How Much Should Homework Count?

Here's what education expert Rick Wormeli has to say about it

Homework should probably count zero percent. But 5% or less is acceptable. According to Rick Wormeli, the grade report should be an indication of what a student has learned against the standards. By counting homework practice, he contends that the grade report is in essence falsified, perhaps even unethical.


Preserve your rep... it's the only one you've got!

A very wise teacher once taught me that one’s reputation is to be prized and protected. As such he encouraged his students to remain above and beyond reproach in all our dealings.


If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck… It’s a duck!

The same goes for cheating. If it looks like a students is cheating, then the teacher/proctor will assume that he or she is cheating.

Cheating is not only the most egregious violation of academic integrity that exists, cheating is stealing. Cheaters steal from their classmates who worked hard at earning the knowledge that is being tested. More importantly they’re stealing from themselves. They rob themselves of the opportunity to learn. But when they cheat to avoid mistakes, there are no mistakes from which to learn.

I have been teaching for, well… a while. At my age, I knew what cheating looked like before many of my students’ parents were born. All teachers know cheating when they see it.

Avoiding these five behaviors when you are writing (i.e., taking) an exam will make sure that students stay above board, keeping their good reputations intact.

1. Keep your eyes on your own desk.

Though this one comes with a high “duh” factor, many students struggle at keeping their eyes in front of them. Many of these students are simply taking a mental break.

However, more often someone is trying to gain an unfair advantage by stealing the work of others, all while insulting the teacher’s intelligence by trying to be clever. The old pencil-drop ploy to steal a peek — lame! The yawning lean-back to glance behind you — weak! Teachers (and other students) know what these students are doing.

Remember that one’s reputation is to be prized and protected and students must remain above and beyond reproach at all time.

2. Get your wares prior to sitting for the exam.

If you will need a calculator, then come prepared. If you did not bring one, grab a classroom calculator prior to the beginning of the test. This goes for pencils, erasers, and notes as well. (A generation ago, forgetting a pencil meant taking a zero on the test.)

When a student leaves his or her seat, there is the distinct possibility (probability?) that he or she is trying to gain an unfair advantage by looking at the tests of every person he or she passes while out of the seat.

3. Don’t talk.

I know, I know… another “duh” factor piece of advice. Yet many students (the immature ones, in particular)  can’t NOT talk. Many are not trying to gain an unfair advantage. I love ’em, but many just can shut up.

Obvious whispering is assumed to be students trying to gain an unfair advantage, so remember that one’s reputation is to be prized and protected and you must remain above and beyond reproach at all time. If it looks like a duck…

4. Stay in your seat.

Testing also tends to cause ants in the pants. Many students suddenly need a tissue, a drink, a calculator, a pencil, etc. Testing is not the time to tend to these needs. If you’re sick stay home. If you’re toughing a cold out, bring one of those handy self-contained Kleenex packet. (If you know you have allergies, this item is a staple.)

Obviously what the cheater is trying to do is sneak a peek on other students’ exams.

If you’re innocent, remember that one’s reputation is to be prized and protected and you must remain above and beyond reproach at all time. If it looks like a duck…

5. Take care of business prior to the test.

This is another issue needs to be taken care of prior to testing. When writing the SAT Exam, students are not be permitted to leave the premises or look at a cell phone for 5 1/2 hours. Egads! Again, the obvious reason is that students leaving the testing room during the test could get outside assistance. Now, some students may just have to go to the bathroom legitimately. But these are called standardized tests for a reason.

Remember that one’s reputation is to be prized and protected and you must remain above and beyond reproach at all time. If it looks like a duck…

That’s more than my normal three points for a Thursday, but hopefully these pointers are taken under advisement. Remember that teachers are not trying to be a pain in your neck. They are trying to help you remain above and beyond reproach. Help them do it for you, not in spite of you.

Hey Sayre grads, can you name that teacher?

Cheaters are Cheating Themselves

No matter how many times I administer an exam, I will never cease to be amazed at the number of students who seem to have no qualms whatsoever about cheating.  And if they’re not cheating, they’re having a serious cases of:

  • sideward eyeball straining syndrome,
  • chin-grabbing, head-twisting neck-cracking phenomenon,
  • back-bending trichotillomania,
  • pencil-dropping disease,
  • and so forth…

Just know this, cheaters…

Cheating is the most egregious violation of academic integrity in which you can engage.

If the teacher wants to know what your neighbor knows, she’ll look at their test results.  But she wants to know what you have learned.  This is how teachers fine-tune their instructional content.  When you copy all the answers from someone else, you may be fooling the teacher temporarily.  But ultimately, you’re fooling yourself.  When the teacher thinks you have learned a concept (that you really haven’t because you cheated), she advances the sequence of the curriculum.  In reality, the cheater knows nothing and feels even more lost as their non-cheating counterparts grow in depth of knowledge and further learning.

By cheating, you have made it even more likely that you will need to continue cheating to maintain your facade of learning.  I suppose this self-created need is like being addicted to drugs.  In a manner of speaking, the cheater spends much of the school year “chasing the first high” until they finally crash.  And like the addict, the blame off-loading begins.

Bottom line… stop cheating.  You’re better than that.

Studying does work.  Trust your teacher.

And above all else, show some self-respect.

Do You Bloviate?

What do you do on a constructed response question when you are unsure of the answer? Curse yourself for not studying harder? Or do you bloviate?

bloviate |ˈblōvēˌāt|

[verb] talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.

