The new school year has started, and I’ve not quite captured a cadence. My plan has created a heavy load this term and while I’m not behind in any work I don’t yet feel in control.

This must be how our senior students feel. Coming out of summer vacation they are juggling part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, homework, and the ever-present pressures of a teenage social life. Added to that they have life-planning stress as they make choices that could have far-reaching impact. One missed assignment could make the difference between university acceptance and a year off to try again. Do they get it?

Just as I ponder this question, there’s a news item on CNN about a new policy in Dallas schools where children can re-take tests if they fail, and that high school students don’t get graded for homework. Elementary and middle school students can use homework to raise grades but bad scores don’t count. Parents are complaining that school is too far from real life and kids will get a rude awakening when they graduate. Proponents say it will help kids stay in school and succeed – it’s about the learning. The answer won’t be known for some time as the current cohorts move through the system. The district has taken a bold step. Personally I would hope for a balance, that it’s not just about the testing regime but rather needs to be done in a context of creating a love for learning, not just removing the stress of testing.

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