Letters to the Editor: Are students served by homework and the old ways of grading? Probably not

Alhambra High School English teacher Joshua Moreno stands in a classroom
Alhambra High School English teacher Joshua Moreno no longer gives homework and tries to align grades with what students are learning.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The article focusing on Alhambra High School English teacher Joshua Moreno provided a much-needed look at how students are graded and what grades mean.

As Moreno asserts, counting homework completion as a significant component for course grades disproportionately affects disadvantaged students and raises the question, “What counts in English class?” — the title of my 1994 study of more than 400 California high school English teachers.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of teachers are asking themselves, “What do my course grades represent, compliance or learning?”


Critics will argue that counting homework teaches responsibility and motivates students. A large body of research over the past 40 years argues otherwise. Reducing homework and giving students the opportunity for “redos” encourages continuous learning and makes course grades a meaningful measure of achievement.

Keni Brayton Cox, Anaheim

The writer was a professor of educational leadership at Cal State Fullerton.


To the editor: Educators abandoning an evaluation process because it yields too many failing grades is tantamount to labs dumping a screening system because it yields too many Stage 4 cancer results.

Nonetheless, as an English teacher I am for a new focus on equitable grading that puts emphasis on giving grades rather than feeding students’ obsession with collecting points, and that adjusts grade averages upward when there is improvement.

No system is perfect. Equitable grading makes one unrealistic assumption: Given enough time, every student has the ability to improve. Often the emotional maturity and intellectual curiosity to learn come years later in a student’s life, if it ever comes at all.

Gary Hoffman, Huntington Beach


To the editor: Adopting equity grading is just a different path down the same confusing road in education.

When I started teaching, letter grades had been replaced with a number value, but parents and students quickly figured out that a “4” in a subject was an A, and a “1” was a D.

The next improvement was narrative evaluating, in which teachers had to write a paragraph for each student. This was confusing because parents would read the evaluation and still ask, “But how is my child doing?”

Equity grading is intended to help low-performing students, but what about kids who are grubbing for a 4.0 grade point average or better? This reform will eventually pass, and low-performing students still will not have been served.

Dennis Price, Pine Grove, Calif.