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Homework policy still debated by area parents

By Grace Pecci - Staff Writer | May 9, 2019

MERRIMACK – Robert Bevill has been battling the Merrimack School Board about the district’s plan of not grading homework for more than a year. He now seeks a court order to force teachers to grade.

Bevill’s previous objections on the homework protocol were reviewed multiple times in hearings at the state level. However, the New Hampshire Board of Education and the New Hampshire Supreme Court all upheld the board’s homework protocol.

The current homework protocol, Policy IKB, states that as an extension of the classroom, “homework must be planned and organized, must be viewed as purposeful to the students; and should be evaluated and returned to students in a timely manner.”

However, evaluated does not mean graded.

During past school board meetings, Bevill has argued that the protocol punishes students by leaving them at a disadvantage when competing for college acceptance and merit-based scholarship opportunities.

A citizen-petitioned warrant article, Article 8, made its way on to the ballot last month, asking the voters whether the board should return to grade reporting equity for formative assessments.

Merrimack School District preliminary results showed 1,771 voters were in favor of amending the policy, while 1,478 were not.

During the next meeting to occur after voting, on April 15, Merrimack School Board Chair Shannon Barnes said officials still had to decide on a few things: whether the issue should immediately be acknowledged and if adjustments should be done this year – and whether they wish to review and possibly revise the policy for the new school year.

“It’s of my opinion that we have eight weeks left in this school year and that it would be irresponsible to change course with what we have been doing for 32 weeks,” Barnes said.

“Just to be clear, we always intended to review the homework protocol annually since we rolled it out the first year. We will also take into account the voting results as part of our discussion at an upcoming meeting. It won’t be done tonight,” she added.

Merrimack resident Finlay Rothhaus referred to himself and Bevill and said, “We know the punitive way of how we used to educate children and today we want to give them the greatest opportunities. In order to do that with competency-based education, you give them opportunities to retake a test, do other things to help them learn the material so they can pass or learn it better so they can use it in the future.”

Rothhaus said homework should be a tool and that it should not be counted as a grade.

During his comments, he also said he believes the warrant article would be similar to the townspeople trying to set policy for the police department.

“I don’t see that as a good precedence,” Rothhaus said.

On April 16, the next day, according to Barnes, Bevill issued the litigation.

During the next board of education meeting, which took place Monday evening, Barnes said, “It remains the position of this board that it is the role, responsibility and function of the board to set policy for the district and that the one article regarding policy IKB is advisory in nature. In light of the now pending litigation, and a motion to dismiss filed by our legal counsel, we will defer from further addressing this matter until the litigation has been resolved.”

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.

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