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