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What gives the school the right to give my child homework?

Original post made by Parent, JLS Middle School, on Dec 18, 2014

This is a legitimate question. I called the California Department of Education today and they did not know the answer.

What gives the school the right to give my child homework? Under what legal framework are they allowed to expect my family to put all of his and our time 24/7 at their disposal in order to get a high-quality public education?

Is this just something we've all just kind of accepted, or is there a legal reason the school can do this?

Please do not turn this into an argument over whether homework is "good" or not. That's not why I'm asking.

Any teacher will tell you that at any time, about half the parents are complaining about too much homework and half are complaining about too little. I personally feel families know their children, and they are probably both right. What is best also depends on a lot of other factors, including access to alternative educational opportunities.

But when I feel that my child's spending 4 hours on homework every night and more than that, never having a life (despite all this talk about changing things and our attempts to complain about it) is bad for him and get nowhere, and I frankly see him at a school with really great teachers whom I feel would provide a great high-quality education without all this homework so we could have a life - I want to know: what right do they have to give my child all this homework?

Seriously, what is the *legal* framework for this? What is the legal basis for state requiring me to put my child's time and autonomy, from first waking to going to sleep, at the school's disposal in order to expect a high quality public education?

Comments (481)

17 people like this
Posted by Problem solved
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Every child has a right to a free public education. Why can't educators structure the program to provide it during the school day? If people want their program to extend beyond that, shouldn't they have to give their consent?

What is the legal framework that allows public school to require kids to give over their lives to homework in order to remain in public school and expect a high-quality education?

By what legal basis is the school able to control my child's entire life from sundown to sunset in order to receive a free and appropriate public education?


@Problem solved,
Didn't anyone teach you to answer the question being asked? You get an F.


7 people like this
Posted by Problem solved
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2014 at 7:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by I had to; they have to
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Dec 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm


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13 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

@ Problem
[Portion removed.]

Your wrote:
"The incredible thing in this town is that parents are now demanding no homework at all and all As for their precious children. As if UC Berkeley, Stanford or Harvard will take all 1000 graduating PA seniors if such a scheme is implemented."

You don't think children are precious? I do. I think our district does too, at least the mission seems to be to care about the wellbeing of children and optimize the education of all children, not just those who thrive on intense homework.

I see no evidence of your sweeping claim. I personally would prefer no homework, but I would never want to take that kind of experience away from the half who want it. I was pretty clear about that above. (You don't care, but I'm assuming you read?) In its place, I would not suggest a program lacking in rigor. I would personally prefer to see core learning take place in a more self-paced, accelerated, and less time-consuming way, so that there is more time for and a focus on higher-level and project-based learning. As well as time for kids to have a social life, have family time, sleep, go to the doctor, etc.

Are you saying you don't think public school could do this for anyone? I have a lot more faith in schools, especially in our local schools.

I read a statistic that over three times the percentage of homeschool applications are accepted at the illustrious schools as regular applications, including at Stanford. At the regional science fair this year, homeschoolers represented a disproportionately high percentage of winners. Many of them would love to reintegrate with public schools. They're innovators -- we could be learning from them.

That said, I'd like to restate my purpose for this post:

What is the legal basis for homework? We are no longer 19th century factory workers whose children need to be kept busy round the clock. Why does the state have a right to my child's focus and time round the clock during the school year? Is this practice just something we have all accepted, or is there a legal basis for the state to demand this in order for my child to receive a high-quality education?


4 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:11 pm

An outstanding resource for teaching children to be safe is Kidpower - where they teach people all about setting healthy boundaries to stay safe.

If I want to draw better and healthier boundaries between the school day and family time, better and healthier boundaries between school and home, I have to first understand why the school is allowed to cross those boundaries in such an unrestrained way.

Anyone? We all debate the homework problem, doesn't anyone know the legal basis for this? What is I simply told the school they must ensure schoolwork is done at school, and will not be sent home, and I expect my child to get a good education and not suffer for setting this boundary. Could the public school refuse to give my child a public education? What legal basis would I have to even set such a boundary, if the school has the right to unfettered control of my child's life during the school year?


6 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Let's see.

Are you asking that the schools should be giving a study hall period in which to do assignments? Are you asking for more homework clubs before or after school? Are you asking that homework assignments should not be part of the grade?

I don't think that there is a legal precedent for making your child actually do the homework apart from the fact that the missing homework will adversely affect your child's grade. As a result you could say that doing the homework is voluntary to enable a good grade. If you want to take the homeworking assignment out of the grading rubric you may have a faint chance.

In an exam driven educational system, homework does not affect the outcome, just the exam on the given day, although some exams have a project as part of the exam. Countries that base their educational system on an exam system tend to give a lot less homework than would be done here, but they tend to have longer days at school and more school days per academic year than we have here.


15 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:24 am

This is a great question, and a refreshing point of view.

I think it makes sense for classes to teach what they need in the time
allotted. I recall reading some years ago, quite a while ago now, that
in Japan or somewhere they were going to dump homework.

I think it is a great idea. It would help kids to socialize with other kids
and interact with their parents in a non goal-oriented pass/fail way.

Not to mention it allows kids to play and be kids. Also the expertise
of school is supposed to be to teach, but what good is that if the kid
is stuck in homework ... there is no one they can ask until next class?

Thanks for an interesting question and discussion.

We are at a point in automated education that it should be easy to
test and find the deficiencies of students and then aim them at
remedial lessons to fill in the gaps before they move along. Why we
are nowhere near this and only hear about in reference to the
future is like nuclear fusion ... always sometime off in the the future.

Education is a mess. We like to think we want to have democratic
education, educating everyone, but those on the top with the most
money have it their way for their kids.

David Callahan's book, "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans
Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead" really opened my eyes to how
the stakes of life are so critical that it forces people to cheat, and
they are very good at finding ways to rig the game that are not
apparent to others or the casual observer.


6 people like this
Posted by Experienced
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:19 am

I have three children, one being a college freshman who often performed poorly on exams due to anxiety. The homework was a good way to raise the grade. Some are good at tests/bad at homework, and some are good at homework/bad at tests. The homework allowed my child the opportunity to earn a good grade, maybe not an "A", but at least a "B".

Over the years, we have had our fair share of teachers who assign insane workloads of homework while others don't assign much. Fortunately, the new superintendent of PAUSD (Max McGee) is going to assess teacher consistency through students completing teacher evaluations.

Having a child in college, I have to say that some amount of homework is necessary, but too much is unnecessary and stressful.

If the original poster is speaking about middle school only, yes, some homework is necessary to prepare for high school. Yet, we had some rough years of tough teachers who assigned too much (5-6 hours). I think the only classes in middle school that homework is really necessary to complete are math and world language because they build upon themselves.

As far as "Problem Solved"s postings, it is quite offensive to generalize that we all want our children at elite colleges. If you knew what it takes these days to be admitted to those, you'd realize that many Palo Alto parents Just Say No.


8 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:10 am

To Paly Parent, village fool, CrescentParkAnon, and Experienced - Thanks for sharing the feedback,experience and insights. I, too, thought your quote was relevant, village fool, thank you for reposting.

I feel the discussion over whether homework is good is bound up in how we choose to educate children. Is the goal for each child to reach their potential, or is school a giant sorting mechanism? I think it should be the former. Nobel Prize Winner Marie Curie apparently homeschooled her (Nobel prize winning) daughter irene with a group of other university parents. She insisted on no more than two subjects a day, finished by noon, then the kids went to museums in Paris and other enrichment during the day. Yet Irene writes much about how she learned about hard work. Curie chose this after realizing Irene was a "dreamer like her father" (father Pierre who also was a "terrible student" according to his own mother who, rather than blame him and crack the whip, realized he needed something different and also homeschooled and tutored him.)

There is a transition overhead to constantly changing subjects every 45 minutes, I've read it's about 15 minutes. There's probably a cost on both starting and end points. With seven subjects and actual transition time, thats a few hours a day just sacrificed to switching gears. What if teachers had to figure out how to teach the same material without giving homework? Would scheduling be enough to make up the difference?

I suspect that even with different scheduling, there would still be opposite ends of the spectra in terms of desire for homework. Different people have different educational needs, and I think we've never been in a better position to meet them than now. Please realize I am not suggesting one group does intense academic work and the other plays video games all afternoon. To me, it's more a difference of autonomous versus directed learning styles. I was happier myself with the latter, but I am old enough to wish my schooling had emphasized the former more. The former is also what I would prefer for my child, because that's the way he is. Having no homework won't mean learning stops when he leaves, it means he has more autonomy.

The question is, if parents had a right to draw those boundaries, would schools have to care about these differences? Would they have to equally serve everyone by innovating and changing so that the educational outcome (whatever they decided on) was equal rather than time spent in school and doing homework being equal for everyone?

Again, I just want to know the legal framework for homework. The Constitution established public education (but did not mention homework).



10 people like this
Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 5:41 am

School is two parts:

1) a presentation engine. The teachers will present the material to your kid. Your kid may or may not learn it. When you really dig into responsibilities you will find that the teachers nor the system are responsible to teach your kid. They are not accountable in any way for the outcome.

2) a sorting engine. Depending upon how well your kid learned the material relative to the test projects and homework, they are sorted. Notice this has little relevance to what is taught. We often found teachers in middle and high school testing well beyond what they taught and beyond the text.

Maybe the teachers over estimate the teaching/learning and assume if they present info then they are done.

Your kid has no legal obligation to do homework. They have a legal obligation to attend school only. The teachers have no legal obligation to teach. It is debatable whether they have an obligation to do much more than show up - the legal bounds on teacher quality are being tested legally in the Vergara case. Some do teach some just present, some don't.

The grade is loosely related to what you kid DOES (busywork) and less related to what they learn. The school does not legally owe you a passing grade. Given the heavy bias toward busywork and obedience/DOING, a kid who chooses to skip homework will find themselves failing and under immense pressure, intimidation and humiliation from teachers in school. Also legal. (A neighbor kid went on strike a few years ago and suffered this)
Homework serves one purpose - it fills in the gaps that were not taught in class. Every teacher knows that if you assign enough homework, and somehow get the kids and parents to do it, then the kids teach themselves. You may have thought it was light practice to review what was presented in class - but that is a gullible suckers view. That would only be 30 minutes/day if your kid was REALLY TAUGHT the material in class.

You have no legal obligation to play by their rules. I believe you can hire a tutor and pay them to do all your child's work. It is not illegal , but neither is the F grade for cheating.

Definitely getting a tutor will improve learning outcomes - that is why people do it. When the teacher fails to explain something, the tutor can fill the gaps. And because you pay a tutor, you find them more accountable for outcomes.

The growing necessity of tutoring is a direct reflection of our schools high standards and mediocre performance, and NO accountability for the outcomes. Just present, sift, and sort. Repeat.

We are becoming a Hagwon culture where kids sleep through class (it's useless) and cram all night with tutors.

Web Link

All legal... Just messed up.


4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 6:51 am

@Parent: this is a fantastic question.

Cal Ed Code 51101(b)(3)(B) is probably the closest you'll find. It doesn't give schools an explicit right to assign homework, but suggests districts can have policies that parents should support getting homework done.

49091.19 has a provision that doesn't restrict assigning homework.

Here's a link to the Ed Code: Web Link



==========
51101
(b) In addition to the rights described in subdivision (a), parents and guardians of pupils, including those parents and guardians whose primary language is not English, shall have the opportunity to work together in a mutually supportive and respectful partnership with schools, and to help their children succeed in school. Each governing board of a school district shall develop jointly with parents and guardians, and shall adopt, a policy that outlines the manner in which parents or guardians of pupils, school staff, and pupils may share the responsibility for continuing the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development and well-being of pupils at each schoolsite. The policy shall include, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:

(1) The means by which the school and parents or guardians of pupils may help pupils to achieve academic and other standards of the school.

(2) A description of the school’s responsibility to provide a high quality curriculum and instructional program in a supportive and effective learning environment that enables all pupils to meet the academic expectations of the school.

(3) The manner in which the parents and guardians of pupils may support the learning environment of their children, including, but not limited to, the following:

(A) Monitoring attendance of their children.

(B) Ensuring that homework is completed and turned in on a timely basis.

(C) Participation of the children in extracurricular activities.

(D) Monitoring and regulating the television viewed by their children.

(E) Working with their children at home in learning activities that extend learning in the classroom.

(F) Volunteering in their children’s classrooms, or for other activities at the school.

(G) Participating, as appropriate, in decisions relating to the education of their own child or the total school program.




Like this comment
Posted by Limited Government
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 8:17 am

"Again, I just want to know the legal framework for homework. The Constitution established public education (but did not mention homework)."

You can just as easily turn it around by asking is there any legal requirement that all public education must be accomplished during the school day. The simplest argument about the legality of homework is that it is legal because it is not specifically prohibited.


2 people like this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:11 am

As shown in Anonymous' citation, homework is legal.

Lots have researched whether homework helps with learning. The studies are summarized in an article which concluded that homework is "a powerful instructional tool" given that students score 23 percentile points higher on tests in a class with homework than in one without.

"Perhaps the most important advantage of homework is that it can enhance achievement by extending learning beyond the school day. This characteristic is important because U.S. students spend much less time studying academic content than students in other countries do - the study found that 'students abroad are required to work on demanding subject matter at least twice as long' as are U.S. students (National Education Commission on Time and Learning, 1994, p. 25)."

"To drop the use of homework, then, a school or district would be obliged to identify a practice that produces a similar effect within the confines of the school day without taking away or diminishing the benefits of other academic activities—no easy accomplishment."

"A better approach is to ensure that teachers use homework effectively."

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:19 am

Wow, thanks anonymous - The ed code really comes across as the ability to get homework is almost a right (that is politely suggested as available) if parents agree with schools together. That's probably appropriate - I attended one school in a poor district where we just didn't get homework, but we didn't have other opportunities then, homework was really an unparalleled learning opportunity under those circumstances. But when the ed code specifically mentions homework, it's just sort of assumed to exist. I take heart that it seems like the ed code is really outlining a framework for education to be a collaboration, and it's not that restrictive. But even there they don't seem to have directly answered the question, except that maybe they are saying it's to be answered together at the level of the school in conjunction with parents, but we all assume there is homework.

That's a really good point, Limited Government - really good point - but also advanced beyond my civics level of understanding the implications. Does it end up having some legal weight metaphorically like common law marriage then? Is that the same tension as in green chemistry, where one group is now saying the default should be that chemicals should have to be first proven safe rather than used until proven dangerous. But since the default us already the latter, it has the weight of law (like possession being nine-tenths)?

Hmmmm... I wonder if the ed code is the framework for drawing a boundary - if parents say, we don't agree to this, it seems to violate some of the "shall's" rather than the "may's" in a way that could be resolved with the "may's" but might require legal action to make happen. But the legal basis is still murky to me.


1 person likes this
Posted by Telling Question
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

It's telling that legal remedies come into the question here. For some things, it seems the only way to get the district to act is to force them legally to act.

There is something mucking up the works if homework, a basic aspect of school, isn't got right - with all the brains in Palo Alto.

Is it the indirect impact of the real estate market, or what?


11 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

PAUSD guidelines stipulate that Paly/Gunn students should have 7-10 total hours of homework per week:

Web Link

Incidentally, I started a student survey online ~10 days ago to find out how much homework Paly/Gunn students actually have and so far have collected 54 responses, results viewable here:

Web Link

Highlights:
- 74% of students have more homework than PAUSD policy recommends
- 14% have less than policy recommends
- only 12% report having the amount of homework PAUSD mandates
- 75%+ say teachers neither ask them about homework load nor work together to manage it as a group


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm

@This is why,
Thanks for the quote. You bring up a good point about the studies supporting homework. The trouble I see is that this is a very narrow view of success, it doesn't fully account for what is being given up for that homework that may enhance the child's education far more — for some the trade may be worth it, for others, not — and it doesn't mean those results can't be achieved by different practices during the school day. You can also get those kinds of improvements in test results just by increasing room ventilation and providing generally good indoor air quality in schools.

I thought this was interesting:
Web Link
It's an article on the homework debates, but on the subject of the legal basis for homework:
"One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won a ruling that exempted their two children from all homework.

I also find this very recent publication to be spot on and mirrors our experience: Homework and too many structured activities kills intrinsic motivation:

"Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, <Web Link; published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer 'self-directed executive function,' a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.”

<Web Link

The reality is that most of the data the decision to give homework is based on are just not applicable now because the world has changed so dramatically in the last five years, and the landscape for blended learning is completely different.

I wonder, though, if the situation isn't waiting for some Constitutional challenge: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."

Many families could probably make a good case that the lack of boundaries between school control and home life constitutes an unreasonable intrusion. Again, maybe once homework was the best learning opportunity available to most kids, but it's just not the case now. However, I would hate to see a ban on homework result from something like that, rather, I wish someone who challenge it in a way that families could set better boundaries and have more say. I know I keep saying this, but there is a spectrum of educational needs.

But would it take a case like that Candian family waged to end homework as we know it, and what would be done in its place? If people think homework is hard, try a federal case (literally)!


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Thank you for the data, Chris Zaharias. Do you know if there is a second set of data indicating whether kids think they have too much or too little homework? -- that assessment may be different than whether district policy is being followed.


1 person likes this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2014 at 8:21 am

Parent,

It's a question of the priorities families set for their children.

Some families view intellectual immersion to be one of the most important gifts they can give their children, starting them off on the path to personal and financial independence. Asian-Americans are a case in point; they study six hours more per week with 2/3rds doing homework 5+ days a week - 50%+ than their peers. This ethic is based on Confucian beliefs passed down through the generations - a “moral mandate" for self-perfection through academic immersion. Asian Americans are the second largest ethnic demographic in Palo Alto's schools, trailing Caucasians by just 4 percentage points.

Other families have different religious and cultural frames of reference and so want a different balance.

The nice thing is that our schools recognize all students and give them and their families choices. If you value academic immersion, your child can take honors classes that are more demanding and have more homework. If you want a different balance, have your children take college prep classes with less homework; if there is a rogue teacher in this group who assigns more homework than is appropriate, show them PAUSD's new homework policy.

I don't see how families' preferences are grounds for a federal case. Canada is a case in point: opt in or opt out. This is the system PAUSD has. Students who do not do assigned homework are likely less prepared for exams and may get lower grades as a result, but they are not expelled or fail just because they do less of it.


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

@This is why,

I appreciate your points but they are part of a bygone era or someplace very different than here. You are assuming that intellectual immersion is the same thing as intense structured school, and they aren't. You have also assumed there are only two sides, intense academic and more balanced. What of those who want to be able to draw a better boundary between school and home precisely so they can have the kind of intellectual immersion the schools simply don't offer?

Our schools don't recognize all students, and they don't hear when kids are getting too much homework, as the above survey indicates. That is my experience as well. More than that, I don't think it should be up to the school to feel my family's time, and my child's intellectual life and time should be at their disposal rather than ours when school is out in order to get a high-quality public education. I shouldn't have to explain what I want to do with the few hours of the day remaining after school, and I shouldn't have to always derfer my family's life to tendrils of school control reaching into every moment of our lives and even my child's sleep.

My own child was working on a paper for an adult journal, with new science, until school started when there was no more time because of homework. That is just one of the many intellectual and personal sacrifices for school. The world has changed and so should the schools. Healthy boundaries are healthier for everyone. Those who want the school to provide the intense 24/7 academic experience should be allowed to proactively choose it - by what legal basis does the school have a right to leverage that from others in order to get a high-quality public education? I think the kinds of high quality instructors we have here are capable of that kind of adjustment, if given the support.

Personally, I think any parent would wage a federal case to keep the light of curiosity in their children's eyes or to just spend quality time with them without school demands constantly overhead.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

I don't think there is any basis for a court challenge other than that which could be brought on behalf of poor children who are systematically disadvantaged by homework because they lack help at home through parents who have skills resources and time to help. Without assistance the grades are systematically lower.

Rather my suggestion would be to organize a strike. The typical way of dealing with objectionable working conditions. Surely our unionized teachers who object to using schoology or doing anything not exactly in their contracts and who retain the right to collectively bargain cannot object to the right of parents to do likewise. If every parent simply refused to allow their students to do excessive work that violates the policy, declared a homework strike until the policy is followed and enforced, then the system would grind to a halt and the board would have to intervene.

