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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Homework load keeps getting lighter as grades go higher

Forty-four percent of 13-year-olds (eighth grade) did no homework in 2022, writes Tom Loveless. The numbers are very similar for nine-year-olds (fourth grade). Most say none was assigned; the others just didn't do it.

Ten years earlier, only 26 percent of older students were in the no-work category; 23 percent of the younger students reported doing no work in 2008.

As with "public school enrollment losses, stagnant test scores, reports of disruptive students, chronic absenteeism -- the pandemic seemed to magnify, but not initiate, trends that had started earlier," he writes.

What about those stressed-out students burdened with hours of work each night? "Few students have ever faced two hours per day of homework, despite anti-homework hysteria that broke out in the late 1990s and extended into the early 2000's," writes Loveless. Five percent of 13-year-olds said they do at least two hours of homework per night in 2023; only 3 percent of 9-year-olds do that much.

How much should students do? That's another question, he writes. But post-pandemic students are behind earlier cohorts in academic achievement, as well as in attendance and behavior.

A new study on lenient grading policies -- no penalties for late work, half-credit for missed assignments, multiple retakes and so on -- found already high-achieving students earned higher grades, but not test scores. The policy also increased absenteeism for low-achieving students. Researchers predict it will widen achievement gaps.

These policies are driving teachers crazy, writes Jessica Grose in the New York Times. A teacher told her:

“Even if they plagiarize or cheat on something, well, it’s a 50 percent.” If they get two out of 10 on a quiz, he said, that’s automatically bumped up to a five out of 10. He said grades are no longer tied to attendance, and that grading quarters are merged, so some students “quickly found that if they could have a passing grade in the first one or two quarters, they could just stop coming to school.”

Absenteeism is way up -- and so are graduation rates, notes Thomas Dee, a Stanford education professor.

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