before. It may take a few weeks for some of them to realize that we're serious.

At it costs us is a bit of time, and losing one planning period (we get two) to help work with these kids.

It's worth it.


Kristie Walker said...

You're lucky. We brought up the same thing to our principal and her answer was that elective time was just as important as any academic class subject. Maybe this explains why we're in our third year on the 2nd step of NCLB probation. :-\

Mimi said...

Good for you! I feel like my school sometimes is afraid to hold children and parents accountable. We will as long as it doesn't piss anyone off. Last Monday, I only had half my class pass in homework. Hideous. I gave them quite the impressive and guilt inducing speech, and a scathing letter home outlining our homework policies yet again....let's hope for the best!

ChiTown Girl said...

My son's elementary school (that he just graduated from in June) started a new homework policy this year. As soon as a child is missing a total of three assignment, for ANY of the dept. teachers, they get an afterschool detention. Thank GOD they started it after he left, cuz he would have had detention every single day!! His best friend's brother just got his third detention yesterday, and my girlfriend is NOT happy with him at all!

Melissa B. said...

Life is all about consequences. Good for you to try to teach these kiddos a life lesson early.

Heidi said...

Great idea...I used to be a 7th grade science teacher and was astounded by the missing assignments - these kids really did make a conscious effort to fail as my grading system was generous enough for one to succeed with just a little bit of work. I hope your kids wise up and your numbers continue to go down - I think what you're doing is great!

Melissa B. said...

BTW, please don't forget Sx3 today...we have a VERY timely snap for ya!

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I have the same problem. My best math class (now my only one) had a class average of 79.8% (C+++). Right now it's a 64% (D).

Too much talking, too little working.

So the new math teacher and I are going to have a contest between the three course II classes. The class with the highest class grade gets a pizza lunch.

Should be interesting to see how it works!