Another suggestion is to mount a campaign to pressure the board and super to enforce their own policy. Why is there a policy that is not enforced?


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Posted by village foool
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

@ I had to; they have to--

Your removed comment along many other censored comments can be found on a page I dedicated in my blog to the ongoing censoring. I post comments Before & after being censored.
link – Web Link



"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" A.J. Liebling


11 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:46 am

I would not comment on this issue, except that I have some personal experience. For the first three years of high school, I did tons of homework...it was common to stay up to past midnight, because I also had sports practice and games. Then, in my senior year I had a very good math teacher...pre-calculus. He didn't believe in homework. He distributed handouts at each class, did about a 10 minute lecture, then we worked on the problems on the handout. He would circulate to quietly advise those who raised their hands. We handed in our handouts at the end of each class. He looked them over, and decided where the issues were for the following classes. He did not grade the handouts. We had a test in mid term, and final exam at the end. He graded on the curve. Best class I ever had, and I learned a ton.


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

So what's next? Lawsuits brought against the UC system to prevent homework? And then we can all sue our employers because we have to do work from home on some evenings or on the weekends.

The world may have changed (for the good) so as to recognize student stress and its drivers. But outlawing homework altogether will do nothing more than create a fantasy world which will be blown up the day the kid starts college.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I suggest a one day symbolic district wide homework strike to raise parent and student consciousness. Do a lot of media, have parent ed events leading up, and invite parents to a symbolic homework shredding or burning.


5 people like this
Posted by Agree
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I agree with JLS Parent that there is too much homework and although I'm not sure we should make a Federal case out of the issue we should definitely put pressure on the district to change the way they teach and assign HW. My child is in 6th grade at Jordan and already has an incredible amount of HW. I am not looking forward to high school! I really think a lot of the HW is due to the teachers not actually teaching the material but just throwing it at the kids, expecting them to learn it on the spot then continuing the teaching of the material at home through HW. it's not just HW meant to let them practice what they've learned in class but also HW which consists of material they barely learned in class and new material they haven't really learned yet! My child and his friends confirmed this saying they spend a lot of time in their classes taking notes on lectures (but not getting time to understand the material) then they go home and try to do a lot of math problems and projects! I don't think it is the fault of the teachers who seem sympathetic, but I think it is someone at the top pushing the Common Core standards down on everybody, expecting the kids to magically master a lot of new material in a short time.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

@this is when- you are operating on the false assumption that honors classes have more homework than regular lane classes. That should be true, but the homework load and the level of actual teaching varies widely from teacher to teacher in the exact same class.


7 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I would like to agree with Craig Laughton. I had a similar experience. My best teachers did not require homework. In my case it was physics and English. We all learned a lot, and there were interactions with the teachers. I agree with Craig, I learned a ton.


3 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Note you said "give" homework, not "force you to do homework". If you don't want your kids to do homework, and don't think it is of value, tell them not to do it, and accept the consequence. If they still know the material, get good grades on the test, they'll still probably pass. Neither you nor your child will end up in jail for not doing homework.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2014 at 10:10 pm

@mr recycle - of course no one will go to jail for not doing homework. But the original posters point is why can our school District take over the lives of students and parents 24/7? Why aren't our children taught what they need to know during school hours? That is not to say that students shouldn't read chapters in a book to discuss the next day or practice a few math problems on a something that they have already been taught.

The problem is that homework is used to replace teaching. And as parents, it ruins any chance of family or personal intellectual challenge time.


4 people like this
Posted by Experienced
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm

@Parent: You're at JLS, on your way to Gunn? It might stay the same, but it's not gonna get any better. Consider moving to a city that is less competitive or sending your child to a private school, such as Woodside Priory. I say this in all sincerity, not to be rude. Or see the outcome of McGee's teacher evaluations to help teacher consistency - maybe there's hope for us.

The other option is to homeschool, which is not necessarily you teaching the child. There are homeschooling programs where parents join their students with teachers. I know someone who is doing this precisely to avoid any homework. She says most of the parents think their children are too smart for PAUSD. I have no idea where is the enforcement of their education and what they are learning. Is "homeschooling" code for "no schooling, but still legal"? Don't want to dish the homeschoolers who take it seriously, as I do know some, but I know many who just want to avoid the structure and stress.

@Chris Zaharias: I find it difficult to believe that any PAUSD high school student has less than 7 hours of homework per week - that's only one hour a day - it's not really possible, even with easy teachers. I guess it's possible if the student doesn't care about grades and is sliding by with a 2.0 GPA. And that's where your unscientific poll is deficient - the variable of work ethic.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 20, 2014 at 11:48 pm

@Paly parent observes:"The problem is that homework is used to replace teaching. "

.... And that is why it is so heavily relied upon by teachers.

Relatively little effort from the teachers for a lot of payback.

It is efficient from their perspective. And parents are enablers trapped in a system scrambling for college admissions.

If anyone thought that there is any innovation in education - there you have it:

Standards have gone up? Add homework.
Higher expectations from community? Add homework.

Can't explain English Analysis? Add homework.

The kids will teach themselves, or the parents will, or the tutors.

There is little self respect left in teaching. Maybe 1 in 3 is actually a professional who strives to really teach clearly; to help kids clear up misconceptions, to inspire learning.

All the talk of reform is a joke on the kids and parents - the teachers control your (grade) admission to college, and they have NO accountability, so you have to teach yourself.

They are just there to do the sorting.


4 people like this
Posted by Experienced
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:22 am

Agree with "TheSortingHat": "the teachers control your (grade) admission to college, and they have NO accountability, so you have to teach yourself."

The teachers have so much power over our students' future college acceptances.


5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:23 am

I agree with Paly Parent, Mr. Recycle. I know in some systems, not doing homework won't have serious consequences, but here it would. While no one is forcing anyone to do homework, the homework is a part of the educational program and if someone refuses to do it, they may well flunk out and the consequences may be that they don't get the public education they are due. Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education -- it's a fundamental right that comes from the US Constitution. The Constitution does not mention homework, though, or the subject of such boundaries, except perhaps in how we might interpret the 4th Amendment.

I would go further to say that I think it's unreasonable for a a school to have unfettered priority with my child's time 24 hours a day in order to receive a free and appropriate public education.

Midtown parent,
I didn't realize traditionally disadvantaged groups were essentially hurt by the homework. I would love a link or further information. I was assuming that traditionally disadvantaged students would be better off for having homework because they might not have similar access to outside opportunities. I wonder, though, if all these new computer-enabled knowledge environments are changing even that. I think back in the day, when (at least in for most people) there was no Internet, less access to educational reading material, less interaction with other people, homework was the best educational opportunity. There were few alternatives unless it was music lessons for those who could afford them. I was assuming the disadvantages would extend to all these new opportunities because of the digital divide, but maybe there is enough access especially with mobile computing to actually begin leveling the playing field, I don't know. But my assumptions made me wonder about the wisdom of, essentially, a ground-breaking boundary-setting litigation over the issue, because traditionally disadvantaged groups might be hurt if homework were not an assumed part of the education but nothing was improved during the school day. Maybe that's another circumstance that would improve by soul-searching over boundaries between school and home.

Crescent Park Dad,
I think your points deserve their own deep conversation about what prepares kids for life and college. Just tonight we were sitting with colleagues who discussed their disappointing experiences as employers with employees who were the straight-A intense academic types. The feedback was, the hires didn't know how to do anything of their own (they didn't put it that nicely). They were good at regurgitating, but not very independent. The research seems to back that up. Although life has taught me many lessons in the interim, I look back and feel the same about my own education -- I thrived on the intense academic experience and really enjoyed pushing against that structure, but while I was extremely resourceful, I was not very autonomous.

While I'm not trying to say everyone is the same, the world of work is not like school. Like This is Why, please don't assume the alternative to homework is essentially goofing off. The alternative in our home would be far more high-level educational pursuits, including the unpleasant grunt work necessary to get any major thing done. It's just relevant to achieving something real, not busy work. But if someone wanted to goof off, why shouldn't they have time of their own every day, and why should they have to account for it to the school? Schools that run 24 hours a day are called boarding school, that's not what most of us chose.

My kid got a sheet recently in relationship to a class final exam, ostensibly to help plan time in to study, but it asked kids to account for their time 24 hours a day for a few weeks. I was horrified at the intrusion. It again exemplified the assumption that the school had priority in the use of my child's time, and by extension, my family's time, for all waking (and some sleeping) hours of the day.

I don't think making kids more and more miserable with busywork homework prepares them any better for college either. In my experience (at MIT), the kids who were burned out from high school did not do well. My own brothers who were not stellar high school students all went on to be stellar students in top colleges, and successful in life. The seeds of each of their success began in outside activities, to a one.

When I say the world has changed, I mean the landscape for what kids can learn, do, and achieve has dramatically changed in the last 5-10 years.

Per student stress -- I love Thomas the Tank Engine videos for how they highlight a fundamental motivation: To the engines being "really useful" is life and death. So it is with humans. Most of us need to feel useful in life, to follow our interests, to feel competent. Keeping kids on the homework hamster wheel 24/7 robs them of the ability to pursue so many opportunities available in this new world that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Some kids need that intense structured academic sorting to be happy. Some kids will be doing intense productive educational pursuits of their own if allowed time to be autonomous. Why should children in the latter camp have to choose between that and a high-quality public education? Especially since the education is a right, and homework (and by extension giving up all right to personal autonomy 24 hours a day) doesn't seem to be legally a part of the deal.


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:34 am

I also want to interject -- thank you to absolutely everyone above for the really great discussion. This has probably been the most respectful and interesting discussion I can remember on this forum, even though there is such a range of views. It's been really enlightening to me to hear the experiences and views.


5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:44 am

Experienced,
Thanks for your comment, I didn't perceive it as rude. If any of the options mentioned (homeschool, going to private school) were really feasible, or likely to solve the problem, I would be doing them already. (If Nueva has plans to move into my neighborhood next year and we can transfer our property taxes into a voucher to pay for it, that might solve things ;-) ... speaking of dreaming...)


10 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 7:59 am

Just want to interject some other aspects of life lessons into the discussion that too much homework doesn't allow time for.

The first is doing some household chores on a regular basis. No I am not advocating turning kids into household divas, but dishwasher duties, trash duties, daily bed making, and learning how to do some of the essential chores around a home before they go off to fend for themselves e.g. how to clean the kitchen and the bathroom, even though they don't have to do this as part of their chore rota.

The other is getting an after school/weekend job. The advantages of kids learning to be an employee as well as the satisfaction of a wage packet is a life lesson that can't be duplicated any other way.

Too many kids appear to be graduating high school with an impression that chores just get done by magic and generous allowances are their due (or reward for academic performance) that they have no idea how the other half live. The life lessons from doing these two activities would be just as influential on their futures as a good GPA.


7 people like this
Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 8:39 am

@Parent - you make extremely good points. Our kids would be doing much higher valued things with their time if they were not overloaded with homework. Here are a few more:

- sleeping
- eating with the family
- hanging out with friends
(All necessary for social emotional well being)

From here you get into areas of personal preference:
- sports
- music
- MAKING things
- breaking things
- Girl Scouts /. Boy Scouts
- theatre, dance, art
- taking on leadership as councilors/ coaches / troop leaders, whatever
- get a job, start a venture, odd jobs, whatever.

...

The problem you will encounter is that in order for homework to drop, something else must change. Homework is propping up a broken system.
You'll need to either:
- accept lower grades as an individual. OR
- lower curriculum standards (as a state). OR
- teach using better methods

While the last is what I thought was happening when I moved to PAUSD, it really isn't. It's just more homework and families more motivated and monitized to get it done. You don't even get a better GPA for your effort, but you do get better SAT and crank- turning regurgitation skills.

To get better teaching with less homework you need better skills in the trade, and accountability. Accountability is legally impossible, so discussion usually stops there.

Imagine for a moment a system with accountability...

To get better skills in the trade you need smarter people collaborating with best practices. Normally in the real world it takes a high skill level manager a lot of effort to overcome NIH and personal pride to get adoption of Best practices. Creative destruction usually does most of the work ( low capability companies are destroyed by high capability companies ) sometimes a group/ company can change, but it feels like steering the titanic with a paddle.

Still, this relies on very experienced management focused on the issue. Most schools don't have that. The tenure laws render most school management very weak and teachers are masters of their own domain. So they do what they think best, and hubris prevents them from improving.

So what do they do best? What they learned in college. And what is that? Well, >60% of California's teachers come out of the Cal State system, and most are in the bottom third of their class; many require remedial courses to even start college.

We are getting our teaching skills from the same public education system that is broken. After a few generations of this cycle We are eating our own dogfood now.

How to fix:
- stronger hiring standards that include strong parent and student feedback before tenure. Only 1 of 3 should pass - you need to weed out a strongly defective population.

- accountability. If you don't teach all the kids all the material, your gone. Tenure only goes to those who have been here ten years, who not only teach students, but coach and collaborate to teach new teachers. Like real dedicated hours teaching teachers.

- best practices becomes religion. Eat breathe sleep. New hires focus on this intensively for a few years. They should have lighter class load and smaller classes as they are not as experienced, and need the time to focus on the fewer students they have, and to learn the best practices of their seniors. Real, dedicated hours learning best practices. Create a breeder school that teaches teachers and students.

Best practices should be written down and reviewed and updated quarterly. And controlled experiments should guide improvements.

The goal should be best learning outcomes with minimal homework. Time in front of an excellent teacher is way more valuable than anything else.

Many teachers won't like this. Let the unhappy people go.

All of this and more is needed.

And you're turning the titanic with a paddle.


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Posted by Back to US History for us
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

"Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education -- it's a fundamental right that comes from the US Constitution."

Really? Where in the Constitution is this right guaranteed?


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Posted by PAEA rules
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 11:57 am

Teri Badwin is the president of the teacher's union. She will have the ultimate say on homework just as a board member gave her undue influence in the bullying policy fiasco not so long ago. Look it up, it's preserved on paloaltoonline. I would suspect that Teri and the few PAEA executive board members are working with CTA cartoonist and PAEA negotiator Wendy Dillingham-Plew on defensive responses such as we have too many students and not enough time, the administration has not trained us properly, and the old cliche of the parents are attacking us. Skip all the in-between and just ask PAEA to improve it.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm

"...Skip all the in-between and just ask PAEA to improve it."

Snork! Ha ha ha.

Um, if they wanted better quality teaching with less homework, they would have adopted best practices years ago.
In fact, PAEA resists ANYTHING that looks like organization or management.

And unfortunately employees rarely self-organize. So with weak management, unions fighting any attempt at organization and teachers uninterested in hearing someone else's opinion on how to teach better, you'll find that teacher quality is not happening. There is just no structure in place to organize the teaching of teachers, AND to remove those who resist such improvements.


If PAEA wanted it to happen, it would already have happened.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm



@Back to US History,
Thanks for pointing out my error. The right to a public education is a STATE Constitutuionally guaranteed right in the California Constituion (and in most other states, too), not a US Cobstitutionally guaranteed right, though the US courts have come close to interpreting, such as in Brown vs Board of Ed.

Web Link From the California AG website:
"The right to a public education in California is a fundamental right fully guaranteed and protected by the California Constitution"

Thanks for the history lesson, though it throws in a whole other level of complexity. The Brown decision was based on the 14th Amendment (I think), so a case based on the 4th amendment would probably have a similar dynamic between the state and federal jurisdictions. Hmmm.... I wonder if it would even need to be a federal case after all, but a state case. If the case were waged on behalf of those who simply want the choice to have a high quality public education without homework but without taking the choice to have an education that involves 24 hour expectations away from those who wish it (after all, it would essentially outlaw boarding school), who then would take the side of defending the state's right to that kind of control over children's and families' lives?

But I am no lawyer - thanks for clarifying the law.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm



@Back to US History,
Thanks for pointing out my error. The right to a public education is a STATE Constitutuionally guaranteed right in the California Constituion (and in most other states, too), not a US Constitutionally guaranteed right, though the US courts have come close to interpreting, such as in Brown vs Board of Ed.

Web Link From the California AG website:
"The right to a public education in California is a fundamental right fully guaranteed and protected by the California Constitution"

Thanks for the history lesson, though it throws in a whole other level of complexity. The Brown decision was based on the 14th Amendment (I think), so a case based on the 4th amendment would probably have a similar dynamic between the state and federal jurisdictions. Hmmm.... I wonder if it would even need to be a federal case after all, but a state case. If the case were waged on behalf of those who simply want the choice to have a high quality public education without homework but without taking the choice to have an education that involves 24 hour expectations away from those who wish it (after all, it would essentially outlaw boarding school), who then would take the side of defending the state's right to that kind of control over children's and families' lives?

But I am no lawyer - thanks for clarifying the law.


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Posted by Hyperbole police
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2014 at 6:59 pm

"an education that involves 24 hour expectations away from those who wish it (after all, it would essentially outlaw boarding school), who then would take the side of defending the state's right to that kind of control over children's and families' lives? "

24 hour expectations? Does that mean that schools today give out 17 hours of homework a night?


3 people like this
Posted by Actually
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 9:31 pm

There needs to be a certain amount of homework in high school so they are prepared for college. Yet, my child in regular lanes had several overly challenging teachers one year so bedtime was Midnite after 6 hours of homework and my child was sleep-deprived and depressed. Advanced and AP classes add an extra 30-60 minutes of homework per class. I don't know how the students who are taking 5 APs can get much sleep.

To the OP, don't worry about grades until high school or they could get burnt-out when they reach high school. Middle school grades don't count towards college so let him/her relax a bit. My children appreciated that.

As far as having chores, there is no time for chores and when they become adults, they will rise to the occasion.


2 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 22, 2014 at 12:33 am

I wonder how many parents posting here once thought about being teachers, and why you decided against it. Low pay? Too much work? Working on weekends? Constant criticism from parents?

Someone above mentioned a day of shredding homework. I suggest a teacher walkout day protesting the way they are constantly dissed by P.A parents who, as always, know it all.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 3:59 am

@ Nora Charles,

This has been an extremely helpful and civil discussion, please join us. Please start by reading the thread rather than a few posts and jumping in with an off-topic trollish comment. If you would like to just vent with unsupported opinions and sweeping condemnations of parents, please start a separate thread.

Are you a current parent or teacher in this school community? I am a district parent and know parents in every school in the district, and your opinion of them sounds like the bias of a crank, not based in fact. I have found parents in this district to be some of the most caring and intelligent I have known anywhere. They are one of the reasons I think this district is great. I feel the same about our excellent teachers. If you even read the comments above all the way through, I think you will see far more praise of our teachers than criticism. That's really not what the thread is about.

This thread is about whether there is a basis in law for schools to assign homework, it's not about ending high-quality education, or even ending homework for those who think it's important for their own children, but about setting boundaries, especially for those who need them. The kind of work my child is doing outside of school is currently higher quality and a strong education not available in school, and the homework -- like making a t-shirt for science class about an element my child already had to write a cartoon about -- conflicts directly with the ability to do that higher quality work.

In fact, it's not even just the time or the assignments, it's simply the expectation that the time after school is at the disposal of the school that is the issue. If families wish it for their children, and if the families believe it is in the best interest of their children's education, they should be able to choose to have non-stop homework that stretches to bedtime and impinges on breakfast. I wouldn't want to take that away from someone who benefits from it, I was that kind of student. (Hyperbole police - that's 24/7 homework - no break from it, ever, where kids' whole lives and focus 24 hours of the day are at the mercy of it, where they have no time of their own, and everything they choose to do in their limited after-school time ends up subordinate to the expectations of the school, even how much sleep they get and when they get to sleep.)

School boards were set up to allow local control for schools, meaning, control by locals, i.e., parents and families whose children the state is educating and guaranteeing the right to the education. The intent was not to foster insular organizations with no checks and balances - that is fundamentally undemocratic and against the reason for school boards in the first place. So whether you like or, as you have voiced, resent the input of parents, it is a fundamental and important part of education code and in this district, the high quality of the district.

