Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Brooklyn, New York (Part 2)

In yesterday’s blog post, Aurora DeMarco of Brooklyn, New York, wrote about how she organized parents in her daughter’s first-grade class to get a reduced homework load. Here’s the letter the parents wrote to the School Leadership Team (SLT).

Letter to School Leadership Team
by First Grade Parents in Brooklyn, New York

There is growing concern among many parents in our school community about the quality and quantity of homework assigned to our children. We understand the value of homework: strengthening the home/school connection, establishing good work habits, and reinforcing skills learned in the classroom. We feel, however, that the current situation is not necessarily achieving these benefits- making our children bored and/or frustrated, as well as taking away from family time.

We feel that changes in these areas would greatly improve the homework:

1. Quality- We would like to see more interesting, engaging and content rich homework, as opposed to skills and drills. Skills are important, but they will be mastered more easily by an engaged learner than one who is bored of fill in the blank worksheets.

2. Quantity- A small amount of high quality work will go farther than pages of busy-work.

The NAEYC guidelines recommend 10 minutes per grade per day.

A Time Limit- While the homework policy clearly states the amount of time that should be spent on homework, the work assigned does not always match the policy. This seems to be a concern most especially in the younger grades, where children vary greatly in their ability to perform tasks quickly. Ideally, the teachers should be able to adjust the homework if a student cannot complete it in a reasonable amount of time. A student should not miss class activities or recess because of incomplete homework.

3. Communication- The teachers are receptive to our concerns, but the lines of communication could be improved in the following ways:

periodic homework surveys to help parents easily let the teachers know when the homework is working and when their children are struggling with it. (Kindergarten already does this, we feel that it is still important in the older grades.)

A clear homework policy: It would help us as parents to know exactly who makes the decisions about homework, and who we should talk to if we have concerns. The homework policy as it stands explains what the homework should be, but gives no provisions for what parents can do if it is not working.

Regular meetings with the administration to discuss not only homework, but other curriculum issues in a format that includes parent feedback.

Advance report card distribution- This relates to more than just homework issues. It would be fairly easy to do and would enable parents to digest the information in the report card and formulate questions in advance. The actual conferences would be a lot more productive for both parents and teachers.

We greatly value the hard work and dedication of the teachers, as well as the administration’s efforts to welcome parental involvement. We also understand how challenging it must be for the administration to address all of the concerns of the diverse community of learners here while still meeting the demands of the DOE. We hope that you see the parent community as a resource to help make the educational lives of our children richer.

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