State Board dismisses Merrimack parent’s appeal over homework protocol

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The New Hampshire State Board of Education dismissed an appeal by a Merrimack parent in response to the district’s protocol to cease grading homework but did not address the merits of the actual protocol.

In 2017, the district adopted a policy mandating that teachers would still assign, review, and return homework, but that it would not be factored into a student’s overall grade. A parent appealed the district’s decision, calling it an “epic failure.”

From the Nashua Telegraph:

School Board Chair Shannon Barnes said at the beginning of the year, district officials would evaluate the protocol- not yet a policy- after midterms and then again at the end of the year as a sort of trial run for the new pilot program…

Robert Bevill, who has three children at Merrimack High School, was one of many parents upset with the protocol, calling is an “epic failure.”

“Enough is enough,” he said, concerned that his children’s grades were suffering and that this could affect their chances in college. “It has been a nightmare,” he said, “and there has been no accountability.”

In appealing the protocol to the state board, Bevill argued that Merrimack officials did not follow proper procedure for a policy change. He believes there should have been a hearing, a list of reasons for the change, and a vote.

However, the homework protocol, the district argues, is not a policy, so it does not require a vote or hearing.

“I don’t care what you call it,” Bevill said, “…It still represents a change in the way that the school district (administers) homework district-wide, and its weighted value in relation to the grading system.”

Bevill also said that his daughter’s rights to due process were violated in the long, complicated and “arduous” process to get to the hearing…

State board Chairman Andrew Cline said that by the state’s minimum instructions standards as stated in Ed 306.14, a school must have a policy on homework, including its relationship to the grading system. In a plain reading of the language, he said, it cannot be argued that the homework must be graded.

The board did agree, however, that in the future they should look at the red tape and procedural guidelines to make is easier for parents and students to address their concerns.

This being said, the board unanimously sided with Merrimack, but did not directly address either the merits or the process, as both sides presented.

Following the Merrimack School Board’s protocol change, some students saw their grades decline while others applauded the decision. From the Union Leader:

“This can really cost people scholarship opportunities,” said Chris Frank, a junior at Merrimack High School.

Frank said his grade-point average has decreased from 3.6 to 3.3 since the beginning of the school year.

He said several students, including himself, registered for certain classes before the new homework protocol was announced — classes they might not have selected if they knew homework would not be factored into the grade.

Devon Mitchell, a junior, submitted a letter to the school board claiming she feels robbed of success because of the homework change.

Without the homework buffer, some grades have dropped from an A to a C, according to Mitchell, adding it has been extremely discouraging.

“I have never been more stressed in my life. This will be the year that stains my high school transcript,” Mitchell wrote.

Two other students shared opposing stories with the board, saying they are pleased with the new homework protocol because it prepares them for college, provides them with extra free time, helps promote strong study habits, places more responsibility on students, eliminates busywork and allows for extra study time or school club participation.

What do you think? Is homework an important part of learning? Should it be graded? Does making it optional give students more responsibility and promote better study habits? Let us know at staff@reachinghighernh.org!

Source: State denies appeal of Merrimack’s homework plan | Nashua Telegraph