Now that LA Unified is revising its controversial homework policy, parents are getting a chance to air their grievances and make suggestions at a series of forums held around the district.
Criticism of the initial proposal - rolled out in May 2011- was fierce and immediate. It set the minimum time spent on homework at 10 minutes per subject, and established a percentage for homework weighting in final grades at 10%. Superintendent John Deasy suspended the new rules and said that while it was well-intentioned, the plan lacked input from parents, teachers and the Board of Education.
For the most part, “parents are complaining that there’s too much homework,” said Jan Davis, Chair of the Homework Working Group, which is responsible for drafting the new policy. But, the challenge, she said, is in striking a balance that will work for teachers and students across the district.
“Home situations are very different and unique for every child,” she said. While one student might get a lot of assistance from a parent or adult, another may not get any. “So to base a lot of the grade on that might not give a true picture of what that child actually knows about that particular content area.”
Last night’s forum was held at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood. Although turn out was low – only 12 parents and 5 teachers showed up for the discussion - those who were present had a lot to say. They shared horror stories about elaborate and ineffectual assignments; 5th graders up until 10 at night, 3rd graders with migraines caused by studying too much, 6th graders forced to give up basketball in exchange for participating in a school's gifted program.
Donna Tobin is the school's principal. She said this is typical of the feedback she receives from parents
After four months of meeting with parents, teachers and administrators, here’s what the Homework Working Group proposes:
- Homework assignments will comprise no more than 20% of a student’s grade
- Establishing maximum time limits for homework based on grade level. These would follow the rule of 10 – which means that a first grader gets 10 minutes worth of homework, a 2nd grader gets 20, etc.
- Create a distinction between daily, routine homework and long-term assignment, which will not fall under the umbrella of homework.
- Give schools the autonomy to establish local guidelines and apply their own rules for homework. Which means, it’s possible a school could institute a no-homework policy. However, this would require the involvement of all stakeholders.
The committee plans on holding four additional forums on the issue but no dates have been set. The final draft of the new bulletin will be voted on by the Board of Education in April. The new policy will be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.
KPCC discussed this earlier today on the Madeleine Brand Show. You can listen to that interview here.