Thursday, February 23, 2012


By Barbara Jones Staff Writer, Daily Breeze |

2/21/2012 07:09:56 PM PST   ::  Following an uproar last year over a policy that limited homework to 10 percent of a student's grade, Los Angeles Unified officials are recommending a cap of 20 percent, along with guidelines on how much time should be spent on outside assignments.


    The proposed homework policy will be unveiled and discussed from 6-7 p.m. Thursday at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, 5931 W. 18th St.; and March 1 at Reed Middle School, 4525 Irvine Ave., North Hollywood.

The proposed recommendations were crafted by a 15-member committee of administrators, teachers and parents after Superintendent John Deasy suspended the 10 percent policy because of a lack of public input. Plans now call for the recommendations to be unveiled during hourlong public forums that begin Thursday, and for the final policy to be approved by the school board in time for the 2012-13 school year.

During meetings that began last October, the Homework Working Group tried to find a balance between helping students master a subject and placing an unmanageable burden on their time or families.

"We want to make sure that grades aren't being raised or lowered just based on homework," Janice Davis, the district official who coordinated the working group, said Tuesday.

"We believe that homework should help students practice a skill or should enhance their learning or understanding of a subject."

The proposed guidelines were outlined in a Jan. 31 summary of the working group plan obtained by the Los Angeles Daily News, a sister newspaper of the Daily Breeze. They include:

Homework assignments would comprise a maximum of 20 percent of a student's academic grade.

A distinction would be made between routine daily homework and long-term assignments and projects.

Individual schools would be allowed to establish their own guidelines.

In addition, the panel recommended guidelines for the maximum amount of time the average student should spend on homework, based on grade level.

They range from a total of 10 minutes of homework a day for kindergartners up to 50 minutes for fifth-graders, with additional time for reading practice.

Under the recommended limits, sixth-graders would be assigned 15 minutes of homework for each academic class. Seventh- and eighth-graders would be assigned a half-hour and high school students, 40 minutes per class.

Davis noted that teachers are cognizant of the workload on students, who are also trying to balance extracurricular activities and family time. As a result, teachers may opt to give homework on alternate days or to coordinate assignments with their colleagues.

Davis said the homework issue is part of a larger discussion of grading practices and procedures. For instance, would a homework assignment to solve five math equations be just as effective as one to complete 30?

"Should we be focusing on the quality of homework rather than the quantity?" she said. "These are also things we should be talking about."

Discussions about a districtwide homework policy have been in the works for more than two years.

The policy allowing homework to count for just 10 percent was devised last spring under then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines and quietly implemented by administrative order on July 1, 2011.

By that time, Cortines had retired and Deasy had been promoted to superintendent. He quickly suspended the policy amid complaints that it would penalize hard-working students who complete homework assignments and would also strip teachers of their authority in the classroom.

"We cannot and will not implement a policy of this magnitude without actively soliciting and incorporating recommendations from our constituencies," Deasy said at the time.

He then directed Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino, Davis' boss, to craft a new policy in collaboration with parents, teachers, administrators and board members.

Although their members served on the Homework Working Group, leaders of the district's administrators' and teachers unions said Tuesday they had not yet seen the proposed recommendations.

"We have asked the district for the last several weeks to give us a draft so we could publish it and invite our members to comment on it. We have yet to receive it," said Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.

"Sometimes the district fails to send us important documents, which is disappointing since administrators are tasked with implementing them."

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