Saturday, August 18, 2012

LAUSD Homework Policy Revisited

Thursday, I mentioned on Facebook that I had been alarmed that LAUSD was opting for “tougher homework,” as reported in the Los Angeles Daily News after it had made national news for its progressive effort to keep homework weighting down to 10% of the grade.

The community had been up in arms and I had responded during the debate with an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Daily News explaining why I thought it would be difficult to come to consensus. The article in the Daily News did not explain clearly what it meant by tougher homework standards and I was not sure what that meant.

A follower of my Homework Trap Facebook page directed me to an editorial in the LosAngeles Times that spoke to this issue. The editorial actually preceded my op-ed piece and it appears possible that by “tougher,” the LA Daily News really meant tougher than the original proposal, not necessarily tougher than what was in place before. If that is the case, it is a relief.

Now, here are a few thoughts about the Los Angeles Times editorial:

1.      The editorial talks about 20% being a fair weighting for homework. Given that homework can garner zeros much more readily than schoolwork, and that, except for high school students who choose to take advanced classes, there is no reason any student should be doing up to 20% of his total homework/classroom time on homework, it is quite excessive. Ten percent is simply a more reasonable number.

2.      Students who are motivated and who can do the homework will remain motivated regardless of the weighting, 10 or 20%. In the younger (elementary for sure, middle school to a large extent) grades, harsh homework penalties are parent motivators more than student motivator, and often push parents into frenzied states and into making irrational, rather than effective decisions.

3.      The LA Times suggests that the 10% homework policy might be demeaning to disadvantaged and minority students. This is absolutely absurd. Homework relief gives disadvantaged students the opportunity to learn in school without the distraction of negative consequences stemming from home circumstances that might not be conducive to quiet study. If we really want to help these kids get their homework done, we would invest in libraries and Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and provided these kids with after school educational/recreational programs where they could finish their homework and then have some fun.

With those comments, I still congratulate the school district for trying to create a rational homework policy. The one thing I think that is essential and missing from all homework policies I’ve seen is a statement that vests parents with final decision-making on matters in their own homes.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

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