Times have changed. The pace of change is accelerating, and it's no longer just the pace of technological change. Children are wending their way through school while districts play extremely slow catch up. For those whose best interests are served by exactly what we currently provide, they should be able to continue to have that. For those whose interests are not served, whose children are so stressed their very lives are endangered by the system, or who are miserable, or otherwise simply languishing, having to shoehorn in highly rewarding intellectual experiences in the few moments they have outside of homework, or for those whose needs are better met through a very different approach -- like a project-based learning program that we offer effectively through 6th grade but not beyond -- there should also be a choice.

But that's a "should" -- whether they can get that or not, my question remains: does the school have a right, in exchange for a high-quality public education, for families not to be able to set boundaries on their private lives and time after school is out? Is the ability to assign homework and expectations that stretch beyond the school day bound up in the right of a public education?

I think the suggestion of a day of shredding homework was an interesting thought, but if we think about it, one a few humorless and petty types in our district office would use to punish children. But in that same vein, maybe a flash mob in which kids bring all the graded homework from the previous week and bury the assistant superintendent's car -- then put it on the Internet -- that could serve the purpose of making a point. (Though, it might similarly be used...) It might be funny but I don't think it would have much impact, though. If people are going to organize, I think they should organize to make a direct path to change for those who need it.

One of the best ways to effectively allow people to set boundaries on their time, while still getting a high-quality public education, is to allow options to those who need them, like the district in San Jose has in their Learning Options program (and which I'm told Silicon Valley entrepreneurs brought in, they've been doing this for 30 years). It allows people options while changing the rest of the district almost not at all -- unless a lot of people end up choosing the options, though if that were the case, the rest of the district would get the feedback and improve. Such intrinsically motivated improvements tend to usually happen faster and be more satisfactory than mandated ones. San Jose has basically the same board regulations we do that enable that program -- we could literally do the same overnight, if McGee had a team with him capable of doing it.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:30 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Academic immersion is not intellectual immersion. A friend of mine who tutors Asian kids (not in Palo Alto) has told me how astonished he was at how ignorant they are of the world. Their entire focus is on higher grades, but he feels that they are unprepared to be successful adults because of their utter lack of knowledge and curiosity of anything but academic achievement.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:39 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

@Experienced - I completely agree with you that my survey is not scientific, and that it doesn't take into account students' invidivual work ethic/motivation. That said, I do still think that the fact that 75% of students reported more than 7-10 hours/week means that there's more parents, teachers and school administrators can do to manage homework load better.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:51 am

@Nora Charles writes;"... I suggest a teacher walkout day protesting the way they are constantly dissed by P.A parents who, as always, know it all."

It is entirely possible that parents know something; and it comes from our perspective. You see, we have horizontal exposure to dozens of teachers for thousands of days. If we have two kids, we have more data. I doubt many of our teachers have this comparative perspective.

So for example I can see that one science teacher at Paly was perfectly capable of assigning a reasonable amout of homework, and my kid got ALL of it done without any drama, tutoring or nagging. While a peer in English assigned twice as much, and almost none of it was completed successfully.

It seems to me that the English teacher could learn a few things - not from me, but rather from the Science teacher. Certainly when I discussed homework with the English IS it was clear she would not coach this hapless English teacher. She was missing basic competences such as:
- clearly communicating the assignment
- setting reasonable amounts of HW
- assigning a due date
(This last one is going to really frost the original poster- the reason the English teacher gave for not telling students a due date is because she expected kids to go home and work on her assignments immediately. That's right , not only did she believe her work superseded the kids 24 hr limits, she believed her homework superseded all other homework. )

There are dozens of examples where I can contrast high quality teaching to poor quality teaching. Because I have a perspective the teachers do not have. It is a loss that some teachers don't see that perspective or value it.

But it is obvious that disparity in teaching skill is huge and well within the schools talent range ( I.e. Fixable) if they would:

A) identify those teachers who have to improve
B) share best practices.


As for a walkout - I wouldn't mind. That would be one less day of homework. But it would highlight the gap between teachers and community. The community which puts up a lot of money to support teachers who see the world very differently than we see it.


6 people like this
Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

@palo alto parent:

I appreciate your attempt to maintain a civil dialogue but would appreciate if the request went both ways...I worry that your statement about civil dialogue ignores the instances of teacher bashing in this thread that went unchallenged:
Sortinghat's blanket statements about teachers and their motives.
"There is little self respect left in teaching. Maybe 1 in 3 is actually a professional who strives to really teach clearly; to help kids clear up misconceptions, to inspire learning."
"Only 1 of 3 should pass - you need to weed out a strongly defective population."
"Um, if they wanted better quality teaching with less homework, they would have adopted best practices years ago. In fact, PAEA resists ANYTHING that looks like organization or management."

Paea rules's comments

I won't include the instances of parent-blaming as they seem to have been identified and called out. I agree that there are comments above that are simultaneoualy critical but balanced (kudos!) and while I totally appreciate it can be hard to keep up with an extensive thread like this, Cathy Kirkman's thread is an excellent example of maintaining a balanced discussion (and more effective!)that enfranchises teachers rather than stereotypes them. There's even a comment from a teacher to join her movement! I worry this thread doesn't send the same inclusive message to the teachers who are doing the right thing and who might be willing to champion this cause.


2 people like this
Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

Again I must say that AP courses should NEVER give grades for homework. Never in my university career did a prof check to see if I did my homework. If these are to emulate college courses then the marks should solely be on exams and projects. The massive amount of homework allows PAUSD to stand up and point to the rigor of the program ( unfortunately massive homework is not actually indicative of academic challenge). It also allows those who may not be able to get As on mastery of the material to still get an A because they are willing to play the game and churn out the homework. This is where I see grade inflation at Gunn.
I strongly support a class where the student is given an option at the beginning of the year of whether their homework completion will be part of their mark.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:58 am

What does anyone think about Ratemyteacher.com

I know there are good and bad teachers in Paly, in our middle school and in our elementary school. The elementary school teacher had family problems while we were in that class and she was unable to deal with her class efficiently. The following year she had left the school and was teaching in another PA elementary. Shuffling bad teachers (who may not have always been bad but definitely had a very bad year) is covering up and protecting poor teachers who have tenure and can't be fired.

Yes, we have some excellent teachers and they are well known. Unfortunately, we are unable to request our teachers and get the luck of the draw.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:05 am

@Suggestion,
Cathy Kirkman's group is great. (She faced her own criticisms, please give her your positive feedback!) There has been a lot if off topic discussion here, but mostly it has been a great discussion. I have made a couple of pleas and attempts to keep it on topic. Unfortunately sometimes at the end if a long thread, people only really read a little and voice a strong opinion.

You bring up a good point, though, that teachers who might choose it, too, could also benefit from being able to draw better boundaries for themselves in a no homework program, however, this is really about the legal basis for homework, and by extension, the legal basis of families who want better boundaries to draw them for themselves and still get a high quality public education.

Rather than restating objectionable comments which at some point the Weekly will eventually delete (as they did above, and even my quoting one if them), please add your voice on the topic! How teachers might feel about a rule disallowing homework - with proper support to make changes is a little off topic, but might be helpful. In my own experience, teaching staff have gone to great lengths to make all changes that were asked of them, including Every Day Math, even when they were not on board with it. In fact I have often felt the administration office was oppressive about teachers pulling the party line so as not to get parents joining with them against unpopular district decisions (like the admin works that a parent teacher organization should never happen, advocate, or be powerful...)

One way to allow parents to draw that line would be to allow the blended learning model as a choice, then even teachers really wouldn't be impacted. It still doesn't settle the legality or boundaries issue for the future when the issue will become more and more unavoidable.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:14 am

At the end of a long thread, in order to be very clear, this thread is not homework versus no homework, but rather the legal basis to allow homework which could be argued as an intrusion of the state. I'm not actually arguing against programs that give homework because some people prefer it and I think there are students who legitimately wish for those kinds of programs. But even children like that might find themselves in situations where they were doing busywork rather than challenging work, and wish to change things. If the state can only give homework by consent of the homeworked, people who like homework would have more leverage even to get more of the homework they wish to have, if that is their choice.

I also think no homework boundary setting should not result in an inferior education for those who wish to set those boundaries. If the state has responsibility to provide the education, then it cannot leverage homework or else.


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Posted by Suggestion
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:20 am

@parent: Thank you for your thoughtful response! If people are interested, some things to consider:
1) Some subjects (ex: World Languages) might need homework to counter the day of in-class practice lost via block schedule. What that homework looks like is debatable, of course.
2) Curriculum shifts: in a no-homework system, certain trade-offs might have to be made (I say might, because there could be work-arounds). Examples:
a) English: books with fewer pages (in-class reading can only cover so many pages)--goodbye To Kill a Mockingbird???
b) Grade cushioning: As Gunn mom above notes, homework cushions a lot of students' grades. Maybe it's about changing what the homework is rather than doing away with it completely? Or maybe the no-homework contract someone mentioned above so kids could opt-in to homework? What happens when a student changes their mind when they miscalculate that they didn't need the homework? No teacher can grade a semester's worth of homework at the last-minute like that--would their be a cut-off date?
c) Communication: there seems to be "camps" in the parent community, so teachers get mixed messages. These boards over the years are evidence of that--some parents champion creativity, others don't. Both are supported by the subject-matter standards, so how do we unify the message teachers get so they aren't stuck in a "darned if they do/don't" scenario?

...just my thoughts as requested:) Obviously it's not exhaustive and won't cover all contingencies, but if we're interested in doing and not just saying, it's a start!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:41 am

@Suggestion,
Thanks for your thoughtful points. You bring up one of the biggest issues in how we handle education: make everyone do the same thing and try to differentiate class by class, or make choices available. I think ultimately making choices available is healthier. Then each student, as well as each teacher, is in an environment where the expectations and boundaries are clear and desired. I think kids taking the same class but opting out of homework is a creative idea but makes for everyone not getting what they need, and would be incredibly burdensome to teach that way. For a no homework approach to be an equal high quality education, it would have to be different. Letting families choose the learning styles - and the homework - they desire by program is probably a more workable way, as we already do in early grades.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

@suggestion calls me out on "blanket statements " such as
"There is little self respect left in teaching. Maybe 1 in 3 is actually a professional who strives to really teach clearly; to help kids clear up misconceptions, to inspire learning."

Okay. Valid criticism. So I reviewed prior teachers and categorized them as

1) Good: teaches clearly, helps kids clear up misconceptions & inspires learning. Total: 16

2) Okay: taught material sufficiently. May not be inspiring or may be hard to relate with, but learned enough to proceed to next year. Total: 24

3) Supportive: nice teacher, but didn't teach anything. Not harmful, but not inspiring: Total: 12

4) bad: Angry person, demotivating or humiliating, berates students. Uninspiring. Leaves students with a permanent dislike of learning. Makes the job harder for next years teacher. Total: 15

5) Criminal: same as bad but actually violated Ed Code or other laws in their mistreatment of students. Total: 2

So out of 69 teachers 16 are Good - That's 23%. So I was generous in my statements. Heck, let's include Good and OK to get a total of 40/69 = 58%.

Not indicative of a high performing GROUP or profession.

And I have not met a single one willing to confront the worst behaviors of their peers. That is what I mean by no self respect as a profession.

If 40% of my peers were like this, I would talk to them. If ANY were criminal, I would call the authorities.

Okay - to your point: is this out of line in conversation. I don't think so. It is a reality we have experienced, I'm not making it up, and I am not calling names or shaming any individual by calling them out.

Is it possible that this is a statistical fluke? That I'm unlucky? That these are the ONLY Bad and Criminal teachers and I have been the only person to experience this? No. Each of these teachers had 25 other students suffering the same.

At most you could say we had a bad streak. But why should a kid suffer a bad streak? It is not fair or appropriate as education is required to be.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I don't want to continue the discussion about teacher quality on this thread except to say that when the system doesn't work as well as it can for everyone possible, and is not subject to constant improvements to meet everyone's needs and even wants to the extent possible, then it can become easy to blame teachers or parents for the failings of the system. I'm not going to make a blanket condemnation of criticism because criticism is sometimes the first step in solving a problem that needs solving. However, I look at our teachers and parents in general, and feel we have some of the best I have seen in any school district I have ever been associated with in my life.

I think the issue of whether families have a right to draw boundaries is really unrelated to arguments over teacher quality -- I think a system that works better for everyone will allow more people to interact positively with the teaching staff, but it's a different discussion from whether the state (little "s") has a right to require me and my child to subordinate our own decisions and time in the hours when school is out in order to get a high-quality public education.

Perhaps some homework is necessary to prepare for college, perhaps not. I certainly worked hard in college (MIT), and I was so unprepared in a way that no one in PAUSD would ever be even if the schools stopped giving homework tomorrow, and yet I learned quickly and did well. You also don't get a full load of in-class time from 8:30 until after 3 in college, you spend far less time in class. And you have far more choice in how you spend your time day to day. My recollection is that the kids who were burned out from high school did not do well, and the kids whose lives had the most structure imposed on them before tended to be the most out-of-control when they found themselves on their own. Again, if people CHOOSE a path, it tends not to be a problem, but if it is imposed on them, it usually is. The fundamental value of autonomy is the foundation of our national governance.

College itself is a choice, middle school really isn't. Since the state is saying it has a right to impose schooling on my child, and since it (state with a capital "s") also grants all children the right to an education as a fundamental right, does it have the power to then say the only way I can have a high-quality education is to allow the educational system unbounded control in every moment of my child's life round the clock in order to get that education? Especially now that the world is changing and sitting in a classroom all day, and jumping from one to the next, to cram in certain knowledge, is maybe not the best way to optimize every child's education?

Even in parenting of very young children, often times it's a lot easier to help kids learn about doing things they need to do if they are given a choice rather than have everything imposed on them, then they own the choice. I think everyone is happier if those who feel the best education they can get is to really have that intense and challenging traditional academic course, can choose to have that, but that those who feel they want to take their kids to lectures on how to cure cancer using big data instead of writing essays for gym class (and whatever else would have been done in the hours of work my child had to punt in order to participate in this actual scenario), and who want to give their kids the room to then dream and come up with the out-of-left-field ways they might do something with what they just learned, they should be able to choose that, too.

The issue of whether the state has a right to unfettered control of a child's time has never been an issue like this because the crossing of those boundaries has never had such a major, and for many now, negative, impact on family life and even the best education of a good percentage of our children.


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Posted by Not high performing
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Been through PAUSD (and PAEA), and am done with it, too. Our experience is similar to the unscientific sorting that The Sorting Hat above did. Some really outstanding teachers in PAUSD, but the small minority of lemons--and the vast majority of OK teachers who don't do anything about the lemons--brings down the entire organization to the level of mediocrity. It's easier to see that once you move and wind up in another school district that happens to be outperforming PAUSD. Our kids were high performers who did well in PAUSD without much direct instruction or help from teachers, but definitely excessive homework. They also did well in their next district where we felt the teachers tended to spend more time with them instructing, communicating, just being more personal with our kids, and there was less homework than PAUSD. In short, more homework won't make you teachers look better, just the opposite after a while.


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Posted by Parent in PAUSD
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Paly Parent mentioned ratemyteachers.com and having sent two through Paly recently, with one still in the system, I can tell you that the website ratings are very accurate. I wish the principals and superintendent would look at them for feedback.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Parent,

My comment WAS legitimate and I am not a troll--funny how that term is bandied about so easily--but a concerned resident. My parents were teachers, thus it's hard to so often read derogatory comments about Palo Alto teachers. They work so damn hard, as, of course, do the students, with whom I sympathize for our city's sky high expectations of them. By the way, as your topic is somewhat provocative (as you surely realize) did you not expect a few poor souls to voice dissent?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Dear Nora,
I have had nothing but positive things to say about teachers in our district in my comments. If people have negative experiences, why not engage them positively rather than dismissing them -- they are speaking from experience with other people, not your parents. Anything too general will probably be deleted by the moderators at some point.

I have done my best to keep this topic on track, including in my reply to your post, which was not on topic. I also find it hard to read sweeping generalizations about parents. If you have problems with the expectations of students that may be inappropriate (as do most of us), why not consider this topic more carefully, because if families have the ability to set better boundaries between school and home, they have the ability to also limit those.

I have actually specifically asked people not to debate the value of homework, but as we all found, including me, it was hard to avoid that discussion. However, the issue of whether families have a legal right to establish and enforce boundaries between the school and home life and still expect a high-quality education is not, in my opinion, meant to provoke more than thoughtful opinions. I think we had many here. I welcome yours on the topic as well.


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Posted by FYI
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm

While all,of,Scamdinavia has dumped homework, and Germany has,returned kindergarten to being what kindergarten was 40 years ago, Japan does not assign homework until high school. At that time, kids have 6 or more hours of,homework each night until they graduate--NO after school activities. However, once they get into college, Japanese kids have a very easy ride--seldom even showing up for class ( those who do get As; those who do not get Bs).

My brother is an authority on Japanese schools, since he has taught English at Tokyo University since the nineties. He sent his own children, who are half Japanese, to UC Berkeley and NYU, respectively, because they would not get a good college education in Japan.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 23, 2014 at 12:54 am

Parent,

I'm sure everyone here wants only the best for the students, and most have great respect for Palo Alto's teachers. In the spirit of the season why don't we call a truce. All best to you and everyone for a joyous Christmas and holiday season.


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Posted by Thank you teachers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2014 at 1:22 am

Nora,

I think most people have great respect for teachers. These threads catch the harsher side of judgements which are more an indictment of the system. I happen to think that in middle and high school there are simply too many subjects and credits to fulfill.


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Posted by olderparent
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

@Parent -- Your quote from above: "However, the issue of whether families have a legal right to establish and enforce boundaries between the school and home life and still expect a high-quality education ..." does make for an interesting discussion.

My 2 cents: Yes, the public schools do have the right to assign homework. However, if homework becomes burdensome and over whelming, then parents have the right to demand that changes be made.

Now, as to "expect a high-quality education" that's a whole other topic right there. First off, parents will differ on what they consider a high-quality education. Secondly, whether a high quality education can be achieved without homework depends on hours spent at school and how the program is set up and what your goals are.

The public school system does offer choices with charters for parents seeking something different than the neighborhood public school. We have several alternative programs at the elementary level here in Palo Alto.

So parents do have alternatives besides the expensive ones of private schools or hard to do, home schooling.

But to couch it in legal terms, yes, the public schools have the right to assign homework. And yes, parents have the right to object to the level of homework assigned if it is burdensome and excessive.

Sounds to me you are more interested in a school curriculum with no homework. In elementary, that's probably very doable, but after that, more difficult to do, especially if you want a high quality education.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm

@ olderparent,
Thanks for your comments. "But to couch it in legal terms, yes, the public schools have the right to assign homework"

I'm still trying to understand the legal framework. Do you have any details? Someone above said it basically boiled down to that no one had prohibited it so therefore it happens. Do you have any other statutory information?

I think our choices in elementary are great, but they don't extend into high school. And actually, I don't think they achieve their stated goal much after 6th grade (speaking from experience).

I don't think we can say whether our schools could achieve a high-quality education without homework because they've never tried, however, it's happening elsewhere in the world, there are models.

If we start from saying that parents have a a right to draw those boundaries, and we already know the kids have a right to an education, and equal education, and we can say there is no fundamental reason there can't be a high-quality program without homework (because it happens elsewhere), the homework and intense academic experience then become a choice.

I don't like the push to water down the program for those who want it. I also don't like the only alternative as a watered down program of the same for everyone else, who really need something that optimizes their own educational experience rather than a compromise from something that optimizes someone else's experience.

My own interest in this is a more hybrid approach to education, where I have the option to take advantage of blended learning opportunities for my child, such as in SJUSD's Homestudy Program.

However, if that is not available, I'm done talking to the hand about too much homework here. But even if they stopped giving any homework tomorrow, the educational program does not provide the optimal education a blended program could. If my child has a right to a public education, and a right to a fair and equal education (i.e., high-quality like everyone else's), and schools don't have a right to give homework unless I give my consent (big if, hence this discussion), then the schools have an incentive to pursue high-quality alternatives to the intense academic experience as the only game in town. The schools then have an incentive (and probably a duty) to offer choices. Luckily, the world has changed, and the choices available have absolutely mushroomed in recent years.


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Posted by Ron Z
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

The Board of Ed is the "law in these parts" on homework limits. Have you talked to them?


