Step 3 in San Marino, California: Presentation to the School Board

In San Marino, California, Tracy Mason has been organizing parents to try to change homework policy in her District. You can read about what she’s been doing here and here.

When she got the opportunity to talk to the School Board, this is what she said:

Hello.

Thank you for allowing me to address the board. My name is Tracy Mason, and I’m a San Marino resident and parent of a 6th grader at Huntington middle school.

I am here tonight, as a concerned parent and as a representative of many other parents in San Marino who are beginning to question the large amount of time and resources which are devoted to homework. We want you to respect that homework is an intrusion into our family time.

We do not feel that we need to justify other uses of after-school hours. It is the responsibility of the district and educators to justify the use of OUR time.

Hours made available for homework should be treated as a valuable resource, which if used wisely, can enhance education. Homework represents an extension of the school curriculum, and this resource should be managed as carefully as classroom instruction.

Important to understand is that strong link between homework and academic achievement hasn’t been proven, especially in the grades before high school. After reviewing nearly 120 studies of homework’s effects, leading researcher Harris Cooper of Duke University concluded that for elementary students, the effect of homework is trivial, if it exists at all.” For students in grades 6th-9th grade, the correlation between homework and achievement was just .07. Penn State researchers found a frequent lack of correlation between the average amount of homework assigned in a nation and the corresponding level of academic achievement. There also appear to be no significant studies which provide evidence that homework results in non-academic benefits such as the development of responsibility.

Although homework has not been proven to increase academic achievement, common sense would dictate that well designed and administered homework practices have the potential to enhance learning. Conversely, poorly designed assignments have the potential to be counter-productive. Some of us believe that homework practices are not consistently managed in our district.

Foremost, parents want time limits to be enforced. Inconsistency is also a big concern, from day to day, year to year, and among teachers of the same grade. There is criticism about the quality of homework assignments. One of the biggest issues seems to be that parents or tutors are often expected to assume a teaching role. Parents are also concerned that there isn’t a formal system to communicate homework concerns which cannot be resolved with individual teachers.

Any discussion of homework in San Marino must address obvious cultural influences. Some studies have shown that Asian students may benefit more from homework. Teachers are often caught in the middle of parents who are complaining about homework and those that are asking for more.

I believe that there is a growing resentment among some parents that traditional Chinese and Taiwanese cultural beliefs are unduly influencing homework practices at the elementary and middle school levels. Leadership at the school and district levels is required to resolve this dilemma.

The real homework issue is whether or not homework is effectively achieving educational goals. Homework cannot be justified simply because it meets the cultural values of a large contingent of parents.

I am here to ask you to consider a committed effort to evaluate the district’s homework policy and practices. The grammatical errors in the policy are just an indication that the policy hasn’t been carefully reviewed lately.

I would like to ask that the district adopt a temporary “opt out” policy, which would allow a parent to excuse a student (up to 8th grade), without penalty from a homework assignment when homework policy time limits have been significantly exceeded or the parent feels that the assignment was clearly not designed properly. This should provide some relief of the growing tension and provide some valuable feedback.

The homework debate has been brewing across the nation recently, including in many top rated and affluent districts. I believe that SMUSD can only truly be the #1 district in the state of California if we pro-actively respond to the growing concern about homework.

Thank you for your time.

4 Comments on “Step 3 in San Marino, California: Presentation to the School Board”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I dont like homework. Because. 7th grade is. hard. enough.

    March 18th, 2008 at 1:49 pm
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  2. Homework Blues says:

    I believe that there is a growing resentment among some parents that traditional Chinese and Taiwanese cultural beliefs are unduly influencing homework practices at the elementary and middle school levels. Leadership at the school and district levels is required to resolve this dilemma.

    The real homework issue is whether or not homework is effectively achieving educational goals. Homework cannot be justified simply because it meets the cultural values of a large contingent of parents.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This is a very seminal point. My daughter attends a selective math/science/technology magnet high school with a large Asian contingent. I know that a grueling homework load seems to satisfy this segment of the population.

    Homework should never be assigned based on ideology or what will appease certain segments of the school population. It must be constructed so that it is valuable, enhances learning, and is carefully designed.

