Posted on April 30, 2023

Schools Are Ditching Homework, Deadlines in Favor of ‘Equitable Grading’

Sara Randazzo, Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2023

Las Vegas high-school English teacher Laura Jeanne Penrod initially thought the grading changes at her school district made sense. Under the overhaul, students are given more chances to prove they have mastered a subject without being held to arbitrary deadlines, in recognition of challenges some children have outside school.

Soon after the system was introduced, however, Ms. Penrod said her 11th-grade honors students realized the new rules minimized the importance of homework to their final grades, leading many to forgo the brainstorming and rough drafts required ahead of writing a persuasive essay. Some didn’t turn in the essay at all, knowing they could redo it later.

“They’re relying on children having intrinsic motivation, and that is the furthest thing from the truth for this age group,” said Ms. Penrod, a teacher for 17 years.

The Clark County School District where Ms. Penrod works—the nation’s fifth-largest school system—has joined dozens of districts in California, Iowa, Virginia and other states in moves toward “equitable grading” with varying degrees of buy-in. Leaders in the 305,000-student Clark County district said the new approach was about making grades a more accurate reflection of a student’s progress and giving opportunities to all learners.

Equitable grading can take different forms, but the systems aim to measure whether a student knows the classroom material by the end of a term without penalties for behavior, which, under the theory, can introduce bias. Homework is typically played down and students are given multiple opportunities to complete tests and assignments.

Proponents of the approach, including paid consultants, say it benefits students with after-school responsibilities, such as a job or caring for siblings, as well as those with learning disabilities. Traditional grading methods, they say, favor those with a stable home life and more hands-on parents.


In Las Vegas, some teachers and students say the changes have led to gaming the system and a lack of accountability.


Equitable grading still typically awards As through Fs, but the criteria are overhauled. Homework, in-class discussions and other practice work, called formative assessments, are weighted at between 10% and 30%. The bulk of a grade is earned through what are known as summative assessments, such as tests or essays.

Extra credit is banned—no more points for bringing in school supplies—as is grading for behavior, which includes habits such as attendance.


Bias can come into play when teachers use a grade as an incentive for behavior, said Tanya Kuhnee, a teacher-support specialist who is helping implement the Albuquerque program. Maybe a student is late because they had to bring their sibling to school. {snip}


Clark County said in the first year of the change, fewer students across racial demographics received an F.