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Posted by Crescent Patk Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Of course an alternative is to lane your kid down so that the homework is easy and completed quickly.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm

RonZ,
I called the California Department of Education, and was transferred around, including to curriculum. No one knew.

This really isn't about education so much as autonomy. Who has a right to say what we do with our time after school is out. Should children and families have to put their time and decisions at the disposal of the school all hours of the day and even night in order to get a high quality education?

Should the only choice be to either give over all autonomy during the school year, or accept a less challenging academic program? What if someone doesn't want to reduce the intellectual challenge or acceleration of material, they just want the program to be structured so they don't have homework?


Crescent Park Dad,
My kid is in middle school and frankly the only thing that has never been a problem is the advanced math homework. This is not about easy versus hard, but my right to establish healthy boundaries between school and home. There was a time when an ordinary person wouldn't have felt the power in society to even imagine such a thing, but the world has changed.

A lot of people do homeschool their kids who need MORE advanced work because the schools simply don't provide it, and one of the common themes is that they have far more time, and they are able to do far more advanced work in a more relaxed way, because they aren't in school and don't have homework. But what if someone doesn't want to or can't homeschool? If there is no legal basis for homework, if, in order to get a public education you have to sacrifice your life all hours of the day and that violates the 4th amendment, then that person would have a right to a high-quality program that doesn't require burdensome homework. Again, there is evidence that such things already exist elsewhere. The issue is not whether it's possible, but whether people have a right. And whether they want a demanding or non-demanding curriculum, whether they are able to set such boundaries.

It all goes back to the legal basis for the school's ability to give homework, i.e., decide how your family and your child spend their time when school is out in order to get an equal education. I think it's at least worth as much thought as whether kids should have to recite the pledge of allegiance...


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Posted by homework is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Just adding my personal experience with homework at college.

My undergrad engineering department had no graded homework at all in technical courses. The final grade was determined by one or two mid-terms and a final exam. Some courses had lab reports or projects, but these were a small part of the grade. My personality is such that I completely ignored the class until one or two days before the mid-term or final exam. I would then cram in all the material and most of the home work over those two days. While I did fine GPA wise, I found that I retained little after the exams were over.

Surprisingly the graduate engineering program I attended had homework. In fact some courses had the entire grade based on homework. I would spend hours and sometimes days on a single problem set. It was not busy work, it was just very difficult. That was two decades ago and to this day I still remember the material and can make use of it at work.

So I think that homework is good. It should not be boring busy work, but it should make students think very hard about the subject. It should enable them to extend the subject and apply it to other areas.

BTW, it is ridiculous to be searching for a "legal basis" for homework. Just man-up and do it or drop down to a lower lane. There are lots of times in the real world where you have to do a whole pile of grunt work. It is good practise.




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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 23, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Again to ALL posters!! "Laning down" does NOT result in "homework that is easy and completed quickly" as Crescent Park dad stated. Homework is TOTALLY dependent on the teacher. A lower lane 9th grade English class can have as much homework as an honors level 11th grade class. And homework is too often just busy work - otherwise why is the AP French teacher having the kids bake French food and make a video of a play? Why do Spanish teachers ask kids to make posters about themselves in 9th grade.

The original poster point is why do schools feel they have any legal right to control our kids time outside of school hours? Especially since much of that time is used to make up for the lack of teaching in the classroom.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm

homework is good,

Thanks for sharing your experience, but you really should read the original post and subsequent exchange before posting. I was specifically trying to keep this a discussion of the legal basis for homework, not the value of homework (which I think people should be able to choose as a part of their program), because homework allows secondary schools unrestrained discretion over how children and families control their time after school is over. The issue is autonomy, not education.

Your experience in college isn't really relevant to this discussion because college is a choice, the load you take is a choice, and college classes generally take up less of the day. Attending K-12 is not a choice. As I said above, I went to MIT, I personally preferred and see the value of that intense academic experience for some people. In the case of my child, it happens to be impeding the ability to do much higher level work, have a social life, etc. It's not about lower or higher lanes, as I just said, the higher laned math class is the only class where homework isn't a problem, and frankly my child would like to do math outside of school to make better use of the time and accelerate the program. You may not have been intrinsically motivated to learn without requiring that structure, but some people are, in fact the structure gets in the way and is burdensome.

If you want a program that has intense homework, it should be a choice. Because it's clearly not necessary to have that kind of experience to get a good education for some kinds of learners. It's about choice. If homework indeed has no solid legal basis, schools then have to care about making choices that work for all learners. We do that already in this district through 6th grade and then stop. So it's not like we don't see that it's possible, either.

Arguing over the value of homework is a different discussion than the legal basis for it. And the situation in secondary school is quite different than college, especially since you have choices in college and college itself is a choice.

Man-up and drop down to a lower lane? You don't seem to have heard about all the families of gifted kids who leave school so their kids can do advanced work with their time rather than busywork homework, and moving from one class to another all day with its built-in transition time cost. You may feel anyone who doesn't want to do that should leave school, but the fact is, those kids all have a right to a public education like everyone else. If there is no legal basis for homework, it's the beginning of a conversation that includes them and gives them the rights everyone else enjoys. I'm not against the intense academic experience, I was good at it myself, but that's not for everyone, and the alternative isn't just a less intense academic experience. I see how it is actually destroying autonomy and self-motivated learning in my child, and studies back that up (see above) -- I don't think that's what an education should be about.

But I'm repeating myself. Anyone who wants to join the discussion, Welcome! but please do the courtesy of reading what the thread is about and the posts before commenting. Thanks.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Thanks paly parent!


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Posted by homework is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Parent,

You touched upon a pet peeve of mine. I have worked with hundreds of engineers, many from top graduate engineering schools: MIT, CalTech, Berkeley, etc. I have only met two that I would say were gifted. I think the term gifted is over-used. If you pick the top graduate programs in STEM fields you might find that of that already small group of people, 1 in a 100, to 1 in a 1000 is gifted. Everyone else has ordinary skills and produce good results through a lot of hard work and perseverance. So I would tend to doubt there are a lot of gifted kids that are too good to do busy work. I will eat my words if each of these kids that you refer to can score a gold medal on the IMO.

For someone like me homework is an essential component of education. If you were to make homework optional I would not do it and still get an A+ in the course. But I would learn far less than if I had done good problem sets. And I would retain far more too.


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Posted by Watched it since Sputnik
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 23, 2014 at 8:53 pm

It's an eternal cycle. A movement coalesces around the notion that the schools today aren't up to the standards of that age of excellence when the movement's members were in school, and it must be because the schools today give less(more) homework than they did "in our day," so raise(lower) the homework load now. A generation later the cycle reverses, a generation later the cycle reverses, ...


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm

homework,
You seem to be arguing against yourself there, I was bringing up MIT because it's a place where you work constantly. So you are saying homework in college is bad after all? I was bringing up gifted homeschoolers. Kids in K-12, when school is mandatory, i.e., the state legally can tell you what to do with at least some of your day. But does this mean they have a right to tell you what to do with all of it? It seems to me families have a standing to say that violates the 4th amendment.

It's really hard to have a conversation with you when you are looking for something to diss and don't even read the comments or the topic. This isn't about your opinions on whether homework is good or bad. This is not an educational issue. It's a boundaries issue.

You may feel all kinds of dismissive and terrible things about all families who want to have control of their time in the smaller part of the day after school, but how you feel about them is irrelevant to whether it is legal for the state to control all of their time in the day. If, like in Canada, families are able to draw those boundaries through the courts, they don't have to care what you or anyone else thinks about them or what they do with their time when the school day is done. Homework will then be a choice, and schools will have to figure out how to provide an equal education to those who choose not to have it.

I read that only single-digit numbers of those who apply to Stanford get in but three or four times that rate of homeschool applicants are admitted. The difference is usually that kids who homeschool have time to do really extraordinary things with all that extra time they have not being told what to do from sun up to sun down.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 24, 2014 at 12:07 am

Sputnik,

I can definitely agree that there have been cycles, speaking as one who did the "New Math." Mostly in my case, I wished I had more homework. But then, homework was really the only game in town if you didn't live near a library, and even then... Times have really changed. Now I can make movies with my pocket computer unimaginably more powerful than anything on earth when Sputnik was launched, that I can share with millions of people the next day at no cost. I can learn how to code in virtually any available language without having to go to school.

Please read the thread. I think homework should be available for those who want that kind of program. I think those who wish it should be able to take advantage of new opportunities. When it necessitates the exchange of personal autonomy for the entire day rather than the school day, it should be a choice.

I think the world is actually very different now than it has ever been, and given the opportunities kids doing homework are giving up for lack of time, it's probably an overdue conversation.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

Whether or not there is a legal basis for homework, there are plenty of students who don't turn it in. The Teacher has no legal requirement to give those students good marks either. So don't do the homework and ace the tests, then argue for a better grade. Teachers using tell the students up front what percentage of their grade is based on homework.


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Posted by homework is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2014 at 11:19 am

Teachers could have two grading schemes for each class with different weights for homework, tests, and finals. The student could choose.

Scheme 1) 30% homework, 30% tests and 40% final exam with everything graded on a curve.

Scheme 2) 100% final exam with no curve.

Then your kid could just choose scheme 2 for every course. Problem solved. No litigation before the Supreme Court required.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm

@Homeworkisgood proposes choices: hw or no hw.

While I think choice is good, I suspect the choice should be on a class basis, not individual.

Certainly how a teacher structures a lesson and allocates to me in class would change drastically if the were teaching a no-homework section. Reference the posters above who cited a math teacher with no hw. It is a very different classroom experience.

If such a choice was tKen on an individual level, the kid who chooses no hw in a hw-centric class would suffer. Just as a kid who chooses hw in a no-hw -centric class.

The teaching practices matter. A lot.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 24, 2014 at 5:06 pm

... And of course the legal right question still exists: does my kid have any rights to get a no-hw section?

I suspect you have no rights as currently practiced, although a judge could decide otherwise...

One sample is the accommodations given IEP and 504 case tend to stretch the boundaries. Here for example it is nearly impossible to negotiate something as benign as written hw assignments from teachers. Sometimes you can negotiate for late grace. But generally treading near homework is viewed as a direct intrusion on the teachers job.

Good luck getting no- homework sections. You are kicking out the third leg of the stool of education...


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Homework probably is illegal when it extends the school day beyond the maximum number of minutes set as "full time education" by the governing board of a school district.

In California compulsory education is mandated by statute, Cal. Ed. Code Section 48200, which provides, in pertinent part:

"Each person between the ages of 6 and 18 years . . .is subject to compulsory full-time education. Each
person subject to compulsory full-time education . . . shall attend
the public full-time day school or continuation school or classes and
for the full time designated as the length of the schoolday by the
governing board of the school district in which the residency of
either the parent or legal guardian is located and each parent,
guardian, or other person having control or charge of the pupil shall
send the pupil to the public full-time day school or continuation
school or classes and for the full time designated as the length of
the schoolday by the governing board of the school district in which
the residence of either the parent or legal guardian is located."

I believe that under the plain language of this statute, there is no legal authority for extending the school day beyond the "full time" number of minutes that are provided for by the school board. Parents cannot be required legally to "send" their child to school for an extended day. It stands to reason that a serious grade penalty is a form of coercion that is forcing parents to "send" their child to school for more than that number of minutes. The school day has been effectively extended far beyond "full time" outside the authority of state law.

This violation of law is even more problematic in that it has a severe disparate impact on minority children, English Language Learners, disabled students, and other protected classes -- to say nothing of poor children. When the school day is extended, then students who have parents who can either assist or pay for teachers to assist (tutors) as do more than half of PAUSD families, according to survey data -- are better able to participate in the school day.

Do a thought experiment. What if the day was extended at school instead of at home, that is, it was conducted in the school building. What if teachers simply announced that the school day is now extended to 6:00pm. No one can go home until their homework is finished. But no teachers will be available to assist. Parents can come to the building and help, or they can pay a tutor to come to the school and assist their own child. But no teacher or school resources will be supplied for it. No one can leave until the work is done, no matter how many minutes it takes. Snacks can be brought by parents for their own child as they work.

Poor children and those without a parent to bring them a snack or help with the work or send a tutor have to stay and struggle on or just simply give up and get left behind academically.

This is not only not lawful under the compulsory education law because it extends the school day, it discriminates against certain groups systematically.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 24, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Sorting Hat and Legal Eagle,
Thank you for the excellent points and information. Great thoughts. Though, in our house, it seems the school day goes to midnight and beyond and often starts again t breakfast time.


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Posted by TheSirtingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 24, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I spoke to the school board on the exact issue that legal Eagle raised when the Homework policy was being considered. A large number of our kids are "working" 50-hour weeks; some up to 60hrs. It is inhumane; and were this private industry it goes well beyond child labor law limits.

Our own 8th grade experience included many nights til midnight, and most other nights to 10pm+Sleep deprivation sets in and motivation for learning plummets.

You can tell your kid to skip the work, but that is not the perseverance message you really want them to learn.

And to the inevitable (but wrong) claim that you can "shift down a lane". Well, no you can't . It's middle school. There are no AP's so that's not a valid argument.

One insight on homework time: it seems to be directly proportional to the self teaching needed. Classes which are taught well often finished homework pretty fast., because the material is just practice and review.

When our kid just stares at the homework for hours making little progress, that is where we discover the HW contains material not covered in class.

If time and the "right" to our time is the issue, then forcing self-learning of unfamiliar material onto students is one core issue. Kids are being graded on their ability to survive untaught material - which is why families resort to tutors for survival. It's not fair to the poorer kids, as it leaves teachers with an inflated view of their teaching skills, and thereby moves expectations too high.

On a happier note : Merry Christmas all, and God Bless the work-free break for our High Schoolers


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 4:53 am

Sorting Hat,
Thank you for your wishes. I wish you and everyone a Happy New Year, too!

You make such great points. What is the purpose if education? To sort out winners and losers? A rogorous program would then presumably have more losers. In an area with so many talented children, this is an affront - and is going to cause stress.

If, instead, the goal is to optimize everyone's education, shouldn't the availability of self-paced mastery be more important?

What then is the purpose if a grade? Is it to create winners and losers, or to demonstrate mastery and give the learner satisfaction at mastery and show real accomplishment?

And where does the love of learning fit in all of this? Most of what people learn in high school and college is eventually forgotten, but learning how to kearn, and most importantly, to love learning and to know how to apply what one learns is essential for later life.

Regardless, as a human being, I should be able to expect an end to the mandatory school day, not have it control every aspect of life in order to access my right to an education. If we make available more opportunities for kids to explore and learn and accomplish other things in those after hours if they wish - or hold an after school job or just play with their friends - many will take advantage of opportunities and their lives will be richer, but it should be up to them how they dontrol their time. This gives them practice at autonomy, too.

Question for Legal Eagle: What next? If a parent wants to set such a boundary, how do you start? Presumably, you don't start with a case in front of the Supreme Court or even a federal case. Can you wage a case just in a local court that others could emulate, or is the issue for sure something that would play out? Or is there a reasonable remedy to enfirce 4th amendments rights, set better boundaries administratively and without going to court? It doesnt seem like this issue has ever been remotely decided on Constitutional grounds, so it seems not. But where would one start and what scenarios? If I wanted to do what the Canadian family did, basically get the right to have no homework, or even to have more control of my whole day including school hours - even if it meant attending school fewer hours and having the choice to access blended learning (especially if it cost less) - where would one start, legally?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 4:59 am

Whoops,
That could be taken the wrong way...

When I say, I should be able to expect an end to the mandatory school day, I of course meant I should be able to have some part of the day that I have discretion over - I didn't mean an end to mandatory schooling. I do think the rules for mandatory schooling, in this new age, should focus on the ostensible outcome, rather than the face time. It seems to me if we here don't dramatically change the way we handle education, we are at least not really adopting Common Core...


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2014 at 8:17 am

The school board is legally required to set the hours of mandatory schooling. They can set them how they like but they have to set them. Homework is a way of increasing the mandatory schooling hours without having to take the political heat for it and without even having to know what they are. That's illegal behavior by the school board for failing to set the hours. If parents call a homework strike and their children are penalized, then parents can sue to challenge the grade penalties as an illegal act based on an extended school day not authorized by law. In the alternative parents could file for a declaratory judgment that children cannot be required to perform work beyond that authorized by law and an injunction to prevent grading penalty. Arguably the homework policy could be interpreted to set some limits but it is not specified as hours of mandatory instruction and it leaves populations out such as honors classes. AP classes have contracts so they would be excluded.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2014 at 9:30 am

MIT/JLS Parent,

A student who is doing just a little or no homework at all can still attend classes and will graduate from high school, so it is hard to see how any personal rights are infringed upon just because teachers give more credit to students who do more work.

The lower grades that might result from your child not doing 100% of the homework in middle school have no impact on their high school careers. While the grades are looked at for 9th grade class placement recommendations, ultimately the student and parent decide which level of class is most appropriate. At that, only a few freshmen classes are leveled.

As for high school, my recollection is that homework only counts for 10% of the class grade max. So if your child opts to only do 1/2 the homework assigned and does well on the exams without it, he/she will get solid As.

The problem you are trying to solve is that you want to free up time for your child to do an independent project outside of school. For students who have this drive, can focus and work independently, and prefer a different balance than that provided in a typical school day, there are alternative paths already set up while, as explained above, keeping a strong GPA:

- A high schooler can fill 7 periods a day with classes but, unlike middle school, he/she only needs to take 5 or 6 periods a day to graduate. To free time for outside projects, don't take seven classes each year.

- Take the regular level class. Rogue teachers who assign too much work in the regular level classes now have the new homework policy to contend with so approach the teacher, meet with the IS, and appeal to the principal if necessary to bring that classwork in line with the new policy.

- Enroll in blended classes - several are offered - that require less in-class time and so many net less time overall than the same class that meets each day. Web Link

- Enroll in classes that let students work on their own projects for class credit like Paly's Science Research class and the Social Justice Pathway.

- Have your teen take some or all 11th and 12th grade classes at Foothill College instead where I presume some classes do not give credit for homework. Web Link

- Do independent study.

Not your child perhaps but many students are content with the current pacing of their classes and benefit from homework - developing good work habits and learning from the reinforcement of concepts that it provides.

Look at the high school offerings and alternatives as a varied menu to choose from, mindful of your child's unique needs, instead of toiling to find the elusive one solution that will fit all.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2014 at 9:36 am

You could also file a UCP complaint anonymously asserting that the district is violating state law by extending the hours of mandatory schooling without a board action. You would assert that various punitive homework policies such as counting homework for a large percentage of the grade and assigning work not taught in class or refusing to accept late work means that it is compulsory. Document the minutes spent. Put together a documented case that the work is mandatory and that penalties attach for failure to complete it. This would be available in about 10000 syllabi of teachers. The inconsistency from teacher to teacher also helps because it shows that there is no limit to the hours of compulsory schooling in Palo Alto beyond the caprice of each teacher. Then when the ucp complaint is summarily denied by Charles Young you can appeal it to CDE. Meanwhile look for a lawyer who wants to go to state court pro bono for declaratory relief and do media around both. Start an org called something like Parents united for Sane Homework (PUSH). Those steps should push the issue onto the political agenda of the super and board. Good luck.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

The district could try to defend the suit by arguing that the statute in question prescribes truancy penalties such as SARB boards and no one is considered truant for failure to do homewoek. However there are other penalties for failing to attend school beyond SARB such as unexcused work penalties. These same penalties apply to homework. Moreover one needs a similar work excuse from homework as with missed school days. It would i gives ultimately be very difficult if not possible to argue that homework is not compelled. Penalties attach, and students are affected academically by those penalties. Students can testify about their feelings of compulsion. It will not be difficult to prove and long before that point is reached the board will forced to act, as with Maybell. The fact is that if you could have a ballot initiative on a school issue like this you could win in a walk. That makes it harder and requires greater reliance on the courts. Nevertheless I believe that that time is ripe for a robust challenge to unlimited homework.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2014 at 10:49 am

Legal Eagle,

Homework does not interfere with a student's right to an education in that a student not doing it will still be enrolled, will still graduate, and will not fail the class.