    LBJ (who is groaning and weeping over losing much of our spring break to three major projects)

    March 18th, 2008 at 7:53 pm
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  3. Not Lazy or Spoiled says:

    First off, we live in a country where children and parents are increasingly spoiled and lazy. Wake up! If we do not shape up we will in less than two decades be a Third World country. School is not supposed to be “easy.” Then you can quit complaining about the work ethic of Asians (I am not Asian by the way) because you will be working for them. This century will be the Chinese century as America continues her decline. It is already happening!

    By the way, how many sports and other things is your child involved in after school? American children are involved in way too many after-school activities. Cut out some of these and they will have time for homework.

    July 29th, 2008 at 11:58 am
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  4. CREDENTIALED CA TEACHER & MOTHER OF 5 says:

    HOMEWORK IS SUCKING THE NATURAL DESIRE FOR AUTHENTIC LEARNING AND BEING A BALANCED WELL-ROUNDED PERSON OUT OF OUR CHILDREN. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT ITS PRACTICE. OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE CHILDREN AND AS PARENTS WE HAVE BECOME SLAVES TO AN UNFOUNDED, MOSTLY STANDARDIZED TESTING DRIVEN PRACTICE OF TOO MUCH HOMEWORK. RESPONSIBILITY COMES ONLY FROM MASTERING TASKS AND THE OWNERSHIP OF ONES ACCOMPLISHMENTS. LESS IS MORE ON THAT FRONT. FAMILIES ARE WHAT SHOULD BE ON THE FRONT GROUND FOR PROTECTING FUTURE GENERATIONS BECAUSE WITHOUT STRONG FAMILIES WE HAVE NO DEMOCRACY AND OUR SOCIETY WILL FAIL. HOMEWORK IS SINGLE-HANDEDLY DESTROYING FAMILY TIME IN MOST HOMES ON A DAILY BASES. MY THIRD GRADE SON JUST FINISHED TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF FOCUSED HOMEWORK TIME AND IT IS SUNDAY. THAT IS OUR TIME, OUR FAMILY’S TIME THAT WILL WILL NEVER GET BACK. IF IT CAN NOT BE TAUGHT IN THE 6.15 HOURS THAT THEY SPEND AT SCHOOL EACH WEEK DAY THEN IT IS PROBABLY NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO DO. THE ONLY WAY THAT PARENTS CAN NURTURE , LOVE, CARE FOR AND SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF MULTIPLE TALENTS AND ABILITIES IS FOR US TO HAVE TIME WITH OUR KIDS. WE SHOULD BE A BLE TO “OPT. OUT” OF HOMEWORK ALL TOGETHER IN ELEMENTARY GRADES. AS A PARENT IT IS MY JOB TO SUPPLEMENT THE SCHOOL DAY AS I SEE FIT AND I AM BEING ROBBED OF THAT RIGHT BY TEACHERS WHO ARE STEALING MY FAMILY TIME IN ORDER TO PLAY CATCH UP FOR ALL THE WORK THEY WERE UNABLE TO GET TO OR DID NOT WHAT TO RETEACH. SEND HOME A SHEET THAT ASKS MY KIDS TO BE LEARNERS AT HOME: READ, WRITE, CALCULATE AND CREATE (IN ANY WAY THEY CHOOSE) AND THEN GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND SHARE WHAT THEY HAVE LEARNED. ARE WE AS A SOCIETY EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN TO BECOME LEARNERS OR HOW TO BEST FILL IN BUBBLES. CHECK YOU CHILDREN’S HOMEWORK AND SEE HOW MUCH FOR THAT TIME SPENT REALLY WILL IMPACT THEM IN YEARS TO COME. SET YOUR TIMER FOR TEN MINUTES PER GRADE AND WHEN THE TIME IS UP- STOP WRITE FINISH DURING CLASS (AS TEACHERS DO ROUTINELY) AND SEND IT BACK. THEN READ, READ, READ (FOR 20-30 MIN) NIGHTLY AND GIVE YOUR CHILD A HUG AND AN A IN HOMEWORK FOR THAT NIGHT. OUR CHILDREN DESERVE PARENTS WHO CAN STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT, FOR THEIR RIGHTS AND TOO MUCH HOMEWORK AFTER A LONG SCHOOL DAY IS NOT ONLY UNFAIR, IT IS CRIMINAL. AFTER ALL WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN HOMEWORK INCLUDED CHORES, WHICH BY THE WAY WILL BUKLID MORE CHARACTER THAN A WORKSHEET EVER CAN.

    December 15th, 2008 at 12:07 am
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