Monday, June 25, 2012

Homework, 504 plans and the PTA

Now that the National PTA convention has come to a close, we need to consider “what next” in the effort for homework reform. The PTA has agreed to review the guidelines at its governance meeting in August. That’s a good step. But regardless of what the National PTA eventually does, parents who are concerned about homework policy will still be concerned.

It seems to me that there are two types of parents and two types of approaches. There are parents whose children are doing well or reasonably well in school but who want to put the brakes on this constant, and unproductive, intrusion into their homes. There are parents whose children are not getting the work done, are facing low or failing grades, who are in large amounts of conflict with their children, and the result is only hours of heartache leading to nothing other than an inevitable downhill decline.

For those in the first category, I encourage you to contact your local PTAs and statewide PTA organizations to voice your support of these guidelines. For those in the second category, I suggest that you look at the 504 law to find ways to implement homework reform for your child, regardless of what the school district does.

On October 4, I will be presenting, in conjunction with a local education lawyer, a workshop on the homework trap, and how to use my model as the basis for a 504 plan. I hope to make this presentation available to parents throughout the country, and to partner with other education lawyers in advocating for this model. Right now, most educators are unaware of my model. For that matter, most educators are unaware of any models. Review the education websites, blogs, and discussion forums and you will find a dearth of information about homework. Look at the curriculum for a school of education and you will not find a course on the topic of homework. Typically, a 504 plan offers the child “more time,” perhaps meaningful when taking a test, but not “less work,” absolutely needed when it comes to homework accommodations.

If you are a parent in the latter position, I invite you to contact me and, if you have a lawyer or education advocate helping you out, that you connect me with that person. One thing that will help you get the help you need is to get the notion of homework reform embedded in the thinking of those who are putting together 504 plans. Educators cannot incorporate a concept into their plans if they don’t know what it is, and that may be loath to accept a change just because one parent says this is what the child needs. But for every child who gets a rational homework accommodation, that becomes one more case to enter the thinking of the educators the next time a bright, capable, but homework-trapped child, comes up for discussion.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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