Tuesday, July 05, 2011

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: LAUSD should avoid diminishing homework's value in education + smf’s 2¢

Daily News Editorial | http://bit.ly/nmBxGx

Update 7/6: This Editorial was picked up by the Daily Breeze  | http://bit.ly/qWHmAk

7/05/2011 - THE Los Angeles Unified School District's mission statement boasts a commitment to "educate all students to their maximum potential." But a new policy that puts less value on homework indicates otherwise.

Chipping away at a teacher's authority to grade as they please, the policy requires that homework account for no more than 10 percent of a student's academic grade.

Many teachers fear that if homework has little impact on a student's grade, they will be less motivated to complete it, or disregard it altogether. Also, teachers are likely to adjust the amount of homework they assign to their classes to match the fixed percentage, in some cases, resulting in significant reductions.

Despite criticism by educators, the district's decision follows a growing national trend that has the potential to leave high school students unprepared for the institution they so steadfastly seek: College.

Schools that have implemented similar policies cited parental complaints as a factor in their decision. Parents say their children are stressed and lack free time because of the academic work and extracurricular activities they shoulder - many hoping to increase their chances of being accepted into a top college.

While no student should lose any of their ideal daily nine hours of sleep to finish homework, much of college is a balancing act - one that requires students be able to balance course work, extracurriculars and, oftentimes, a job. While it is important students not be overworked, the time-management skills homework builds are an invaluable asset.

Additionally, the district's policy inherently puts a larger weight on testing as an indicator of student achievement, marginalizing less-gifted test takers. It also poorly prepares students for college course work, mostly composed of take-home assignments.

LAUSD also inferred the need to level the academic playing field for low-income and minority students, who, in many cases, are not afforded a home environment or the time conducive to completing school work.

"Varying degrees of access to academic support at home, for whatever reason, should not penalize a student so severely that it prevents the student from passing a class nor should it inflate the grade," reads the policy.

It seems the biggest issue concerning homework is the time it takes to be completed, not its affect on a student's grade. If that is the case, the district should put its effort toward ensuring they have the best teachers in classrooms, with the good thought to recognize when their assigned work is too rigorous.

And, if a teacher believes a certain subject needs a greater deal of supplemental, at-home development - warranting a greater percentage of the student's overall grade - their know-how should be respected.

The district's intentions are commendable, but lowering student expectations isn't the answer. In fact, it points to a lack of trust by the district in its educator's ability to produce an appropriate course load (in and out of the classroom) that meets the academic and developmental needs of their students.

Instead of following a national trend that devalues homework, LAUSD - the nation's second-largest school system - should be setting its own.

2cents smf: The Daily News, like the LA Times, knows more about pedagogy, curriculum and instruction than anyone – especially educators, parents and students. We should always follow their advice just like we should adhere to The Times teacher evaluations.

Pu-lease – the homework debate ranges far-and-wide – but the argument that homework is somehow being ‘devalued’ is spurious to the point of hilarity. Most homework is drill-and-kill busywork, little of it is graded – usually homework is ‘collected’ and filed [circularly] - perhaps noted whether it turned in or not  – and sometimes not even that.

  • Where homework represents independent study – read a chapter, read for fun – a long term project - or where it is collaborative between kids and parents - “flash cards” and spelling drills come to mind - I support it .
  • Otherwise I direct everyone who will read it to read Orson Scott Card’s essay The Worst Job in the World, Parts I and II  | http://bit.ly/a0YCa9 + http://bit.ly/d2VSdf   If I could make it mandatory I would …but I can’t.  But you are feeling tempted…..!

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