Mother of Three Begins to Organize in San Marino, California

Less than a month ago, I heard from Tracy Mason, a mother of 3 from San Marino, California, who had

experienced (one of many) long afternoons helping my 11 year old daughter battle the mound of homework she had been assigned. After “we” were finished, I decided to go online to see what I could learn about the educational value of homework. I just didn’t “get it” and was sure that I must be missing something. What an eye-opening evening that turned out to be!

Tracy told me that she was reading everything she could about homework and then was going to start discussions with her local school district.

Tracy works fast. Over the past few weeks, she’s called all of the members of her School Board (and heard back from many of them) and organized a meeting for this coming week. Her local newspaper ran a front-page article on the meeting she’s organizing.

In the next months, this dynamic stay-at-home mom (and former certified public accountant) will keep us informed of her progress.

What follows is the email Tracy sent to parents, friends, and colleagues announcing her meeting. (In The Case Against Homework you can find a sample of a much shorter organizing email and tips for how to run a meeting like the one Tracy is planning.)

Dear Friends,

I am sending this email out to all San Marino parents that I know, with the hope that I may find some of you share a concern that I have that affects the well being of our children and families. The issue is:

HOMEWORK

I know that many of you can identify with the “negatives” of homework:

1. Homework interferes with family time.

2. Homework often prevents children from getting enough exercise and sleep.

3. Homework battles strain the parent child relationship and cause family stress.

4. Homework squelches natural childhood curiosity and dulls kids desire (and time) to pleasure reading.

5. Homework may impair a child’s ability to pursue their passions and develop their unique talents.

6. Homework burns kids out and negatively affects their attitudes toward school and learning.

7. Homework requires parents’ time and resources.

We have all heard the touted “value” of homework – That homework increases school performance, teaches children responsibility, and provides students with the education necessary to compete in a global economy. And for the most part, we have blindly accepted it all as truth. But are these assumptions based in fact?

After a recent long afternoon spent helping my daughter with her homework, I decided to go online to see what I could learn about the proven educational value of homework. I was shocked to find that definitive evidence confirming the value of homework just didn’t seem to exist! I embarked upon an extensive research project, reviewing and compiling a list of relevant resources on the subject. Based on what I’ve learned thus far, I am convinced that current research supports my long held belief that homework is often unnecessary and even counterproductive. I have spoken with our Superintendent Dr. Gary Woods and some of the SMUSD Board of Education members, who all listened to my concerns and shared information about many new ideas that the SMUSD and the Board of Education are pursuing to continually improve our schools. However, I’m still not convinced that the homework issue is being adequately addressed. While I’m not advocating the complete elimination of homework or changes which would impair the quality of education of our students, I do believe reforms are needed.

SAN MARINO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMEWORK POLICY:

· The district’s current Homework Policy states that “time spent on homework is positively related to achievement” which I believe is an inaccurate statement and not clearly supported by definitive research. The website for the Center for Public Education (a joint initiative of the National School Boards Association and the National School Boards Foundation) states: “The link between homework and student achievement is far from clear.”

· The SMUSD policy requires teachers to “regularly assign homework”, in all grades. Yet leading educational consultant Robert J. Marzano says “research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels. (“The Case For and Against Homework” Educational Leadership Magazine, March 2007)

· The policy provides time limits, by grade, which are excessive. For example, the current policy lists the time limit on homework for 6th graders to be 90 minutes (not including term assignments, or unfinished class work). Yet, The National Education Association and National PTA recommend no more than 30-60 minutes per night for a 6th grader. SMUSD limits allow 150% – 300% higher!

So, what can we do? Won’t you please join me and other concerned parents to discuss this critical issue?

Date: Wednessday November 7th, 2007
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Hill-Harbison House (a.k.a. “The Girl Scout House”)
Address: 1841 Alhambra Road, San Marino
R.S.V.P. Tracykae@earthlink.net

Please note, this is not a school sponsored event. This is an opportunity for like-minded parents who share my concerns . It will not be a debate over the homework issue, but a forum for parents to share ideas and learn more about the issue. I am only sending this message to people that I personally know, and am not using any school directory or PTA distribution list as some might consider such an inappropriate use of those resources. But please feel free to invite other parents of San Marino students. The meeting is geared toward parents, but if older children want to attend they are welcome (but please leave the little ones in someone else’s care).

If you can’t attend the meeting, please take the time to review some of the research. You owe it to your children. There are 2 books on the subject that I highly recommend: “The Case against Homework” by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish and “The Homework Myth” by Alfie Kohn. The authors of these books also have websites with good information (available at stophomework.com and alfiekohn.org) If you can’t attend the meeting but would like to be kept on my distribution list for future news and information, please let me know.

Thanks for your valuable time to consider this issue.

Tracy Mason

P.S. One last note, my cause is not specific to any single San Marino school, teacher or administrator. Like many teachers at Valentine, my daughter’s 6th grade teachers at Huntington Middle school are wonderful teachers and seem to be cognizant of the homework issue.