You assert homework is "extending the hours of mandatory schooling" but no one, including you, has been able to point to a state law setting the MAXIMUM hours of education schools can provide so EXACTLY what law would someone cite that has been or is about to be violated that is grounds for declaratory relief?

And just to get an initiative on the ballot as you suggest, you need years, 500,000 plus signatures, and $1.5 million or more. For it to win, you need 51% of the voters to approve an issue that will be contested by the unions, education researchers, parents and students who see value in homework, etc.


None of the already available paths to less school and less homework outlined in my post require the district office or lawyers' involvement, all are free, and all take days, not years, to resolve.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 10:51 am

Wow, Leagle Eagle and This is Why, thank you each for your information and points.

Unfortunately, This us Why, many of your points don't really help, especially since none are offered for middle school. What you say, searching for options to optimize each child's education, is precisely the point. The lack of such options is why what we have is not working for many kids.

The schools don't follow the homework policy, don't fix it when you complain (in fact, hold letting them know against you), and simply refusing to do the homework will mean a child won't pass, especially if they aren't perfect on all tests, even if they mostly get 100s and get the material. It's impossible to control the outcome as easily as you seem to think. Getting only partial credit on making a cartoon about an element dropped my kid's science grade from an A to a B, and some other homework another letter grade, despite mostly excellent test scores and excellent understanding of the material. The homework was probably overcoming a single bad day on a test, but rather than making it necessary for my kid to give over discretion for our entire lives after school in exchange for not failing the class for choosing not to do homework at all, wouldn't a better measure of understanding be healthier? Kids got extra credit for school science fair which my kid ironically had no time to even think about because of all the homework, even more ironically because of being accepted to do a poster about previous extracurricular science work at an adult conference, something necessary to wait for the holidays to work on because there is no time during school. I know someone is going to argue those specifics with me, but that's really not the point at all.

The point is that my kid has a bevy of details to tend to everyday after school, that take up every hour before bed and often extend bedtime, details that often dont improve on the education, but sometimes are essential to it - there is no way to easily control just saying we'll just punt homework and ensure my kid has the same education as everyone else and not even fail to move on to the next grade. You yourself have admitted it will impair class placement, This is Why. And my kid is not going to even have the benefit of using the grade, such as it is, to know where to work harder to learn the material. My kid complains of being bored in science and math and wanting to move faster in class. Nowhere in those options is a possibility in which my kid can choose a more demanding but more individualized course of study that fits within the schoolday. Such a possibility exists, our district just doesn't allow for it, because the district prioritizes the status quo and facetime over individualizing the education, and the district assumes it has the right to give homework, which translates into an assumption that the district's discretion over our time after school takes priority over ours. Legal Eagle is right, they illegally extend the school day. If people want to extend the school day, it should be a choice, such as for APs.

Your post seems full of such promise, yet in practice, doesn't provide the ability to set the boundaries that are the point of this thread. This exchange is emblematic of exactly why I have come to the end of my rope and want to set boundaries: a huge disconnect between what the school thinks is happening or thinks is possible, and what is actually happening. So, why should they have say over what we are supposed to do with our time when we leave school in order for my child to get a high quality education equal to everyone else's? I am exactly looking for what you say: The ability to choose, to do independent study, the ability to choose blended learning and compress the school day. It doesn't really work out that way in high school, and none of those options is available at all in middle school.



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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

At some point, my understanding is that this is a 4th amendment issue, *especially* if the schools don't set a maximum on the school day. I think Legal Eagle was bringing up Maybell because the disconnect between the parties is reminiscent, not because a ballot initiative of any kind could be involved. In fact, something someone said above totally reminded me of Maybell, when Larry Klein said something like, well I don't think that will be enough to go to referendum over. He really didn't get it. Someone said something almost exactly like that above, and I thought the same thing. Our district office has historically discouraged fruitful communication with most families when there are tough issues, if anything the disconnect is greater than happened at Maybell, and even with McGee's arrival, many of the same players in the district continue the disconnect.

Thank you so much for your helpful input, Legal Eagle, but I am still having some difficulty being clear on the starting actions and the later legal basis. I thought UCP couldn't be used for instructional issues - are you sure they won't just kick it back for that reason?


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

JLS Parent,

Some of the options outlined are available to middle school students like independent study and potentially accepting a lower grade which has zero affect on educational opportunities.

When you say "simply refusing to do the homework will mean a child won't pass," do you mean that homework accounts for 31% or more of a student's grade so if he doesn't do any homework the highest grade he can get at JLS is a D?

If so, I'd think it would be far easier to get the board to say that homework can only account for 10% or so of a grade than constitutionally challenge or bring a lawsuit limiting or banning homework.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

I don't think the 4th amendment is relevant so forget that.

The UCP is for any violation of state law. You are alleging a violation of state law which is compulsory education beyond the minutes designated by the board. Complain about the reduction in grades etc as specified above. You can file anonymously.

After the district rules against a ucp you can appeal to cde. This is more a publicity move intended to get the attention of the super and board.

Legally find a lawyer and file a complaint in state court for declaratory and injunctive relief from a violation of state law or wait until your child is penalized for not doing homework and then sue in state court for relief.

Perhaps Edmund Burke will return and explain more.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2014 at 12:28 pm

@why, I mention initiatives in the sense that it is a shame you cannot do a local initiate on school issues as you can on city issues because I believe homework limits would pass easily. But there is a CA SCt precedent that such initiatives are not available (based on a Palo Alto effort to prevent the closure of Cubberley and the sale of so many school properties). That is a very unfortunate decision.

In terms of whether homework is or is not compulsory that is a fact question and is precisely what would be at stake in a trial of this issue. I think there is plenty of evidence that it is and I think most reasonable people would agree.

With respect to your question about the law, the maximum number of instruction minutes is the hours of schooling set by the governing board. The governing board must establish the times. It can set it presumably at 15 hours per day for high school but it has to set it and that is a public and political process.

The reason the hours of schooling are up the the governing board are incidentally not good ones, having to do with child labor and particularly child farm labor. But that is a lesson for another day.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

This is why,

Independent study is not available to middle school students except in a very limited way, not because it isn't possible under the rules, but because our district does not allow it. You certainly cannot choose it as an option. If you disagree, I welcome some specifics because I would love to be proven wrong, but I have evidence the administration and schools neither allow it nor do they consider any kind of independent study other than what has been traditionally offered.

The only independent study they allow for middle schoolers is for people to essentially take the schoolwork of an existing class at home if someone is sick or on travel. I have heard blistering critiques of the implementations of this from parents, and not a one happy with how it is handled. There is no option to choose independent study to take advantage of outside/blended opportunities, shorten the school day, and put boundaries on the reach of school into people's lives. Your suggestions still do not address the fundamental issue, which is that the school district does not feel it has to honor boundaries so families have discretion over their time. You yourself expressed a belief that there was no maximum time for the school day.

I have seen my child's total grade drop to an F for failing to turn in a homework assignment, yes. For you to claim that simply not doing the homework would still allow for an equal education just a lower but passing grade is not realistic. It's not true, but even If it were, if the school were to claim such in a debate over the legality of homework, they would be admitting homework was not important and thus why assign it at all?

Either the homework is important and has some justification, or it is not, and shouldn't be assigned. If the former, it should be bounded by the school day without any assumption that the child's and family's time must be available to the school program in order for children to get an equal education, unless the child/family CHOOSES it. If such a boundary were legally enforced, schools would have to start thinking about how to provide choices for families with different types of learners, choices already acknowledged and available in our own district through 6th grade but effectively no later.

Legal Eagle,
I can see why the 4th amendment wouldn't be the way to start, but why wouldn't the 4th amendment ultimately be relevant? It's very likely the appeal would get nowhere, as the educational structure is unlikely to take such a challenge quietly. The basic issue is about whether the state has a right to control a child's (and by extension, a family's) time without any boundaries during school days in order for children to get an equal education, and if it were to go up the legal food chain, I would think that would be the basis for a "federal case". What if the state DOE says no, as it likely will?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

This is why,
In addition to the issue of equal education -- if the school thinks homework is necessary for the education, then it would be wrong for the school to force kids to make the choice between losing out on the same education as others and suffering academically rather than just structuring the education so it can be achieved during the school day, clearly doable -- there are other aspects to discrimination and providing equality.

Grades exist for a reason, and a child who has accept that they cannot use their grades for those reasons if they opt out of homework is not getting an equal education - whether the reason for the grades is for academic opportunities in and outside school (did you realize there are extracurriculars that require kids to maintain a certain GPA?) or to assess their own educational deficits, or even for many kids to just know and feel they are succeeding, not all kids can just brush off bad grades like they don't matter. Not all kids can even brush off the alienation they would feel simply by having to be so different in order to participate in a class. And you seem to be assuming any child who would make such a choice would only deserve it if they were perfect in every other way, such as perfect on test scores, in order to "deserve" to have their lives be their own when the school day is out while not suffering severe consequences for making that choice.

Again, if it's so easy to just skip the homework and get an equivalent education, why is the homework assigned at all?

I think for a district so concerned with its image, going to court over something like this would be a disaster no matter what angle they choose. We have in the past been willing to solve problems of differences in learning styles by creating choices, and that would solve this problem if it were extended into middle and high school, it could even be used as an opportunity to innovate in a very new educational landscape because of blended learning opportunities. Unfortunately, that disconnect I mentioned is very real, and despite changes at the top, communication is still pretty broken in this district.

The fundamental issue that spurred my post comes down to respect (that doesn't exist in the district office) -- respect in actions, thoughts, and in statute -- of schools for the personal lives and time of the children and families they serve. In any relationship, setting boundaries is fundamentally about respect. It seems in our district, we win if we even get the administration to acknowledge such boundaries should even exist and are important to the wellbeing of the children and families they serve. I doubt anyone would be able to establish those boundaries through rational discussion, anymore than you can get the schools to live by the homework policies if they are breaking them, no matter what you do -- the district will have to be forced.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 9:20 am

JLS Parent,

It seems counter intuitive that a child who understands the material intuitively needs to do homework to prove it. There are lots of solid reasons for homework other than learning the material though, available with a Google search and outlined in detail in the JLS handbook.

When things don’t work well for a student, it is frustrating as your posts demonstrate. But bringing a legal claim very well could just end up supporting the status quo while making it tons worse for you in the stress and strain bringing a lawsuit carries with it.

So that leaves working within the system.

You said “the ability to choose, to do independent study, the ability to choose blended learning and compress the school day...doesn't really work out that way in high school.” Check out the well-researched Verde articles that describe some of these paths that students are on and google the others listed in my earlier post. These are real programs that real Palo Alto students are taking real time.

Independent study is an option students use including pre-professional athletes whose practice hours don’t jive with school hours. I can see how the school might reject an argument for different teaching methods as a grounds for IS but I thought you said your child wanted relief from the demands of the regular school day because he/she needs flexibility to work on an important, independent, time-consuming project, akin to the demands placed on athletes. If you can interest a teacher in being the IS mentor for the class opted out of, push for that.

If it is as you say – that partial credit on one science homework question resulted in a failing grade and “my child's total grade drop[ped] to an F for failing to turn in a homework assignment” then your child may be struggling on tests, labs, and/or classroom participation too. Has your child met with the science teacher to “know where to work harder”? Perhaps the teacher will be able to help your child nail the homework, solving your problem by freeing up time at home or in class for extensions and maybe even being his/her independent study mentor.

Your beef is with policies that are not being followed for your child too. Have you tried the principal? The Superintendent? The School Board? If so, have you followed up or offered ways they haven't thought of that might help?

Many families find this a very helpful way to navigate: think of the school as offering opportunities to learn and the student and family exercising discretion, setting expectations, and establishing boundaries to strike the right balance for each of their kids.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

This is why,

You seem to suggest that parents can advocate for special arrangements at each school and you have had some success in having an athlete opt out of a course with IS approval? It would help to know what exactly you keep referring to.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 9:45 am

We are once again returning to the topic of what is education? If we say that education is learning an academic subject to a standard whereby a student understands and can show they have mastered the curriculum we are really looking at an exam based education to demonstrate mastery.

Alternatively, if we say that education is taking a class, playing the nuances of an individual teacher when it comes to things like classroom participation and doing homework and perhaps learning something in the process, we are really talking about a life lesson that has very little to do with the subject involved. If a good grade in such class is because homework is completed by someone (anyone) and turned in on time by the student, the student attends classes, raises their hand, asks a few questions and perhaps parrots a few answers, and then manages to do some tests, quizzes and exams to the extent that when the final comes along there is almost nothing that can be done to alter the grade already in place, then my opinion is that playing the game by the rules is much more important than learning and understanding the subject to a required standard.

So my question again, what is education?

If we really want to know if the student has actually been educated in the subject being taught, shouldn't the final exam be the deciding factor and be able to lift a poor grade into an A?

If, for example, a person learning to drive improves through the learning process to the extent that when it comes to a behind the wheel drivers test, they manage to perfectly demonstrate they have mastered the art of driving so that they can be awarded a license regardless of how many times they have made a few minor mistakes in the learning process. Shouldn't that show that a few poor homework assignments hasn't made a big difference to whether or not the student has mastered the subject matter by the end of the class when a final exam shows that mastery of the subject has taken place?

We really need to teach material to our students rather than expect them to play a game with rather uncertain rules in the hopes that they manage to "build a few houses and perhaps some hotels to enable them to win Monopoly?" The final exam, in my opinion, should carry enough weight to enable a turnround for an overall grade.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 9:52 am

JLS Parent,

Consider this piece of Legal Eagle’s suggestions: “do media” and “a publicity move." Does your child want to be the internet's poster child for this?

If your child is game, note that nothing cited yet proves there is:
- An upper limit on the length of a school day.
- A rule requiring school boards to set that upper limit.
- A law that forces a student to do assigned homework and establishes a right for a student who does not do all of the assigned work to a specific grade.

Intriguing is your assumption that each student is entitled to “a high quality education equal to everyone else's” which you suggest means no credit should be given for homework to any student if one student decides he does not want to do it. Consider that what students are entitled to are equal “opportunities” for a high quality education rather than all learning the exact same thing and nothing more.

Legal Eagle claims that homework is discriminatory because some fraction of the student body has parents who are scientists, English majors, or engineers who talk to their kids over dinner about what they learned that day and add to it or, like you, who support extracurricular academic interests for their child alone. That means that your child's independent project would be illegal because the access to additional learning that comes from it will help in school and are not available to others.

The solution is not to rigidly cap learning opportunities but for schools to provide support for those who need it like JLS does in Homework Habitat.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 10:40 am

This is why,

This discussion should be based on the presumption that students have been going to school.

What are you entitled to gain for sitting in a classroom?

What more do you need to do to succeed in the classroom?

I think it's a great idea to cap the school day at some level, and that would force more discipline into what happens during the school day.



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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

This is Why,

Your suggestion that kids and families who do feel excessive homework is an intrusion and an extending of the school day into all hours of what should be the rest of their lives after school merely stop doing it as the answer is faulty.

First, I looked at the grading after we spoke, and the majority of my child's class grades are heavily based on homework, in fact, in a few there are hardly any test grades at all. A child who chooses not to do the homework is likely to fail and not advance, and this would deprive them of their education.

Secondly, if homework is an important part of the education, then expecting any child who wants an education but who feels hours and hours of homework is an overreach into the rest of their lives to simply not do the homework is depriving them of their Constitutionally Guaranteed public education.

If homework is not an important part of the education, then it should not be assigned, because it is usurping people's daily lives for no important reason.

Lastly, you have provided no compelling evidence that homework is even necessary to provide a high-quality education, and much has been written now about how homework is unnecessary or even harmful. I have provided a link above to recent research showing that kids whose time is overstructured from things like homework have more difficulty completing tasks they set for themselves, i.e., being autonomous, which violates the goals of Common Core at the very least.

You have not answered the question: is homework an important part of the education, or is it not?

*

It's not an assumption that every student is entitled to an equal education, it is the law, a Constitutionally guaranteed right. Every child in California is guaranteed an education, and as I think we can both agree the education in Palo Alto is a high quality education, it would be illegal to discriminate against some children and provide them lesser education and lesser educational opportunities simply because they want to have a few hours of their own in 24 that getting that education does not control.

I have not suggested that access to more opportunities, choices, is discriminatory, in fact, Legal Eagle and I have suggested this is how homework should be handled: for those who wish to have a very highly controlled demanding/heavy homework program, they should be able to choose that, but a different high quality education can and should be available to those who wish to have a private life. We do this through 6th grade, why not continue it through high school? The solution is choices that allow everyone opportunities to get an education, not forced choices that make some kids have to choose between their lives and getting an education as you suggest.

The California State Constitution guarantees a public education in California as a right fully guaranteed and protected by the California Constitution.

According to the state Attorney General's office, "Recognizing the central role that education plays in our society, the California Legislature has enacted numerous laws designed to promote equality in educational opportunities and to safeguard students against discriminatory practices in public schools providing educational services." and "The legislative prohibitions against discrimination in education cover all aspects of the educational process, including teaching, course materials, financing, extracurricular activities and other matters. "

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by It's a problem
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 27, 2014 at 11:52 am

"Why" seems to say that we don't have a problem; that there currently are opportunities, options and approaches embedded in the schools and the district that fully and legally accommodate all students; that the schools currently meet their burden to provide an appropriate education to all students, without disadvantage to designated minorities.

But not only is this not the case; that is, not only is there a problem with too much homework, and unfair distribution of homework, and bad homework, but this problem is getting worse.

Many students find that to do well in school, which is to say to properly document that they are learning the material taught, they must use most of their outside-of-school time on school. This is, of course, in addition to seven hours of school-controlled time.

Beyond this, the teachers at Paly depend on external teaching to keep their classes moving at the pace they move.

Homework is used to sort, as much as to teach. For the most part, tests also are used to sort, rather than teach, but that is accepted by the local population.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

It's a Problem - Very well said - I agree, and I'm hearing the same, from parents in surrounding communities as well, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, etc, in addition to Palo Alto and Los Altos.

The question is, what can we do about it? I know we have already tried the direct route of just asking the schools to respect the homework policies and even to allow us to do some independent study in the classes with the most homework.

I agree that a publicity move like everyone not turning in their homework is probably only going to hurt the kids. I think Legal Eagles suggestion that anyone upset with the homework situation file a UCP complaint is probably more effective, especially if a lot of parents take it upon themselves to do this, since they can be filed anonymously. If more than a certain number are filed, that has to be reported by the district, and that itself will become news, putting the focus appropriately on the district. If parents around Silicon Valley do this, it would be national news. Every district has their own form, but this is PAUSD's Web Link

"A complaint may be filed anonymously."

...so no one's child needs to even be mentioned, especially if every person files a complaint who has problems with the amount of homework, or the way their child's independent study is handled, or even the burden of the schoolwork on family life, or the way schoolwork is busywork for their child, then together they could be very powerful.

It takes work to get people to act as a group, but mostly if everyone who wants change realizes they can't rely on everyone else to do it (then no one complains) and each person files a short, anonymous complaint, this would be big news the new superintendent could not ignore. It's not clear to me whether someone could file multiple complaints?

Here is the link to the UCP form to file complaints:
Web Link

Here's an index page to PAUSD complaint policy links:
Web Link

I see that students themselves, not just parents, may file complaints. What if each student in Save the 2008 filed a complaint form about any excessive homework they experience? About the school day never having an end? About the need for a healthy boundary to respect the end of the school day and denote the start of home time? And what if all of their parents filed complaints, too?

Legal Eagle, do you have any suggestions for how the form should be filled out per your suggestions above? It would help me actually get it done. I think people should probably copy the complaint somewhere to keep the district honest -- would Save the 2008 want to do this, do you think?

Why has a point, I don't see where there is an upper limit on the school day anywhere. But this is why I believe this is ultimately a 4th Amendment issue -- it is an unreasonable intrusion for the state to have discretion in how people spend every minute of their lives, without any maximum length to the school day, without any bounds, in order to get a compulsory public education. If people wish to choose a program that has more homework, and it's not compulsory, they should be able to do so, but no one should have to give over discretion for how they spend their time every day all hours of the day in order to get a good public education.