I realize that you may have been coached to prattle on and on when you do not know how to answer a given written prompt. The thinking is that if you blather enough about any given topic, you will eventually hit upon some kernel of truth.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. However, luck does not make hime a master forager.

Would you answer a, b, c, and d on a multiple choice test? After all, one of the choices is correct? Isn’t that what you’re doing when you prattle on given a writing prompt?

Stop throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. The right first choice is reading, practicing hard, and reviewing for an exam.

A Primer on Testing Protocol

Here are a few reminders for students when taking a test, especially if you are in PreAP, AP, or college-level course.

Some preliminary vocabulary:

  • proctor: the person administering the exam, often your professor/instructor/TA
  • TA: teaching assistant
  • exam: the test, quiz, assessment, etc.
  • standardized: same assessment, same testing conditions
  • write: some professors have you “write” exams, using a blue book
  • blue book: a thin composition note book

1. Arrive on time.

Arriving on time ensures that you will have the maximum time to finish. Remember that no extra time is given when you are late. And if you are going to miss an exam or be late, you must okay it with the professor/instructor prior to just not showing up.

2. Study before the test.

The best time to study for a test is not moments prior to the instructor’s distributing the exam and testing materials. That’s a pretty amateurish move that screams high school student… Would you train for a marathon by running a few wind sprints just before the start of the race? Of course not.

3. Stay in your seat.

Under no circumstances should you ever leave your seat during the administration of an exam. If you have a question, raise your hand, and let the proctor come to you. If the proctor does not see your hand up, excuse yourself and say the proctor’s name (i.e., ahem, Dr. Noggin?). And for heaven’s sake, take care of your potty needs prior to the testing period. Not that you would, but when a student leaves the testing site, he or she could be using technology to look up answers. Some state license exams even have armed guards present. Testing is serious business.

4. Do not ask for help.

Clarification questions are fine. If you think you’ve spotted a typo, fine. Examples of what not to ask during a test:

  • What’s the definition of ____________? (You’re in a college course; learn college vocab!)
  • What exactly is being asked here? (Don’t then start talking out loud about possible answers! Study so that you are familiar with the very distinctions and nuances that the question is probing.
  • Did you mean ____________? (Yes, or I would not have written ________.)
  • What do we do if we’re finished? (Duh? Check your answers. Don’t be lazy. You have to be here until the period ends anyway…)

5. You are in a house of education. Act accordingly.

These protocols may require you to check your ego at the door. If you’re in a college-level course, expect college-level testing conditions. This may require a paradigm shift; students do not make the rules in college. Unlike your fave YA drama on television, teens are not witty sages who routinely outwit educated adults with their sublime intellect.

Bottom line? Think before you speak or move. On the mind should not be instantly on the mouth or out of the seat. If it’s a challenging exam, give it a moment to ruminate. You’ve been conditioned by the relentless pursuit of leisure. But chances are you know a lot more than you think! Relax, be patient, and let your mind work.

Taking Care of You to Take Care of Your Grade

As we move into finals week here at SHS, make sure you are taking care of you. I remember a time in my life when I did foolish things. One time I stayed out very late the night before an exam. Even though I was young, I recall not being as sharp as I could have been. Foggy, I believe is the word.



Get enough rest in the days leading up to exam week. It’s been a long school year with a brutal winter. You’ve been working hard, so your body will take several days to fully re-charge. You’re going to need that energy to carry you through three straight days of testing. Teens should be aiming for 9-10 hours of sleep per night.

eating right

Eat Well

Avoid sugar-laden snacks like pop tarts, cereal, pastries, cookies, and so forth. Opt instead for nutrient dense whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Also stick to whole grains. Finally, my favorite? The incredible edible egg. Eggs have the most bio-available protein next to whey. And they are loaded with choline which aids in brain function.



Your teachers probably gave you review packets, mock exams, or something to help guide your studying efforts. Use these to your advantage. Use these final class days to ask clarifying questions.

Test Better Without Studying

Like them or not, tests are here to stay… at least for the time being. Here are five helpful tips I have compiled to help you score better on your next test whether you study or not.

Generic pic of primary student sitting an exam.

1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Studies reveal that youngsters require up to 9 hours of sleep each night. So you might want to skip the Call of Duty marathon sessions into the wee hours the nights leading up to a big test.

2. Be Prepared

I know I promised no studying. By being prepared, I’m talking about taking inventory.

  • Notes? Check!
  • Pencil? Check!
  • Calculator? Check!
  • Brain? Check!

The last thing you want is to be stressing about those materials right before the test. (If push comes to shove, see me. I’ve gotcha covered!)

3. Skip Hard Question First

If you can’t determine an answer straight away, skip the problem. Make sure you get to the problems that you know. They are easy points. Plus, answering easy questions first helps calm your nerves and builds up confidence. Then, you can tackle the more challenging problems.

4. Chew a Stick of Gum (if you’re Allowed)

I always encourage my students to chew gum during an exam. Research indicates that chewing gum stimulates cranial nerves that run through the jaw and that are related to thought processes. Why do you suppose people scratch their chin when they are thinking?

5. Review Your Test When Finished

I wish I had a nickel every time I heard a student do the Homer Simpson when I returned a test. DOH! I don’t know what the data on this, but I have seen enough silly mistakes made in haste to be convinced that it makes a difference. So if you have enough time, double check your work — especially calculator work. Your fingers are not as perfect as your brain.

Hopefully, these five simple reminders will help you save a few more points on your next test.