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Did Los Angeles Change Its Homework Policy in the Name of Urban Equality?

Grades shouldn't be "based on the routes which students take towards mastery, nor their behavior, attitude, effort, or attendance."

The Los Angeles Unified School District has drastically changed its homework policy, banning teachers from counting homework as more than 10 percent of a student's grade. The reason? According to the LA Times, it has to deal with racial make-up of the district and its urban location.

"Beginning July 1, 2011, homework assignments will comprise no more than 10% of a student’s academic achievement grade," a memo issued last month states. It goes on to lay out the reasoning: "It is unfair to penalize or reward students for their home academic environment. While some students do not have the opportunity to do homework while away from school thus failing to return assignments, for others, it is difficult to be sure that it was the student who actually did the work."

According to the L.A. Times, that's in part an attempt to fix urban inequality:

The L.A. approach is intended to account for the myriad urban problems facing the district's mostly low-income, minority population. It's also aimed at supporting L.A. Unified's increasing focus on boosting measureable academic achievement. [Emphasis added]

"Varying degrees of access to academic support at home, for whatever reason, should not penalize a student so severely that it prevents the student from passing a class, nor should it inflate the grade," the new policy says.

It even goes on to say that grades should not be "based on the routes which students take towards mastery, nor their behavior, attitude, effort, or attendance."

Some teachers aren't happy about the change.

"Students need to realize that they're held accountable," Chris Johnson, who teaches Advanced Placement English and history, told the Times.

"They have to rise up to meet that, organize their time and be much more mature at a younger age than many students," he added. "If it takes till midnight, then you burn the midnight oil." According to him, without assigning substantial homework he can't cover the necessary course work.

As expected, however, students are elated.

"I do my homework, but I don't do it too often," Marshall junior Lexus Bailey, an honor-class student, told the Times. "I'll tell myself I'm going to do my homework, then I don't."

"It's a waste of time and a poor reflection of whether I'm learning the subject," Marshall senior Manny Hernandez, an entrepreneur outside the classroom, added. "And it's so easy to copy other students' homework, it's ridiculous."

One college professor says that the policy is sending the wrong message.

"To make homework worthy of only 10% of a student's grade sends a message that it is not important," Janine Bempechat, a Wheelock College associate professor, told the Times.

The website Gawker took a more sarcastic tone while pointing out the obvious: "They can blow that [sh**] off entirely and still get a solid B! This is wise, as well as fair."

Read the full story at the Los Angeles Times.

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