Stop Correcting Homework: A Directive and a Rationale

My principal has asked us to consider the purpose of homework.

That's easy.  Homework is for children to practice what they've learned.

Then he asked us, "Then why would you grade homework?" (other than the fact that it's a district requirement to have a homework grade on the report card)?

Well, I guess I grade homework:
1.  To see if the child is putting effort into what he or she is learning
2.  To see if the child does better at home than in school (although that can either indicate test anxiety or that the parents do it for them)
3.  To see if the child needs help the next day

"Stop grading homework!"  He told us.  Well, more like read it out of a magazine.  But his point was made.

His argument for not grading homework:
1.  Homework is a chance to practice.  So if the child is doing just that, why would we punish them for getting things wrong with a lower grade?  A lot of times when we are learning something new we don't get it right the first time.
2.  If a child understands the concept well, why should s/he have to do 20 problems about it?  If they demonstrate that they understand the concept but forget their homework, why should that lower their grade?
3.  You (teachers) should not be bringing home piles of homework to correct.  It's not fair to you.  And the kids don't look at it anyway.  So really, what is the point?  It's better for them to get immediate feedback on it by looking at a few problems the day it's due, not the day after (or a week later, depending on how swamped the teacher is).

It's an interesting philosophy, and one I'm of two minds about.  I'm not sure how to adjust to the new policy without chaos reigning.  As I see it, here are the pros and cons:

1.  Duh, less homework to correct each night!!!
2.  I have been torn when it comes to grading certain kids.  Every once in a while I get a REALLY bright student who just marches to the beat of a different drum.  I know they know how to do the work.  But whether it's laziness, or they don't have the stamina to write as much as the task demands, or they're forgetful, or they're just plain oppositional, they don't hand in homework.  Then they take the test and ace it.  What do I do?  Based on the work they do they nearly fail.  Based on the depth of their understanding they could nearly skip a grade ahead.  So they get a grade somewhere in the middle that doesn't reflect what kind of student/learner/thinking they really are.

1.  If there is no consequence for forgoing homework, a lot of kids won't take it seriously.*  They won't do it.
2.  How do I keep track of work ethic without a check, check plus, check minus or 0 in my rank book?  Again, our report card has a separate section for homework grades.  How do I arrive at a grade for it?
3.  It's one thing to correct spelling and most math problems with the children.  But what about a writing assignment, which is so individual to each child?  How do we efficiently correct this in class? 

I'm really unsure about how to make the switch. 

*Then again, he didn't say there should be no consequence!  Just not a grade.  Come to think of it, maybe a consequence would be more of a deterrent than a bad grade to a lot of elementary aged children.

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