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The “Integer Grading System”, piloted last year by Indian Hills Middle School, has been reported to negatively affect freshmen homework habits this year, according to freshman students and teachers. The policy, which altered how certain assignments were graded, was discontinued this year, one year since its installment.
One of the major components of the policy ruled that homework would no longer be turned in for a grade. But after concerns regarding the System’s effectiveness arose throughout the year, administrators terminated it.
East freshman Tom Schotte explained how the Integer System affected his homework habits in middle school last year.
“A lot of the time I just didn’t end up doing [my homework], because there was no drive for me to do it,” Schotte said.
Like Schotte, other freshmen became unaccustomed to being graded on homework assignments in middle school, and did not anticipate the workload that high school classes entailed.
Now, some teachers are concerned that students’ habits from middle school are influencing their performance in high school. One of these teachers, social studies teacher Stephen Laird, has two freshman classes and has noticed these habits.
“A lot of freshman are struggling with homework this year,” Laird said. “They’re not turning it in, not completing it and they’re just not understanding the concept of why it’s important to their grade and to reinforce skills.”
Laird ties this misunderstanding back to their experiences with the Integer System’s homework policy. If students weren’t used to turning in homework at the middle school level, he wonders, what should compel them to turn it in at the high school level?
In response to students’ apparent lack of motivation to complete their homework assignments, Laird says he’s been forced to alter his academic calendar.
“Due dates have been more fluid than in the past,” Laird said. “I understand, and I work with them… I’ve adapted a little, because if I don’t change, then a lot of kids aren’t going to understand the concept.”
IHMS Principal Dr. Scott Sherman explained that the pilot of the System simply failed to motivate students academically, something he says is important in preparing them for high school.
“[This policy was introduced] with the idea being that students would still have the responsibility to complete their homework,” Sherman said.
The problem, he explained, was that students were not accepting this responsibility. The policy removed students’ main incentive to turn in homework assignments: grades.
The Integer System, which was introduced by the previous IHMS Principal Carla Allen, replaced the typical letter grading scale. Instead, it assigned students numbers 1-4 correlating to performance and test scores, 4 being the highest achievement. The new grading policy also changed the previous curriculum by only counting long-term projects and summative assessments as a grade.
For upperclassmen who had never experienced the Integer System, a missing homework assignment would mean a zero, bringing down their grade point average. But for this year’s freshmen who had become accustomed to last year’s policy in middle school, this wasn’t the case. When the Integer System removed this threat to students’ grades, administrators noticed that many students fell into a habit of avoiding homework assignments on a regular basis.
Like Laird, administrators were concerned with the way the Integer System would prepare students for high school. Such a sudden and drastic change in the curriculum, Laird thought, left students unmotivated and unprepared for high school. In response, the district ended the Integer System’s pilot, returned to their original grading policy at the beginning of this 2015-2016 school year.
“In discussing with district administration, they thought if we were going to do something like that, it would have to start much earlier,” Sherman said. “I don’t think [the policy] is something that is ever going to be pursued again.”