Many parents see the homework hamster-wheel approach to education for their own children as flawed and deleterious. We are not training worker bees who need to knuckle down and just do what the big company tells them to anymore, we need to foster independence, autonomy, critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity for people who will likely have to change jobs many times in their careers and will benefit from being self-starters. Research shows that kids who spend more time doing structured activities like homework LOSE their autonomy. Especially in this area so known for entrepreneurial spirit, I think a lot of families are searching for a better way for their kids. Barring that, at the very least, they should have the right to some part of their day, some of their time, as their own, in which they have the right to choose what they do and it not cost them their Constitutionally guaranteed education.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 1:24 pm

JLS Parent.

No need to put words in my post that were not intended.

I linked to research supporting homework above but here is some more: "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement was substantial for secondary school students" "Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels.""(Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006).

I said there already are district homework limit policies that you could work to enforce. I said that if the homework was still too onerous, your child should consider just doing part of it, taking an easier level of instruction, talking to the teacher, appealing to the principal or superintendent, opting for independent study if there is a special circumstance, etc.

If homework accounts for an excessive amount of the grade so that one who can't/won't do it fails, I also suggested asking the school board to set a limit on how much of a grade can be based on homework.

I am not a huge defender of homework but I do recommend working within and improving the system as a first often more productive step; starting the discussion with a post that suggests homework is unconstitutional/illegal isn't that.

BTW1 the quote you provided does not say that "every student is entitled to an equal education, it is the law." It says, as I thought, that "the California Legislature has enacted numerous laws designed to promote equality in educational OPPORTUNITIES." It is up to the student to decide which of those opportunities to tap into.

BTW2 Did some sleuthing and this popped up which suggests that the challenge of too much homework is not universal:

91% of JLS 7th graders have no more than 2 hours of homework a night, with over half of JLS 7th graders having 1 hour of homework or less each night.

At 10 minutes a grade, which is what I've read is recommended, it appears to be the right amount for 9 out of 10 students who, given the set 7th grade curriculum, are pretty much taking the same courses save a few electives which can be selected based on homework load for those who want none. So if the student comes home at 4 and does his/her homework in the two hours before dinner, most JLS students have 3 hours each evening to do whatever they want with AND get in a full night's sleep.

Web Link


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Posted by vlllage fool
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

@Paly Parent---

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." - Albert Einstein

not disconnected from:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm

This is Why,

Likewise, I would ask you not to put words into my post that were not intended and not to further twist them into an interpretation I did not make. I would also ask you to at least read where I have countered your points and asked questions, and answer them rather than just restate them as if I said nothing.

I think we have already gone through this: just because you can cite a benefit of homework to test scores
*Does not mean homework is the only way to achieve those improvements,
*Does not mean those same improvements could not be achieved another proven way such as by improving indoor air quality and other aspects of the physical environment Web Link,
*Does not mean those improvements or even that measure of success (test scores) justifies having no clear school-home boundaries,
*Does not even mean that same study would get the same results today all these years later when there are so many more educational opportunities kids miss out on because of homework that didn't exist when that study was done, and
*Does not mean it's legal for the schools to assume they can assign homework with no limits (hence this thread).

If homework is claimed to be a necessary part of a given school program — then first of all, the homework should be given within a legal framework, such as that it does not violate the 14th or 4th Amendments — then you cannot solve the problem of too much homework by discriminating against some students and telling them they have to voluntarily not do that part of the program and suffer the negative consequences built into the program. If homework is beneficial and can be justified as necessary for the education, then telling kids their only option if they don't like it is to get less of an education than everyone else is discriminatory.

I am not disagreeing with what you say about opportunity -- in fact, I, Legal Eagle, and everyone else are saying, for those who do not think they should have to give discretion for how they spend their time after school to the state in order to get an equal education, there should be an equivalent OPPORTUNITY. There should be programs geared to provide an equivalent high-quality education, without burdensome homework, available as a choice AS WE ALREADY PROVIDE THROUGH 6TH GRADE.

Your scenario is not about an optional opportunity, because (if you say the homework in a given class is important) there is no equivalent opportunity for those who do not wish homework, even though one could be made available. Telling those kids their only choice is to not do the homework while not providing a real choice to get the education a different way is discriminating against them. You are NOT offering a choice by telling them the only thing they can do is to stop doing the homework. Those kids then do not have an equal education and suffer negative consequences, and this is discriminating against them.

*
I can only shake my head when you bring up the district's own statistics, from the Skelly administration, from 7th grade, to justify saying the kids don't have too much homework. Even in my own family we have a very different experience of 7th versus even 8th grade homework. You cannot generalize your link to any other grade or even to the present day. Chris Zaharias above brought up a survey that solidly and directly contradicts what you are trying to project from your link for high school kids.

*

I believe in working within and improving the system as a first productive step, too, which I and many others have tried for far too long with no success. The administrators don't hear the problems any better than you seem to, nor the impacts on the child and family. Communication is poor, and they seem to dislike and have an incentive to minimize communications, especially around issues like too much homework. In fact, I received communication from the district recently indicating they prefer to get UCP complaints over personal communication. Which makes sense: If they don't hear about problems in an official way, how are they going to resolve them? Filing UCP complaints IS working within the system.

Even Legal Eagle has suggested starting with UCP complaints, too, so I do not see why you assume anyone is starting with a lawsuit. But it would take a miracle of opposite behavior at 25 Churchill to expect the complaint to be effective unless it is followed through with legal teeth, hence the desire to understand the legal basis.

Your restating your points above doesn't make those wrong assertions anymore doable than the first time you said them: Our district does not allow independent study as a choice the way San Jose Unified School district does for middle schoolers, even though we have basically the same board regulations. (Please read that again.) If you do not believe me, or you have other information, I welcome it and have asked you for specifics, because I have tried, and 25 Churchill said NO. Please provide specifics.

I agree with posters above -- this isn't an administration that works well with families, and barring firing some of those who work actively to thwart working with families and replacing them with a better team, the only way to change things is to force them.

You think the challenge of too much homework is not universal? Did you not learn in school to look for opinions that differ from your own? Try doing a search on the basic question "is there too much homework" and you will see a long list of current articles from CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, Parents.com, Scholastic.com, Stanford University, etc etc with titles like "Are students receiving too much homework?" and "Do Teachers Assign Too Much Homework?" -- questions being asked NATIONALLY. This absolutely is a universal question, not just here, not just in Silicon Valley, but all over the nation.

Because the world has changed. Common Core is a reflection of it. Autonomy, critical thinking skills, creativity -- these will all be essential for success in the future, and too much homework, especially in a traditional old-school (literally) program, works counter to important skills like autonomy.

Here is the link to the UCP complaint form for PAUSD:
Web Link

I'm still hoping to hear from Legal Eagle or even Edmund Burke about the best way to fill them out for anyone who wants to let the administration know their children have too much homework.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm

@why
You are offering a couple of reductio ad absurdums that I want to correct, as well as a factual question that I will answer since Parent JLS also asks.

You write:
"Legal Eagle claims that homework is discriminatory because some fraction of the student body has parents who are scientists, English majors, or engineers who talk to their kids over dinner about what they learned that day and add to it or, like you, who support extracurricular academic interests for their child alone. That means that your child's independent project would be illegal because the access to additional learning that comes from it will help in school and are not available to others."

In fact, I did not write that. I stated (correctly) that the assignment of homework has a disparate impact on those students who lack the resources through parents or tutors to complete it, who are behind, who are ELL, or have IEPs or are otherwise disabled. This is particularly true when homework is material that is new and has not been taught in class, or when it is excessive in hours.

You mention Homework Habitat, and that helps to make my basic point. My basic point is that the school day has been illegally extended. In fact, the school board HAS set a maximum hour for the school day. The hours of schooling for compulsory education are required to be set (and ARE set) by the school board when it adopts the calendar. The hours of the school day as approved by the board ARE the hours (and the only hours) of compulsory instruction.

When homework is assigned it has the effect of extending that day beyond the hours set by the governing board. If homework is coerced or compelled, then it is compulsory and the hours to complete it are compulsory. Thus, the compulsory education hours have been unlawfully extended beyond those approved by the governing board. This contradicts Cal. Ed. Code section 48200, which I have already excerpted above but which provides, in pertinent part:

"Each person between the ages of 6 and 18 years . . .is subject to compulsory full-time education. Each
person subject to compulsory full-time education . . . shall attend
the public full-time day school or continuation school or classes and
for the full time designated as the length of the schoolday by the
governing board of the school district."

Homework is completed outside "the full time designated as the length of the schoolday by the
governing board of the school district."

The choices facing the board are to:

1. Designate the school day as extended to an unlimited length -- as determined by the caprice of each teacher. That would be politically impossible;

2. Designate the school day to be extended to include the length set by the homework policy (by 60 minutes for 6th grade) etc.

Extending the day means that teachers and resources would have to be available. That, according even to "why" in his paen to Homework Habitat, is the right answer so I think we agree. The time being allocated to homework should happen not at home but at school, with teachers, and every child should have access to the same help to complete the work. In other words, we should have an extended school day for all students. The burden of homework should remain on the teacher not be shifted to the parents, the tutors, or no one (in the case of poor and minority students).

In fact, homework is an unfunded mandate on parents. Teachers have no limit to what they can assign -- the sky is the limit. The learning is then conducted out of view, with no work by the teacher, The family and student suffer. The poor are left behind. No one is accountable, and the school day has been extended without any political process as required by law.

@parent. Your UCP complaint would read (you can copy/paste):

My student has been assisgned mandatory homework. The homework is extending the school day. This is a violation of state law, which provides that the governing board sets the limit on the length of the school day. Currently that full day ends at 3:00. Under state law, education cannot be compulsory past that time. Yet my student is consistently assigned work that extends the day by several hours. This work is compelled, because if my student does not complete this work my student is penalized. In fact, homework is more than 50% of my student's grade and the same is true in other classes. If homework is not completed students are not able to pass and advance educationally. Therefore this is unlawful.

Students who do not complete homework suffer consequences that can include: missing recess, being publicly berated by a teacher, being sent to the office, having parents called and facing discipline, being labeled in need of "special education," not learning important material that is insufficiently taught in class but is expected to be taught at home, and receiving poor or failing grades, and even being held back a grade.

I am complaining that this violates state law, specifically Cal. Gov. Code 48200 which provides that students cannot be compelled to attend school beyond "the full time designated as the length of the schoolday by the
governing board of the school district."

Even if this unlawful extension of the school day is somehow permissible, it violates the state Constitutional rights of poor students to an equal and free public education.

First, students who lack a parent or tutor provided by parents to assist them with teaching the material in the homework are disadvantaged. Because these students are disproportionately students of color, the practice of homework assignment has a disparate impact on minority students. The evidence clearly exists that such students suffer academically. A review of their academic records will show that their homework completion (correctly) varies systematically from that of their non-disadvantaged peers.

Second, Homework also systematically discriminates against poor students who are entitled to receive an equal education regardless of income under the California Constitution. In Palo Alto, over 50% of families hire private tutors to aid in the completion of homework. Poor students who lack the resources or parental aid to complete the excessive homework being assigned suffer a disparate impact from the policy of extending the school day (without authorization from the governing board) to include hours of homework.

In sum:

1. the assignment of homework has unlawfully extended the hours of compulsory education without proper authorization from the governing board.

2. the assignment of homework discriminates against minority students because they are disproportionately impacted by the requirement to have a parent or tutor who can teach the homework material;

3. Low income students are also discriminated against by the need to pay a tutor to learn material assigned as homework; provide rides to participate in group projects, and other expenditures associated with homework.

All three of these issues violate state law. My UCP complaint urges that the district school board adopt policies and procedures that address the length of the compelled school day and ensure that equal resources are available to all students.

Sincerely,

Anonymous.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 6:06 pm

@This Is Why posits some hypotheticals (that have been tried)

This is a well-worn path; let's see where to begin:

"I said there already are district homework limit policies that you could work to enforce."

- attempted, and no response from most teachers.

"I said that if the homework was still too onerous, your child should consider just doing part of it,"

- you will get an F

"... taking an easier level of instruction, "

- doesn't help if the fundamental time sink is the student forced to self- teach material uncovered in class. Self teaching a lower lane is often the same as delft teaching a higher lane. Depends on variation of teacher.

"...talking to the teacher,"

- doesn't work

"... appealing to the principal "

- don't have any authority in the classroom; middle school principals at Jordan had no interest AT ALL IN SUPPORTING STUDENTS with homework struggles".

"...or superintendent,"

- tried that too. Was told it is a site issue. Skelly was unwilling to help students.

"... opting for independent study if there is a special circumstance, etc. "

- disallowed by unsupportive Principals above. Even with medical circumstance.


So... That ads up to... Hmm let's see: nothing.

There is no workable path to get some relief on homework.

We could keep acting as if there was one, but it simply creates barriers to accepting the reality of what really happens in our schools.

Working within the system is attempted every year by many families, and it simply doesn't work.

Pretending otherwise is foolish or disingenuous.



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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm

I forgot to mention -- in your complaint, you should individualize it with the following information:

- A log of all homework assigned, the date, teacher, class, how long it took, as well as the grading penalty if it was not completed;

- Any statements by your student such as my student used to say at midnight, when crying she would refuse to go to bed because it wasn't all finished yet tending to demonstrate compulsion and coercion;

- Ideally this log would be over a period of one month;

- All homework NOT completed and the penalty assigned to each missing item;

- All comments by teachers or administrators regarding missing/incomplete homework, especially if in writing or on report cards;

- Any sanctions suffered by student as a result of missing homework.

- Any suggestions that your child has a LD or ED due to failure to complete homework.

Honestly, every PAUSD parent and high school student concerned with this issue should keep such a log. In a perfect world they would be posted to the web, as in the "rejection wall" kind of spirit, to shine a light on teachers who routinely assign ridiculous homework. If all parents and students took the position that they will no longer be intimidated by teachers who assign too much homework, and went public with what is really going on at home, I think a valuable public service would be performed.

As it is, people are in their own atomized worlds, many watching their children suffer, and wondering if it is just their child only. Recently on the Gunn sophomore parent network, someone posted that their child was up struggling with work until past midnight and could not get it all done and they just wanted to know if it was only them. There were over a hundred responses within an hour.

Everyone is suffering from the same thing -- the schools have transferred responsibility for learning big chunks of the curriculum to parents/tutors and students. Anyone interested in closing the achievement gap (looking at you McGee) needs to start with the insane amounts of homework and auto-didacticism expected of our kids. Even those who CAN do it, don't like it. My kid could do it but she cried frequently in the middle of the night and was often sleep deprived. She also had two parents with advanced degrees, and a tutor. This is no joke, this is the substance of our teens' lives.

Save the 2008? Save the 12000. Keep a homework log and start today!

Parent: there should be a log attached to your complaint as described above.


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Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Dear P.A. Onliners,

Thanks to so many of you for saying a word or two about "Save the 2,008"—the grassroots initiative to bring a healthier, happier life to Gunn High.

Sophomore Martha Cabot and I, through this plan, are offering "six simple steps to sanity at school."

Far from feeling that we can cure problems of depression and despair in Gunn's kids, we believe that we can at least help to bring about a more forgiving, communicative, connected, energetic, and trusting school environment.

Any student, whether feeling upbeat about life, or having hit the "speed bump" of a rejection in romance or friendship, or feeling the setback of a failed audition or an athletic defeat—or perhaps having trouble just getting out of bed in the morning—will surely feel more valued and comforted in such an environment.

As an English teacher at Gunn for fifteen years, I gradually came to see that one of my weaknesses was that I too often assumed I knew how long my homework assignments would take my kids, and I too infrequently checked in with them about this part of their lives and my participation in it.

As my students, and as young people still just out of childhood, they couldn't be expected to raise the issue with me—a figure of authority who is The Keeper of the Grades. And high-schoolers are also, quite naturally, afraid to be judged "wimpy" or "slow" by their classmates.

The best solution to closing this "communications gap" between students and teachers is STEP TWO, as set forth by "Save the 2,008."

While avoiding all the possible traps of constraining teachers, of enforcement and oversight and penalties, of setting teachers and parents against each other, STEP TWO — RIGHTSIZE HOMEWORK envisions a quick technological fix that will offer students and teachers a basis of information from which to move closer to each other on the homework issue.

We live in an "Age of Information." Let's get some!

You can read Step Three of "Save the 2,008" at our website: www.savethe2008.com. As a convenience, it's also pasted in below.

One last difficulty, which exacerbates the problem, is that the system is increasingly applying pressure to teachers to post assignments online. When this is their practice, teachers naturally don't describe the assignment during class time, because the students will have mentally checked out (and are likely scanning their cellphones to "pass the time.")

It's key for a teacher to be able to see the looks on his students' faces when he gives a homework assignment. He can often tell if the assignment is too much, or too little, or is confusing.

To deprive students of this chance to "give the teacher feedback," through their expression and demeanor, their doubtful looks or requests for clarification, is to deprive the students of a voice in the matter. And thus, we diminish them.

Thanks for you patience with this long post; I hope it helps. And Martha Cabot and I hope that "Save the 2,008" will help too.

Happy holidays!

Sincerely,

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)


Step 2 — RIGHTSIZE HOMEWORK

What:

• A confidential website where teachers and kids can compare notes on minutes assigned and minutes worked.

• Call it “ClockTalk.”

• For a daily and nightly “conversation” (not for “surveillance”!).

• Before the school-day ends, teachers pause to type in “minutes assigned” for each class.

• That night, students pause to click on “It Took Me Exactly That” or “It Took Me More” or “It Took Me Less.”

• (And maybe type in “actual minutes” and a twitter-sized comment.)

• Result next day: ta-dah! Algorithms and trained mice of ClockTalk have crunched the numbers to show kids and teachers how many total minutes assigned and worked, with regard to: other kids, other classes, other teachers, other teachers teaching the same course, etc., etc.—whatever helps!—including how many total homework minutes were worked in just one night by any one student so that any one teacher who is worried about any one kid can know what’s going on.

• Students’ names visible to teachers, but not to peers.

• Private to kids and teachers. (This isn’t Big Brother.)

• Use of ClockTalk optional.

• But: Build It and They Will Come.

Why:

• Homework is—and rightly should be—part of the student-teacher relationship.

• Homework is to teacher-and-students as a shared bank account is to marriage partners.

• Deciding on “the balance,” and what it should be spent on, is part of a close collaboration.

• During that extra, reflective pause every day, teachers will be more careful about “minutes assigned.” And during their pause each night, kids will reflect on how they’ve used their time.

• Rules, oversight, enforcement from without? We’re talking too unwieldy, too contentious, too cookie-cutter, too slow.

• Administrators shouldn’t be homework cops; teachers shouldn’t be suspects.

• Kids have no way to “speak up” to teachers about homework. (It’s too big a risk.) ClockTalk will spark a conversation in class.

The cost?

Ask our wonderful teenage whiz kids if they’ll build it for us. It’ll bring them pride of accomplishment, and they’ll be the toast of the school.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm

@Vincenti - before you advocate against online posting of homework assignments, please ask students. We have found this is working wonders to cut down on missing, confused, unclear and unwritten (verbal) assignments.

It makes homework time more organized, better planned and has cut surprises way down.

Getting rid of online assignment posting may be convenient for teachers, but would be a huge setback for students.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 8:15 am

The reason online posting of homework is important is because homework is so high stakes. It's a source of fear and anxiety.

If homework was not such an important part of the grade, it would be fine for kids who didn't catch it in class, to ask each other what the assignment was.

It would seem that Clock Talk would have the assignment go online anyway, not just list minutes.

And instead of expecting all kids to perfectly connect with the teacher at that exact moment in the cosmos when he/she assigned the homework, it should be planned that there will be many who miss it, and will need to find out about it in another way (without fear).


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 8:31 am

Just making sure I understand this. Legal Eagle is saying that ALL homework is a violation of California's compulsorily education law if it extends schoolwork beyond the bell schedule school boards approve and is required to be done at home citing Cal. Ed. Code section 48200 - which requires children to attend school for the "the length of the schoolday by the governing board of the school district" - for that.

How does Legal Eagle address these then?

