Tim Robertson, Peabody-Burns High School and junior high principal, reported that there were fewer failing grades in junior high in the first semester than in previous years Monday at the USD 398 Board of Education meeting.
He pointed out two instructional techniques used at the school as the reason for the improvement.
The first is that all sixth grade and seventh grade students are involved in an intervention program. Interventions dictate what supplies students need to bring to each class using homework folders.
“It helps them be a lot more organized,” Robertson said. “Develop habits.”
For struggling students, there is an incentive program in place where if they bring the proper supplies every day in a week they receive Warrior dollars, which they can cash in exchange for rewards.
Another incentive in the intervention program is if a student can go a certain number of days without receiving any zeros on homework assignments. Robertson said sixth graders have been in the intervention program since the beginning of the year and seventh graders were included at mid-semester. He said zero sixth graders had a failing grade at semester and three seventh graders had an F.
A measure taken by specific teachers — Ann Leppke for 9th grade science and Kim Topham for junior high science — is to grade homework assignments differently. Instead of applying grades to each submitted piece of homework, Leppke and Topham are giving students a grade based on the body of homework they complete, Robertson said.
Robertson believes this change puts more emphasis on understanding the material instead of doggedly working through every assignment. He also thinks this teaching approach is applicable in preparation for challenging common core standards planned to be imposed on all students in the future.
“Critical thinking is going to be important,” he said.
However, some parents are not pleased with the change in homework grading. Robertson said some parents have asked why their student no longer has homework.