26 Comments on “Mother of Three Begins to Organize in San Marino, California”

  1. Linda says:

    I also am a mother of three (14, 13, 10) When Friday night comes I dread hearing about all the homework they have for the weekend! I have been venting to friends for a long time and I finally feel the need to get a petition going. I was told about a school in Needham, MA- the principal has declared no homework on long weekends and holidays and more yoga. I feel as you there should be no homework at all on weekends. Our family time is being scheduled around the childrens homework. I am not an outspoken person and do not like to ruffle feathers, so I am contemplating a tackful way of getting this message to our principal. If you have any suggestions please pass them on. Thank You
    Good Luck!

    November 3rd, 2007 at 9:42 pm
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  2. Sara Bennett says:

    Hi Linda,

    If you have a good relationship with the principal, next time you see him/her, you can mention in passing that you read a really interesting article about a school that is dealing with student stress and you’ll send her/him a copy of of the Needham principal’s letter to the parents. If you don’t see the principal in passing, you could try sending a friendly email and attaching the newsarticle and the principal’s letter.

    I am an outspoken person, but I try not to ruffle feathers either. If you try to approach the teachers or principal in the manner of, “we’re all in this together. We both care about what’s best for our kids,” then you probably won’t rub them the wrong way. Of course, I can’t guarantee that. Teachers and principals can get defensive. I always try to start off any conversation with them by pointing out something that I like. It sets the tone for a nicer conversation.

    Good luck and please let us know what you do.

    November 5th, 2007 at 1:31 pm
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  3. Kerry Dickinson says:

    Tracy,

    We seem to be living parallel lives in two different locations in California right now. I read The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn this summer and that started my quest to really examine the quality and quantity of homework given to my boys since their early elementary years.

    My two boys are in 6th and 8th grades, both at the same middle school in Danville, California. I’m noticing that my 8th grader is complaining more and more about school, saying it is boring and too serious with too much homework being given. I’m sad that the flame of curiosity and interest in learning I saw in kindergarten in both of my boys has diminished little by little each year since kindergarten.

    I’ve started an email distribution list of concerned parents with similar homework issues. Even though the email list is long we had only 9 attendees to our first homework focus group meeting at my house on 11/4/07. But, I still feel it was a good first step.

    At the meeting we shared our concerns about homework and related issues, and then decided that 2 of us will contact the district superintendent and speak with him about our group’s concerns. We are waiting to set up the meeting with him at this point. Any tips on preparing for this meeting would be appreciated.

    Keep up your good work. I’ve had almost all positive feedback from parents who, like me, feel that homework has taken over too much of our quality family time. I’m not sure what we can do to change the system, but we are trying, nonetheless!

    -Kerry Dickinson
    Danville, CA

    November 7th, 2007 at 7:59 pm
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  4. Sara Bennett says:

    Hi Kerry,

    I’m glad to hear of your organizing efforts and I hope you’ll keep us posted. If you email me directly, you can be a “guest blogger” and your story will be on my main blog, rather than more buried here in the comments.

    By the way, I hope you’ve read The Case Against Homework. There are lots of ideas for what to say at meetings, including sample scripts, and there’s a fact sheet that you can xerox and pass out at your meetings. You’ll also find examples of decent homework policies.

    And, you never know, we might end up changing the system. If there are enough of us around the country organizing in our own communities, eventually we’ll see broader change.

    Since the publication of The Case Against Homework and The Homework Myth, I’ve heard of a handful of schools that have abolished homework in elementary school, and I’ve heard of dozens of schools taking smaller steps to alleviate student stress. And, equally important, I’ve heard from dozens of school principals or School Board members who are trying to figure out how to change policy.

    Good luck.

    November 8th, 2007 at 11:15 pm
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  5. Tracy Mason says:

    Hi Kerry,

    You need to approach this with the attitude of “WE WILL” change the system! I think confidence goes a long way. I am making what I believe to be some success (no change yet but A LOT of attention). I’d be glad to share some of the details with you – just email me at Tracykae@earthlink.net

    Also, I will be trying to guest blog very soon with more of my story. Good luck and stay strong! Tracy

    November 16th, 2007 at 9:57 pm
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  6. Dana says:

    I was wondering the outcome of the meeting the Danville mom’s had with the superintendent. I am a mom in San Ramon with similar views. I would love to hear feedback from this meeting. Dana

    December 7th, 2007 at 3:11 pm
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  7. Sara Bennett says:

    Hi Dana,

    Kerry (from Danville) is going to be a guest blogger next week and she’ll tell us what she’s been doing.

    If you start organizing in San Ramon, please let me know what you’re up to and you can be a guest blogger, too, or tell me what you’re doing and I’ll write about it.

    Good luck.

    December 7th, 2007 at 4:55 pm
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  8. liane malette says:

    i am a kid and love homework some times but it helps you learn about different things like science and math and reliqions i love those things and if you try to taks that aways from me it is like you are taking your kids feauture aways and no i am note a nerd. i am a normel personne that loves to dance and play with my cat and also have family time and i get that and i am not in grade three i am in 7 and i get to play and do all of those stuff.

