Homework: quality, not quantity

MV Whisman district aims for more relevant assignments

The head of the local elementary and middle school district said that there will not be a major overhaul of the homework policy, despite recent moves from other school districts in the state aimed at reducing after-school assignments or limiting their impact on grades.

Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District, said he does not believe his teachers are assigning too much homework. Still, Goldman said that he does see room for improvement in the quality of the homework being assigned, and that he would like so see "meaningful shifts" toward that end.

In defending his assessment of the levels of homework students are assigned, Goldman pointed to a recent survey that found that the majority of responding parents -- 68 percent -- felt that the amount of homework their children were receiving was "about right," 19 percent believed it to be "too little" and 13 percent said their kids took home "too much" after-school work.

The results of the district survey come at a time when two school districts -- one in Pleasanton and another in Los Angeles -- are working to revamp their homework policies, in response to critics who say kids are being driven too hard.

The Pleasanton Unified School District has instituted a new rule mandating that its middle-school students receive no more than 15 minutes of homework per subject each night; and high schoolers are to receive no more than 20 minutes.

And the Los Angeles Unified School District recently instituted a rule stipulating that homework could count for no more than 10 percent of a student's grade. That policy was quickly overturned, however, pending further review.

Over the summer, Goldman's district has been working with the educational consulting firm, DataWORKS, to train its teachers in so-called Explicit Direct Instruction.

Through that training process, Goldman said, his teachers have been learning the "importance that homework be closely aligned with classroom instruction." If a student is turning in incomplete or incorrect assignments, he said, it is likely not so much an indication of that student's innate ability, but rather that the homework assignments are inappropriate.

"We're not anti-homework," Goldman said. "We just want to make sure that we are assigning homework that's meaningful and reinforces what's being taught in the classroom."

Ultimately, while Goldman said the quality of homework ought to improve as a result of his district's work with DataWORKS, and through Explicit Direct Instruction, he expects that teachers will continue assigning homework at the same levels they have in the past.

"Part of the reason for homework is to establish study habits," he said, explaining why a healthy dose of after-school work is important, "so when students move on to high school and beyond, setting aside time to work independently is a part of their daily ritual."


Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 16, 2011 at 5:44 am

We used to do our homework in a study group at the library after school, help each other, check answers, discuss the work. Study groups are even more effective in college when the workload can be higher.

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