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.)
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:
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
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.
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.