Merrimack parent will appeal decision allowing homework protocol to continueBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
July 19. 2018 7:47PM
MERRIMACK — A local parent is forging ahead with his attempts to reverse the school district’s new protocol that no longer factors homework into a student’s overall grade.
“This is not over yet,” Bob Bevill said the week after the State Board of Education affirmed the district’s decision to discontinue grading homework; although homework is still assigned and checked for accuracy, it is not used to determine a student’s grade.
Bevill, an attorney, says he will apply for a rehearing with the State Board of Education, and he plans on fighting this matter all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
“I am pretty disappointed in this,” he said, explaining homework grades can be used to show effort, competency and growth, and help contribute to a higher grade-point average.
He stressed that not all students are great test-takers, and homework grades may be used to help balance out their overall grade for a course. According to Bevill, Merrimack students are no longer being judged at the same level as other high school students competing for scholarships and college acceptances.
Assistant Superintendent Mark McLaughlin said the new homework protocol has one goal — to better evaluate the academic skills that a student can or cannot do without inflating or deflating their grade.
Grading homework cannot be used to accurately reflect a student’s ability in a subject, said McLaughlin, who acknowledged that homework is still very valuable in the district and will help children better understand concepts and likely perform better on assessments.
Students must understand the value of doing homework and practicing skills, which will result in better performances — a real world lesson that he said is important for Merrimack youth.
This is not the ‘dumbing down’ of Merrimack, but rather the preparation for college and beyond, according to McLaughlin.
Bevill argues that local high school students are frustrated that they are still expected to complete homework, yet they are not getting credit for doing the work.
He claims that the school board should have taken a formal vote on the new homework protocol, maintaining that if the new practice continues it could cause irreparable harm to students this fall.
“We need to be helping our kids excel,” said Bevill, maintaining that individual teachers should make the ultimate decision on whether homework counts as a grade.
According to McLaughlin, two different leadership groups determined that the new protocol should be attempted as a way to better evaluate a student’s understanding of certain content, and also to provide consistency and equity among classes.
He said that previously, there were teachers who weren’t checking homework for accuracy and still giving students credit regardless of whether it was accurate, or parents did the homework for their children, who still received credit for the work.
These previous practices could lead to a student, or their parents, thinking that the child is well versed in skills that they might not truly understand, explained McLaughlin.
He admits that some grades have dropped since the new protocol was implemented in the fall of 2017 — a change that McLaughlin says is regrettable but not surprising. The school board has decided to continue with the new homework practice in the upcoming school year.