- PAUSD has set the length of the school day and it includes homework: the bell schedule sets the time that students are expected to attend class and, by board policy, 7th and 8th grade "homework" for example is to be "70-80 minutes average M-F" more (note the board says "home" work, not "at school" work). Web Link

- The CDE not only OKs homework, it directs it: "Children are more successful in school when parents are involved in their children’s education. This brochure lists what the California Department of Education (CDE), local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools MUST do ....Develop ... a school-parent compact that outlines...the ways in which parents will be responsible for supporting their children’s learning, such as monitoring attendance, homework completion."

Those who file a UCP homework or homework credit complaint will see it booted as Legal Eagle predicted above. Outside the scope of the UCP are complaints about "grades... homework policies and practices ...student advancement and retention." Uniform Complaint Procedures Brochure.

What Legal Eagle didn't address is whether parents who refuse to have their children do daily homework for the minutes that the board set could have complaints brought against THEM under 48200's keep-your-child-educated rules. Penalties: fines, forced enrollment in a parent education and counseling program, and more. Web Link

If the issue is not banning ALL homework but just homework that goes BEYOND the homework policy limits, then the solution is a personal one since some students complete their work more quickly than others and an internal one. Keep persisting. We have a new superintendent who is working at lightening speed. There is reason for optimism.



2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

@Marc Vincenti - the homework survey I started a few weeks back shows that 76% of Paly & Gunn students have 40-50% more than the 7-10 hours/week proscribed by PAUSD. Survey results here: Web Link

Incidentally, I've sent the study to 4-5 school administrators and have had zero response.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:11 am

This is why,

The real issue is grading homework. The fairest thing to do is to cap the weight of homework grade at a percentage of total education, and classroom instruction should be most if not all of total education.

If you count the number of classroom instruction hours per school year, it's gazillions of hours. There is no way you could add more than a very small fraction of time for homework. To be safe, maybe 10% max (even that sounds like it may be too much). So the total amount that homework should weigh in a grade is max 10%.

This does not preclude the teacher and school to give varying levels of homework. Various opportunities for students to challenge themselves. Some kids could take less time to do harder work, others more time to do easier work.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

One size,

That's my recommendation too. From my post above: "I'd think it would be far easier to get the board to say that homework can only account for 10% or so of a grade than constitutionally challenge or bring a lawsuit limiting or banning homework."

I have no idea where Legal Eagle got that homework accounts for 50% of a grade ("homework is more than 50% of my student's grade and the same is true in other classes."). Is that true?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:32 am

I would agree about reducing the amount of homework that is gradable. I think that reading can be done at home and is not gradable, but the test to prove that the reading is done which takes place at school can be gradable.

Projects that count for a large part of the grade should be school based as many students get a lot more help than others which is not a level playing field.

Tests, quizzes and final exams in my opinion should carry the greatest weight of the grade as this actually tests what a student has learned and understands. Homework should be the smallest weight of the grade as there is no guarantee that they do the homework themselves or even understand what a parent/tutor is doing for them.

Classroom participation is another area that is questionable in my opinion. Some students are naturally more outgoing than others and can easily monopolize a class discussion, whereas a student who is naturally quiet by nature finds it hard to speak up and give an oral opinion, whereas an opportunity to write a paragraph supporting their position could be done in a 10 minute quiet period in class and be a great leveler.

Education must be revamped to 21st century standards. The old methods of grading are no longer a level playing field.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

This is why,

Yes of course it's true that homework can weigh more than 10%. There would be no thread if it were not for this.

You can have a teacher assign, reading, writing, projects,essays - all for home, and instead of calling it "home" work, it's just part of the grade.

The grade for the work done in class (other than tests) can be negligible.

High time to flip things around. Better use of classroom instruction time.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:43 am

This is why,

For the 10% to work, you would have to make sure that the 90% is work done in the classroom.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

This is why,

When you have most of the work done during classroom instruction, teachers would know each student better.



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Posted by Parent
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

This is Why,
You have been a very impassioned advocate for homework despite your statement to the contrary. Please, I would like to understand, why is that? As above, that is a sincere question. Mark Vincenti, it is a question for you as well. As much as I appreciate what you are doing, I am not in agreement that homework should be necessary except in very limited cases such as reading for English, and then it should be flexible. The school day is long enough, and the time is not the only problem, it's how homework is another demand on children's attention. They cannot ever set school aside and be present in their lives at home during the day. This is educating them to manage their lives and attention in an unhealthy way.

Legal Eagle is right, either districts man up and extend the school day, or have an overt conversation about homework so there are OPTIONS that meet the educational needs of those who want more and those who want less, or they may face legal challenges to their ability to give it at all. Please note that this is about learning style and not about intellectual challenge, which may be a third conversation.

The two studies you point to aren't justification enough, for all the reasons I gave above and for which you had no counter. For one, both are either much older than or and/or used data from before our new age of blended learning opportunities. I know a young man who is a virtuoso who found he didn't have enough time to play the instrument. His family was in a different district where they were able to participate in their learning options program. He took some classes at school, some through Stanford High School, and had far more time to play, be with his family, and do the ACCELERATED and demanding coursework from Stanford's blended learning opportunity. School districts feel they can treat people's extracurriculars as beside the point, as optional and less valuable. I don't feel that I should have to argue that anymore in an age when my child could and did teach himself to code watching a few hours of youtube videos then using free software and solving problems with more youtube videos. I also don't feel that I should have to be told to leave if I don't like it.

When I was a kid and most of the teachers too, homework was the only game in town for added educational opportunity. Many families appreciated it because kids were bored. There wasn't access to libraries many times, no Amazon to buy cheap books, no Internet, etc. Homework was an opportunity. Now it interferes with better opportunities, aside from there just being too much of it. Times have changed, and the pace of a school district's response will leave too many kids behind, including mine.

I want to be able to draw a line and say, for this, lesser part of the day, my child's and my family's time are ours, and we, not the school, have control of it, and I don't want to even be subject to a conversation daily about whether school control impunges too much or way too much. If people want the kind of study that puts them on a demanding schedule of doing what other people tell them to do round the clock, I feel they should have it as an option. If others want an equivalent education offered through a project-based approach that makes more efficient use of their time and takes a different view of blended learning ability, autonomy and free time, they should be able to choose that, too, as we already offer through 6th grade to great degree.

Teachers should have the ability to take an approach or the other, with the support they need to achieve it, not always be juggling one half demanding more work and the other demanding less. This starts with the school district realizing families, not they, control family time. If districts cannot think that way, then I really do think it's worth a federal case. Which one of you, at the end of your life would give everything you owned for another hour with your child, and which would say you wish your child had spent another hour on busywork homework?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 10:43 am

Sorry, above somehow the system wasnt accepting my post with JLS selected so I temporarily put in something else but forgot to switch it back. The above post is from me, parent from JLS.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

Legal Eagle,
Thanks so much for your helpful information. I am in awe of this community sometimes! I don't exactly have a log, but I do have email complaining about the homework, plus sheets of after school scheduling to try to get homework done. I think I and anyone else who wants to draw better boundaries should start today, rather than waiting to produce logs, not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Besides, I have concerns about how logs would affect the anonymity of the complaint. Or, could logs be added when the complaints went to the state?

Also, could you please add something about boys being discriminated against? I do not have a good enough grasp of the latest academic support for the mismatch between the way we educate boys and the outcomes that are now favoring girls (speaking as a woman who attended MIT when it was less than 20% women), but I can really see the way what I read plays out in our situation. Could you please add anything you know about that to your suggestions?

Here's the link to the UCP complaint form for PAUSD that I would file to complain about the homework. Just to be sure, is this the right one? Which box do I check? I presume I put the rest as an attachment and say "see attachment"?

Link to UCP complaint form for PAUSD Web Link



Thanks!






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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm

What would be interesting is to use Cubberly as a middle/High school choice that featured minimal or no homework. It seems that such an approach would be more successful at a scale larger than individual or classroom size.

Schedules, class coordination, and school culture would likely be quite different.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Soting Hat,
That's a great suggestion. It could be implemented even faster as schools within schools and just moved to Cubberley whenever it is administratively most convenient. District people don't read these boards, though, and McGee still has to work with all the same team who aren't exactly keen on innovating or changing. They'll string him along for awhile with reasonable sounding excuses (probably some flavor of blaming the parents or students in each case) but at the end of the day, things will be little different than under Skelly if he can't reorganize.

In the meantime, something the district could do literally tomorrow if they wished is something like the Homestudy Program in San Jose Unified that they've been doing for thirty years. It requires very little staffing and allows people to incorporate blended learning options flexibly into their program, while also choosing to take regular classes. The person who set up that program is retired but still around ... Web Link


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Posted by elementaryparent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm

What a great question and what a great discussion. I came across this wonderful TED talk (Web Link) which talks about how redundant the global system of education has really become in the post-industrialized world.

I know the thread is not about whether homework is good or bad but given the nature of our education system, which is unlikely to change in the near term, my larger point is as long as schooling focuses on producing skill sets for jobs that require competencies in math, language arts, the sciences, it will be hard to break away from homework and the need for it. I personally think homework is good and necessary for a majority of those of us who do not get the concepts that are taught in class or who do not have the ability to focus or sit still. I help out in both my elementary school kids' classrooms and the teachers who are amazing are not able to cater to the learning needs of every single of the 23 kids some of whom are not able to sit still, are not interested, are above grade, below grade, language learners. I grew up in India where homework was (and is )dished out starting first grade and where spending the afternoon at a tutor's is very common right from grade one. I was not forced to do homework by my family which was probably ahead of its time, and it did not affect my grade in anyway. I got by in school. I was not very bright but did not fail in life because I did not do homework. I went on to get a doctorate in economics. But not having done homework, dragged me down quite a bit because I was always struggling with the basics that I had never grasped completely and this was true particularly for math which I had to use a lot of. Certain life skills even in this age of the iphone calculators and technology, need basic foundations in math, language and the sciences which come through rote practice that homework affords. And based on my experience, when the foundations are good, either through homework (rote learning) or rarely because of that wonderful teacher, who inspired us, then higher order thinking and learning (in any field) becomes easier and more productive. And as long as the mission of our schools and colleges is to churn out 'intellectual, corporate ready ' talent from select schools vs. creative human beings, homework and school are inseparable.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hi ElementaryParent,

Thanks for sharing and for the link to the TED talk.

I personally felt very deprived from not having enough homework - I was a real nerd as a kid and felt like a fish out of water as a girl in a family of rambunctious boys. I solved that myself by just reading a lot. I found I wasn't ready in college when I arrived because I did not have access to demanding programs like my peers, but it was possible to overcome that and I eventually did well. For my brothers, it was a different story, as I think boys just mature their focus later. None of them were stellar secondary students but all were stellar university students and professionals. The seeds of what they succeeded at later all came from their extracurriculars in high school: a job fixing electronic equipment after school, running a mail order business out of a bedroom, tutoring other kids. None of them would have any time for such things here.

I think the stories of our youth are probably of limited applicability, especially since there were no opportunities for blended learning as kids have today. A friend from New York was just telling me that she cannot ever recall homework in her youth being so burdensome as her child's (another school system nearby), and she felt she got a great education and ended up being successful in a technical field. However, I think in a system where families have a choice about the type of program they want -- where heavy homework as part of the program is a choice based on the type of program people choose -- as we already have in our district through 6th grade, we wouldn't have to debate the issue, we could focus on making the type of instruction we value for our kids the best possible.

I do think the discussion about what employers need is probably a good one to have, if one is having a discussion about the value of homework. But I don't think that's the same discussion as whether homework itself is necessary, for example, to teach the basics. The school day is structured in a way that there is a lot of time lost to transitions, and homeschoolers find they can teach the basics, often in an accelerated way, in far less time, and have more time for higher-level activities that synthesize what was learned. Ultimately, relevant application is the best way to retain and understand.

We also already recognize that equivalent work can be done through very different approaches: direct instruction and project-based learning. We just stop offering choice opportunities after 6th grade.

Beyond that, I value my ability to have my own life, with my family, so much so I'm willing to take a stand. The fundamental issue here is that the district shouldn't have a right to take over our entire lives in order to offer a good education. I could probably make my child remember the basics, indelibly, by giving an electric shock every time he got something wrong, or using some other Pavlovian technique, but the loses the big picture of raising a whole child. So, too, does school systems having priority discretion for how my child and my family spend their time when the school day is over.

If the districts want to offer homework, they should, as Legal Eagle suggests, have to extend the school day and make all resources available to everyone, or give people the ability to choose a different kind of program that doesn't have to take up so much of the day, but is an equivalent education (eminently doable, we wouldn't be the first). Barring that, I'm ready to stand up and say, enough is enough.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Not all homework is equal. Yes, in my school days I had to read a lot but this was not a big problem for me. We read more literature than my Paly students, plus a lot of poetry, prose essays and were expected to read a newspaper each day also. Looking back, we should probably have done more writing, but since we did a lot of writing for history, geography and foreign language, I probably would not have enjoyed spending more time writing.

What we did do a lot of is memorization. I suspect it was easy homework for our teachers and a lot of class time was spent testing each of us reciting the same Shakespearean speech or poetry. We also had to do memorization in our foreign language classes too. Although I appreciate that I can remember so much of this, it really did me very little good as a homework practice.

I would like to see more reading as part of English curriculum in my students' education. Most of what they read is of depressing subject matter and there is not enough of the wide spectrum of literature or prose. Biographies, prose and opinion seem to be completely neglected.

I see a lot of watching YouTube for history and am told that a lot of videos are watched in class.

I also see a lot of busywork for homework, and question the value of cooking and poster making as homework. Even the gourmet cooking elective seems to have given my high school grad very little idea how to fix a family meal and am constantly showing how to use a recipe and which knife is best for which purpose.

Homework is a hot topic issue in our household, and the practicalities of what they learn is questionable.


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Posted by June Cleaver
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Paly Parent: Re your statement, "Yes, in my school days I had to read a lot but this was not a big problem for me." There are many students who have reading disorders so it may be a problem for them. I would prefer that the schools teach our students how to write, as PAUSD did back in the 70s & 80s. Writing is a much more important skill for everyone. Those who want to read can read on their own.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm

@why

The question is whether the homework is compulsory. If it is compulsory, then there is a plausible argument that it has lengthened the compulsory full-time hours of education without board action.

The line at which homework is compulsory is not clear, but having it count for large proportion of grades, suffering consequences both academic and other punishment for failing to complete it, using it as a way to require the learning of new material rather than practice what was learned in school -- all contribute to a picture of compulsory education.

I think the problem is a political problem, not a legal one, but sometimes legal arguments are made to advance political goals (such as Vergara, for example, or Brown v. Board of Education, or the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, or many many others).

The problem is not that the argument is not good enough, it is that it is colorable. When the public can present a totally plausible claim that the extent of homework is so great and the limits on it so unenforceable, and that political efforts have failed to constrain it, then that is a problem for the school board.

We have a situation in PAUSD (and in other places but this is probably ground zero for excessive homework) in which the board has passed a policy limiting homework but it has sat unenforced for 3 years. It is literally a laughing matter -- that is, when it is mentioned, people laugh. There is not the slightest effort being made to even find out whether and to what extent it is being obeyed. It has no meaning whatsoever, except to enrage parents and students who know that it exists and is being ignored.

That is a deep political problem, particularly with the election of Ken Dauber, whose brainchild the policy was in the first place. It is highly unlikely that Dauber is going to go-along-get-along with having the policy continue to sit, ignored and unenforced, on the shelf for the next 4 years at a time when students, former teachers, and citizens like Parent from JLS are all publicly fulminating about it. That won't work.

What should happen is easy and obvious -- the district should limit the proportion of grades that can be influenced by homework to something negligible -- either it is optional or it is 10% but no more. The "homework helps grades" is an old devil's bargain in the PAUSD school system. The material is too hard for many of the students, but they get 50% of their grade from merely turning in homework (even if it is wrong) and that prevents them from failing even when they are failing many or most of the tests and quizzes. That is ridiculous and grade inflation and should be terminated as a practice. It means those students are not gaining mastery of the material. It means the teaching is poor. It means those students lack a tutor but they are scraping by turning in pieces of paper with squiggly lines on them that may or may not indicate that they do or do not know the material. Most of it is never graded or reviewed by a teacher and never returned for feedback. That system is corrupt, plain and simple.

@why -- the problem isn't that I am only making a marginal case. It is that I CAN make a marginal case without breaking a sweat. Imagine if I was trying.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm

June Cleaver

You are misunderstanding me. When I said I had a lot of reading homework and it wasn't a problem for me, that was a statement of fact. Reading homework makes a lot more sense to me than memorization or even writing not because I had no problem with it, but because reading is a more suitable type of homework than writing. I used to do a lot of my reading on the bus, or in bed, no it wasn't a big problem and yes I do acknowledge that some students may find reading difficult. There are such things as audio books nowadays!!!!

I feel that since this thread is about homework, not what some students may have problems with, that my comment is valid.

Just because some students find reading difficult doesn't mean that we should dumb down the reading component of the English curriculum. In my opinion, we need to vary it and to include more biographies, prose and opinion pieces. Yes for most students, reading is an easy to do homework assignment and is much more suitable for homework than spending an hour of class time reading. That would be a better time to improve writing skills.

And, back in my day (some of the old ways still make sense) we were taught that a student who reads a variety of good reading material, will automatically improve their writing skills. Of course that means that the choice of literature must contain good English language writings. But that is probably another discussion.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Why is it that parents who are (presumably) well-educated think they understand how children should be educated, despite never having studied it beyond their own experiences? Generally we don't feel the same about doctors, lawyers, or engineers, or even accountants, so why k-12 educators? [Portion removed.] But I'm curious why intelligent people generally think they have a better handle on how education should work than trained professionals who spend their careers doing it. Do you not trust the educators and administrators? Not respect them? Do you think they have ulterior motives or that they are not smart enough to figure it out? Or are there other reasons?

Questioning and trying to understand and contribute seems fine. Substituting your ideas and preferences for their professional judgment and approaches just seems, well, kind of reckless, esp. if applied to all children generally and not just your own.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:10 pm

@Legal Eagle:
"The material is too hard for many of the students, but they get 50% of their grade from merely turning in homework (even if it is wrong) and that prevents them from failing even when they are failing many or most of the tests and quizzes. That is ridiculous and grade inflation and should be terminated as a practice. It means those students are not gaining mastery of the material. It means the teaching is poor. It means those students lack a tutor but they are scraping by turning in pieces of paper with squiggly lines on them that may or may not indicate that they do or do not know the material. Most of it is never graded or reviewed by a teacher and never returned for feedback. That system is corrupt, plain and simple. "
1) What classes have 50% of the grade in the homework category? It hasn't been too long since I left Paly, and I can't think of one (with the possible exception of an English class weighting "writing" to 50% of the grade? But this often includes in-class writing in addition to HW, and I don't really consider it unreasonable for an English class to grade you on your writing... there isn't really an easy way to test your ability in class). HW is normally worth between 10 and 25% of the grade (which means it's possible to attain a passing grade without doing a single piece of HW), though it's worth noting some classes have optional HW and so in theory HW is sometimes worth 0% of a grade.
2) What classes give huge amounts of weight to homework without grading it? It's true that some classes check for completion and go over the homework in class, so you can "get by" with scribbles. But in such classes teachers often reserve the right to grade the HW after in-class revision, so that you are not penalized for mistakes but instead for not paying attention when they went over the HW in class. And these types of classes are NOT that great in number. Certainly every single math class grades the homework it assigns, and when I was at Paly every science class did too. You say "most" homework is never reviewed. Given that at least 2 departments review every single assignment, I have no idea how you come to this conclusion. Are you counting assigned readings as homework teachers don't grade? They often give in-class quizzes to check for completion, though it's true they don't always do so. To me your statement seems just... false.


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Posted by Please for the love of god shut up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm

@C, one assumes that you have not been to all classes in all schools. Though your perspective as a "former Paly student" is valid, it is just that. It tells us about your classes at your schools [portion removed.]


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 9:45 pm

C,

Given that you just mentioned one example of an English class you had where 50% of the grade as writing (mix of in class and outside, which means mostly outside of class - never heard of quiet writing time in English classes), the statement could be true. The number of Social Studies and Science projects in Middle School that were expected to be done outside of class and weighed in addition to routine homework. In this case the devil is truly in the details. And the devil gets meaner depending on a student's personal ability to handle the cumulative obfuscations.

