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CASE STUDY #2: Homework Tracking Middle School


“I feel like my daughter is always behind with school.  When we look at her grade report, she is always missing homework assignments, which hurts her grades.  How hard is it to just do the homework and turn it in?”

This is a summary of how my work with Emma began. He mother called me just after the first marking period grades posted for seventh grade.  She was under the impression – based on her daughter’s report at the dinner table – that all was well, and Emma’s grades were fine.  Now that Emma was in middle school, her parents felt that it was time for her to take ownership of her schedule and her work, so they stopped monitoring the homework as they had done in elementary school and sixth grade.

In my first meeting with Emma, she told me that, even though she wrote down the homework and did it, she didn’t always get credit for it.  She was spending about 45 minutes at the most on homework daily, but never on Friday or weekends (“We don’t get any then,” she told me).  When I asked why she wasn’t getting full or even partial credit, she said that sometimes teachers (she had a team of 4 teachers over her curriculum) would collect the homework, and other times, they wouldn’t, and it was just bad luck that the few times she hadn’t done the work were the times it had been collected.  Also, she insisted the teachers hadn’t given her credit for some homework  she had done.  When I asked why, she finally said “Well, I didn’t show all of my work, and that’s what the teacher wanted to see.”  When I asked why she hadn’t shown the work, she just shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t think it mattered as long as she felt she understood the work.

In this case, our first goal was to establish a system to get the work done and done properly.  The truth was the work she had done (even if incomplete) was good.  It was just lacking a complete job, and she wasn’t doing all the work or handing it in.  So the first thing we had to do was re-establish the mindset that ALL homework is important.  Frankly, whether Emma felt the homework was important or not, the teacher is the one who makes that decision in the classroom, and she needed to treat all the work with equal importance.  She seemed reluctant to do this at first.

“If I get how to do it after 3 practice problems, then why do I have to do 30 problems for homework? That doesn’t make sense to me…”

Once we established the basic ground rules – do all homework; do all homework completely; think long term, not just about what’s going on the next day in class –she was able to slowly, but surely, develop a more productive mindset.  She implemented the tracking and prioritization system.  She started devoting about 25% of her study time to looking to the “L” assignments.  She became more diligent with her day-to-day work.

“I have to admit I still don’t think doing the homework is the most important part of school, but it did upset me that I was getting lower grades because I didn’t do it right. Since I started using the system, I haven’t missed one homework assignment, and I have an A in almost all of my classes.” 

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