    March 27th, 2008 at 9:56 am
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  9. liane malette says:

    so don’t tak that aways from me

    March 27th, 2008 at 9:57 am
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  10. me says:

    im a middle schooler and the only thing ill say is TOOOOOOOOOO MMMMMMMMMMMUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHOMEWORK

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:00 pm
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  11. me says:

    i live in south dakota, and here, we get sssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooooooooo much of it! I started a petition

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:03 pm
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  12. me says:

    tip: superintendents can get bribed, u know!

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:05 pm
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  13. me says:

    Homework: It’s Not Worth It
    Homework: it stresses you out, causes writer’s cramps, and simply takes up your time to relax and be yourself. Teachers assign homework because they believe that it builds character, academic skills, and work habits. What homework really builds is an immense pile of textbooks and paper resembling a mountain. For middle school students, homework should be less than one hour per night, but the average middle-school student has 1-2 and a half hours of homework. If you have less than an hour of homework each day, you really don’t know how blessed you are.
    Research says this: Homework demands limit the amount of time students spend in sports and community projects. Too much homework may cause students to dislike the subject, or even learning. Students may also get confused by their parents’ teaching methods because they may be different from the teacher’s teaching methods. Homework also may (believe it or not) encourage cheating.
    “In 1950 when the U.S became nervous over Russia’s launching of Sputnik, the amount of homework started to increase in schools all over the U.S.” Says Harris Cooper, psychologist. So, it really wasn’t all about “responsibility” or “academic skills,” was it? It might be the jealousy, or competition. Who knows, but we do know that it certainly wasn’t a coincidence that the amount of homework began to rise for students. In the 1980’s report, Nation at Risk announced that students needed to improve their reading skills, this caused more homework. The idea was to be economically competitive with the Japanese.
    Another one of the things that makes teacher give out homework is the No Child Left Behind, which wants children to be proficient in school. Well, they got what they wanted, but this law made kids turn into slaves. Literally. You work until twelve at midnight. You fall asleep. You wake up, and realize you didn’t finish your homework. Your teacher yells at you and gives you more homework. Well, there goes your grade. You fail your class and feel like a loser. You get stressed out from all the demanding teachers. All this happens from one little homework assignment. It just isn’t worth it.

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:05 pm
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  14. me says:

    that was my essay, like it?

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:07 pm
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  15. me says:

    i chose to write it 4 school

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:07 pm
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  16. me says:

    tracy and sarah, thanks! AMEN! God bless u!

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:08 pm
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  17. Sara Bennett says:

    ME: Yes, I do like your essay. I’m going to post it on my main page, because I’m afraid it’ll be lost here in the comments.

    I’m also interested in knowing more about your petition. Can you write to me directly and tell me about it? Thanks.

    March 30th, 2008 at 11:23 am
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  18. abbey says:

    hi everyone,
    i hate homework because kids should be spending time outside and getting exercise, NOT being stuck inside doing more work that they have just come home from that they have been doing for SIX HOURS every day!!! kids have come home from a long day of work only to find they they have more work when they should be relaxing and taking a break or getting exercise.i mean we dont need homework!!

    August 25th, 2008 at 2:08 am
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  19. abbey says:

    if u ask anyone they will tell u that they hate homework and they dont need it!!!

    August 25th, 2008 at 2:11 am
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  20. Mad Chinese Parent says:

    You folks are very racist…the Chinese/ Asian culutre is the reason, Target, Costco, Walmart are flourishing. with items made in China and oh, BTW school is 6 days a week in China and who REALLY won in the Olympics

    September 19th, 2008 at 10:18 am
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  21. kara says:

    i support this petiontion

    October 7th, 2008 at 7:29 pm
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  22. Anonymous says:

    Uuuuuuuuuuuuughhhhh! I’m reading this at 11:29 knowing that I still have History, Science, and Math homework to do and I’ve already been working for SIX HOURS!!!!!!!!! And I’m only in 6th grade!!

    December 19th, 2008 at 3:30 am
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  23. HomeworkBlues says:

    See? 6th graders are often up this last, inundated with homework. I make nothing up.

    I feel for you, Anonymous. I went through it and still am, as a mother of a curent high school junior.

    December 19th, 2008 at 8:49 am
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  24. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction: Often up this LATE, I meant to say. I should catch these mistakes but I’ve been up late too. My daughter finished the second of five projects due by today, at 2:30 this morning. She begged me to stay up with her, saying she was tired and distracted and that I should sit next to her to prevent her from getting on Facebook. And they tell us our kids are not responsible.

    December 19th, 2008 at 10:48 am
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  25. Anonymous says:

    yo

    March 19th, 2010 at 4:43 pm
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  26. Anonymous says:

    I am a Junior in highschool, and I am writing a research paper on how homework negatively effects students, and I came across this website. I agree 100 percent with this because it is all true. It is not far to us that we are always up so late doing homework. It is not a proven fact that homework even helps us. Half of students copy other students’ homework anyway, so how do we learn from that?

    June 2nd, 2010 at 3:04 pm
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