I'm with Legal Eagle - the grading weight of work done OUTSIDE of the classroom is closer to 50% and not as you say 10% - 25%. And let's not forget that you don'g get to study for a quiz, test, or final inside the classroom. So if you add the amount of high stakes activities which require in home preparation and study, it adds up.

This does not even begin to account for the parental help or tutoring factors. Or even simple home organization and study skills which not everyone is endowed with. The amount of homework that is counted in that gray area could be harder for some students by many factors, so even one slight percentage off of 10% (which I think is way too high) could be a raw deal for many students.

The best the district can do is look at the total amount of instructional hours that a student is sitting in the classroom for a semester class, for a year long class, and decide what level of additional hours is appropriate to be designated as work outside of the classroom for that class. If it's 10% (too high in my opinion) - that's not only the weight of homework, but the 90% should be work clearly seen as classwork. Projects, coloring maps, poster boards, math exercises, reading, writing - 90% should be done in class.




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Posted by Bar None
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2014 at 10:19 pm

@TheSortingHat

As a parent of two children that have passed through the education system. I wholly agree that you have hit the nail on the head.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

@Please for the love of . . .

[Portion removed.]

It is true, there is a physics teacher who gives 50% to homework, but students cannot just submit "scribbles."

According to PAUSD, there should be 10 minutes of homework for each grade level, which puts 9th graders at 90 minutes! Students already have 90 minutes of homework in 6th grade. Ninth graders can have anywhere from 2-5 hours of homework, depending on their teachers.

Ninth graders have 6 classes, plus P.E. But the P.E. department requires students to make-up class if they miss - meaning they have to go during Tutorial to exercise to make-up the class even if the student was sick and it was an excused absence! All other classes don't require make-ups if they miss class. It's the new Athletic Director, Jason Fung, who established this insane rule. More ways to stress our students!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by For the love...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2014 at 11:33 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 28, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Let's put some facts on the table to put to rest hw percentages. It varies a lot between teachers.

From current semester teachers normal (non-AP) classes my kid has homework grades of:

25%
25%
No-homework in one elective
65%
30%
45%

Another kid
55%
35%
20%
27%
60%


Which seems pretty typical if I recall from prior years.
This does not include study time for quizzes and tests which are pretty significant.

Homework Grades are notoriously late, except in math which tends to be reviewed in class next day. Most other classes range from a week, upto a whole quarter delayed grades , making them useless as a feedback or corrective guidance for students. That is something that would really help - often kids have the better part of a semester behind them before they have any feedback or any notion what the teacher expectations are.

Timely feedback is a missing aspect of teaching here. Maybe it lacks pedagogical value, it certainly isn't treated as a priority.

If anyone is aware of research showing that homework feedback has low value, please post links.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 12:16 am

Okay - slightly off topic, because someone asked why we have an opinion on education, I started to think of the most idiotic , low-value busywork dipshit assignments, and what it says about the people who assigned them.

Memory lane here...Jordan had a literacy goal to get kids to write more; probably because their English program is weak they were trying to bolster this area with extra hw.
(Here's a hint: just teach writing in English)

Anyhoo, they assigned an essay for gym class!!

Done entirely at home . There was no class teaching of sports literature, sports writing or sports journalism. In fact they didn't even define what the kids had to write about, what format, how long - worst assignment ever. Sucked the life out of gym class.

Ha ha. Pitiful.

So the kids write this essay for the class that normally has no homework; where the teacher has never instructed writing for a single minute of class time.

Turn it in, and, no feedback. Nothing , nada , zip. I am surprised(ha) I would have loved to read coaches comments. The PE teachers must have hated that task.

Zero educational value. Negative value actually - took the one class that was not a mind-numbing chore and made it suck.

Let's see ... What lesson can I take from this...


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Posted by Definition, Please
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2014 at 1:32 am

I think we need to define what we mean by "homework". I remember homework in PAUSD classes, but I also remember assigned reading and vocabulary, which was graded by and categorized as "quizzes"; practicing musical instruments or lines for plays; practicing for mock trials; preparing for an assignment where I had to teach the class about something; various weekly assignments like Word of the Week, Problem of the Week, or Country of the week, which were graded by and categorized as "projects"; projects themselves; writing essays, which was categorized as "essays"; take-home tests; pre-tests; and, of course, actually studying for tests. All of these had a homework component, even if the grades themselves did not call them homework. A class might say that homework is 10% of the grade, but odds are that a good chunk of the grade is technically due under a different section of the grade. (After all, teachers would assign homework that was due the Tuesday after Winter Break to avoid getting in trouble for assigning homework over break...they know the loopholes.) Even with a system like the former Gunn Teacher suggesting above, teachers (And, if necessary, lawyers from the school districts) are going to respond that there is homework that is not true "homework".

I wonder, if all of the money that was spent on tutoring or supplemental schooling in this district, was instead given to PAUSD...could this problem actually be eliminated by lengthening the school day and school year? Or maybe changing to a six-period system in middle school and high school, increasing class length and eliminating an entire elective? Or maybe increasing each semester by 15 days? (Of course, then the school year will probably have to start in July, since you can't move AP Tests, and that is going to create a whole new set of issues.) So probably not.

The answer is hiring teachers that can effectively teach their subject without busywork. Writing an essay or learning foreign language vocabulary seems like a logical homework assignment; I've never understood why baking French cookies for French class or making a model of a scene from a book was necessary. Taking that out should really be the first step. Group projects that cannot be completed at school should also be eliminated, since that is taking up time as well. Teachers should teach the appropriate material (I remember the APES teach at Paly, Mr. Scott, admitting, day one, that he was not teaching for the AP test. The only reason I passed that test was because I purchased a study book and spent hours on my own learning the layers of the earth's crust and the types of rocks. If the teachers are teaching the material, that saves time too.) Rote memorization in class (memorizing poems, the preamble, the Gettysburg address?) is probably not necessary. Eliminate some of that, and we have more time on our hands.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

Great illustrations - the percentages are definitely not confined to a neat 10-25%

The variations in between can mean everything to a student. One can handle the extra serving another cannot.

The focus needs to be on what gets done during classroom instruction time, and equity is a big part of that.

I hope the achievement gap committee is going to look at this. At one point there was a suggestion that struggling kids spend more time after school. How is that fair or legal?


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 29, 2014 at 6:28 am

@Definition, please

You made my day at 6:28 am (just now).
Your description of PAUSD teachers, classes, and "homework" is so brilliant.
If anyone doubt what she/he wrote, I can talk about more examples for hours.

My conclusion after 8 years in Palo Alto, they are not suitable for teachers for top, say 20% of PA students, except for some teachers. Look at their backgrounds. They are fine as California licensed teachers teaching somewhere else. And with this strong teacher's union and employment style, they work like government workers and that's OK(for them), like many commenters already mentioned.

Some teachers say out loud in front of students that they became teachers because they failed in companies. So, for several years now I tell my kids that they don't need to commit suicide if they fail in companies around here. They can become math/science teachers who are always in need.






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Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 29, 2014 at 7:09 am

I wonder if Ken Dauber is reading all this, our students' and parents' cry.

No, I am not asking you to reply online.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 7:39 am

@definitions asks a great question: what is homework?

I like the original poster's framing - really it's about setting limits on school time and personal time.

Therefore anything which has to be done outside class is homework. So a reading quiz would be homework if the reading is expected outside class. Obvious things labelled homework; as well as classwork that was not completed in class.

@definitions gives good examples of places where time can be saved with no educational loss. I think that the interesting aspect of this problem is that we already have teachers who "get it" who know how to teach a great class with very little homework, and what homework they assign is well organized, clearly communicated , clearly purposed, and completed reasonably because it was supported with class time instruction.(kids weren't thrown extra homework on new material and told to teach themselves)

So the capability is there, in the schools already. It is not applied widespread.

So it has been clear for years to me that reasonable homework loads are possible, just not practice.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 8:33 am

Some kids think clearer and do better when they are in a comfortable room working at their own pace rather than performing on demand. Recall freezing on a test/test anxiety resulting in low exams scores? Homework for credit is a gift to those who experience that.

Why would a parent advocate to take away homework credit and so make testing more high stakes than it already is? Maybe it works for the uber student who remembers and understands everything as it is taught but what about the needs of the other students we educate?

Again, it is best to be practical.

- Solid research - not a two minute CNN teaser - supports that homework, if done right and in the right amount, aids learning. Link above and Challenge Success which recommends after reviewing 20 landmark studies and homework meta-analyses to "shift the focus AWAY from a discussion of QUANTITY of homework and TOWARD a focus on the QUALITY of the assignments").

- Most parents I suspect want their children to learn. For them, if the choice is between teachers who only "teach" through the homework and no teaching at all, say because Legal Eagle has succeeded in getting Palo Alto to ban homework, they'd pick homework in a heartbeat. It is not ideal but until there are new tenure laws at least the child learns.

Anecdotes aside, again the amount of middle school homework done does not seem to be a problem for 90% of the students according to JLS' Developmental Assets survey.

I applaud work to make the homework load manageable for the 10% for whom it takes longer than it should. I do not support putting Palo Alto in the headlines as a community where every child's every minute is so valuable that they banned all homework and tell kids that studying at home is bad for them so not recommended.

Homework impedes genius? Think about it. Even Steve Jobs had homework and did the work needed to graduate from high school without it impeding his genius. Limits not bans are the answer.

Anyway, how many Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak's have been produced in our county's high schools in the last 40 years? Two? Out of a million? For the non-Steves among our kids, employers are complaining that the 20 Somethings don't do more than the bare minimum.

Web Link (Washington Post: "The millennial generation -- about 50 million people between ages 18 and 29 -- is the only age group in the nation that doesn't cite work ethic as one of its 'principal claims to distinctiveness,' according to a new Pew Research Center study")

Web Link (USA Today: "A large number of younger workers complain they can't find a job. ... a generation with a self-centered work ethic that's 'all about what's good for me' and what's convenient, is simply not good for business.")

As for fairness, extending the school day for all so homework can be done in class is an interesting idea but won't happen. It would get in the way of our athletic teams competing and after school jobs. As someone posted above, summer vacation could be shortened. One extra hour each school day would probably cut the summer in half so that won't fly either.

Good news though is that WHERE homework is done appears NOT TO MATTER. Kids whose parents don't help with homework are not getting the short end of the stick according to Challenge Success: "a review of more than 50 studies on parent involvement in their children’s homework found little evidence for any benefits to the children when parents were involved with the work (Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001)."





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Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 8:44 am

@Mom

Thanks for your comment, and for all of the comments above. This is an excellent thread, one of the best I've seen on Palo Alto Online. I do believe that the board should ensure that our homework policy is implemented. As I said during the campaign, I have been disappointed that there has been a lack of follow-through on putting into place metrics that we can use to determine how much homework is actually being assigned and completed, so we are flying blind.

When the homework committee ended its 1-year term in the summer of 2012, members proposed not only ensuring that it was actually implemented, but also identified unfinished business including: limiting the weight accorded to homework in overall grades, ensuring that penalties associated with late or incomplete homework are not punitive, and guidelines for AP and honors classes (the current policy specifically omits these classes). I will be proposing to the board and the superintendent that we promptly finish this important work.

The homework committee was appointed in response to years of survey data, as well as focus groups, showing that parents and students (and many teachers) feel that homework is excessive. That community sentiment is, if anything, stronger now than it was three years ago. Students have been telling us for many years through strategic plan surveys, articles in the Campanile and Oracle, and now in YouTube videos, that they have too much homework and it is a significant source of unnecessary stress. The board needs to take action in response and I will work towards that goal.

With best wishes for a Happy New Year,

Ken Dauber


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

I applaud all efforts to reduce the homework load, but I would be very much against getting rid of homework altogether.

Instead the homework policy should be made to work and I would go further and add some caveats as to what type of homework and the length of time the assignment can be given.

Certain types of homework, reading, writing, study packets, practice, etc. make for sensible homework. New material, baking, posters, coloring, memorization, etc. don't. Giving a week ahead due date is long enough for most assignments, having a weekend or at least one of each evening makes for enough time for most students, I should imagine. Anything longer teaches procrastination. I would also advocate for no big assignments hanging over Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break - they should all be assigned for the last day before these breaks or not assigned at all until after the break.

I have heard of students doing SAT prep classes and studying hard this winter break, so for some families, the idea of a stress free break just doesn't happen. However, encouraging students to spend time on breaks defeats the object of bringing finals into December instead of late January as to for.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 9:35 am

Curious,
"Why is it that parents who are (presumably) well-educated think they understand how children should be educated, despite never having studied it beyond their own experiences? Generally we don't feel the same about doctors, lawyers, or engineers, or even accountants, so why k-12 educators"

This question does deserve an answer here, because like my original question, the real issue is who has the power to decide what kids and families do when school us over. And since you, and many schools, cannot seem to understand that healthy families need the ability to control some portion of the day, inviolable, as their own, families will have to take this up legally.

The expression of " why do you think you know better, leave it to us professionals," is and has always been a power challenge, not an abilities challenge, often it's the last refuge of the incompetent, an attempt to win when there is no solid ground for those who care about winning more than the endpoint. The best professionals are usually not afraid of explaining what they do, working with others, learning from others, and even being wrong - catching early and fixing rather than covering up mistakes.

Since you asked, actually, generally most people, willingly or not, DO have to act frequently as their own doctors, lawyers, and accountants, and even engineers. Have you ever heard of small claims court? It arose because of a whole segment of law where people were pretty much on their own because paying a lawyer makes no sense. Apparently you are unaware of the phenomenon known as "Dr. Google", a debate over people being their own doctors that preceded the Internet. Most people would dearly love to afford an accountant despite all the software that enables them being their own.

Parents are also their children's first teachers and often their best teachers. They usually know the kids better than teachers ever will, especially in close-knit families. I think I mentioned that a far greater percentage of homeschool than regular applicants are accepted in top schools, which is probably not even that parents are better teachers, but that kids benefit from individualized instruction and greater time to think and do higher-level projects.

That said, a challenge to someone thinking they have discretion to reach into every minute of my day in order for my child to get an education is not a challenge to the teaching abilities of anyone. While I appreciate that others have had different experience, I have (and have expressed) utter confidence in the excellent teachers we've had in this district so far to provide the high-quality education we expect, during the school day, especially if the teachers are provided the support they may need to do so. I don't think I am a better school teacher than a single one of the teachers my child has this year, except for the truly abysmal communications (for which I blame district policies and other factors, not them), to a one, I think they are fabulous. But the program is destroying my child and family, because we are not allowed to set limits on it in order to fully participate in the educational system, and I think that's wrong and probably illegal.

Turning that question around, not all teachers are parents, why should they presume their setting no boundaries on educational time so that family time is constantly compromised is the best thing for children?

Again, we are back to the issue of boundaries, not education. This isn't an educational issue, except to the extent that the positive outcomes of homework can be achieved other ways (per research by people who ARE experts and other places already achieving such results), it's a boundaries issue.






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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:30 am

Dear This is why,

I sincerely hope you will answer my previous questions about why, since that is your name. Especially with such non sequiturs.

So, first you dismiss the copious, solid research on how homework is unnecessary and sometimes damaging as a "two-minute CNN teaser" and then you bring up a two-minute teaser on Millennials not finding a job and conclude from another two-minute teaser that it's because they have a terrible work ethic, ergo, this is because their parents think they have too much homework, ergo families in Palo Alto should not be able to set limits on the school day?

First of all, I brought up the popular press articles because of your claim that no one anywhere else was complaining about too much homework. One has only to do a simple search to find that this is a national concern. But if you crave research, there is a great deal of research against homework and against even your own sole claim that it correlates with increased test scores, an effect that apparently disappears under more sophisticated scientific analysis (speaking of Alfie Kohn, see this article in Education Week as a starting point, I welcome you to read the actual research, though) Web Link

Again, solid research shows unequivocally that you can get such test score improvements other ways anyway, such as just from "improving indoor air quality," something our bond measure even promised and that our district never bothered to pursue or achieve. I'm guessing if you asked parents to choose between more homework and healthier school environments (that we were already promised and paid for) for their children to achieve the same ends, they'd go with healthy schools. Since better indoor air quality also correlates with less depression, less absenteeism, less asthma, and many other positive measures of student wellbeing, it also happens to be a superior way of achieving those results.

Test scores are a narrow measure of educational success, too -- I could also get better test scores by giving my child an electric shock every time he got something wrong, but it wouldn't be a very good overall education, would it? The benefits are not worth the harms.

Secondly, if you wish to connect work ethic with homework, you have sunk your case. The same kids whose work ethic you challenge ARE the ones getting too much homework. I have now twice shown you a link to research showing that kids who have too many structured activities like homework are less able to complete tasks they set for themselves. Surprise! Telling kids what to do all the time makes them less able to for themselves. It also gives them fewer chances to just experience LIFE, to do their chores, have a job, play with other kids, make mistakes, and learn from them.

But you don't have to rely just on that research. In the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the author summarizes (and cites, if you have time) decades of business research on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If you want workers with internal drive, you want to foster intrinsic motivation. Oppressive homework and grades are extrinsic, from outside, and research shows that kids may perform better short-term because of extrinsic motivators (perhaps the test results you love) but tend then to be less likely to engage in whatever activity was extrinsically motivated later (less overall "work ethic"). In other words, if you only extrinsically motivate a child to read literature or do math problems, that child may do better in the nearterm on those subjects but is less likely in the future to take up reading literature or learn more math on their own.

How about reading the research from which this Time Magazine business article is drawn: The Real Reason New College Grads Can't Get Hired. It cites "soft skills", communication and interpersonal skills, life skills, as the reason. "A wide margin of managers also say today's applicants can't think critically and creatively". These workers are clueless about their real abilities because they never do anything "real", just homework.
Web Link

The practical outcome of this was in college, it was very clear the kids who burned out the worst from high school did not do well.

The practical outcome I see in my child's eyes -- the child whose drive to experiment and create and DO is absolutely decimated by the the constant demands of homework.

You get interpersonal proficiency from having a life, something you don't have if your time is controlled all hours of the day by contrived homework (per research and observation). Business schools usually want people who have work experience. How many of our kids have time to hold a job during school? Speaking of genius, Albert Einstein is famous for having worked in a patent office -- and for being less than a stellar student as a child.

Thirdly, if you are going to cite statistics, can you PLEASE do so honestly? The "JLS Developmental Assets survey" you point to was of 7th graders and cannot be generalized to even 8th grade or high school. Even we didn't complain about the homework in 7th grade as in 8th grade. Increased homework loads in 8th grade (from 7th grade and before) are frequently justified as practice for high school. And the survey you point to was done by an administration notorious for being less than honest with parents. We have no way to know it was conducted and interpreted anymore honestly than you are being in generalizing a 7th grade survey to all grades across the district now.

Fourthly, I have not advocated making tests more high stakes, it was a suggestion some parents made, but I didn't engage in as it's not the topic here. I am an advocate for better individualizing education, providing options for project-based learning, for school happening during the school day, and for families being able to set boundaries so they have time of their own not always controlled by demands from school.

The latter point stands on its own merits. Regardless of what benefits you think may accrue from homework, the fact is, my child can get a good education within school hours, and we as a family should be able to choose it. Those who wish to have a non-stop 24 hour school experience, and there are those, too, should be able to choose that, too, I would not take it away from them. In order to be able to draw those boundaries and offer an equivalent education, a very different approach needs to be taken, SUCH AS WE ALREADY OFFER IN THE EARLY GRADES OF THIS DISTRICT.

I am for choice, and drawing boundaries. If some kids do better in the quiet of their rooms, I am all for that -- find ways (completely doable and already being done) to offer blended learning and hybrid homestudy options, or of compressing the day, such as trading transitions to 7 classes a day to a block schedule so kids have time to do the work at home without losing any high-quality instructional time. But do what it takes so that the school day can still reliably end at 3pm. Or 2pm. Or 4pm. Just so that it has an end. Again, the issue is not even homework so much as the lack of boundaries between school and home, and the presumption of school personnel that one doesn't need to exist.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:31 am

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Thanks, Ken Dauber, for your posting. We have faith in you!

@Paly Parent: Your posting, "I have heard of students doing SAT prep classes and studying hard this winter break, so for some families, the idea of a stress free break just doesn't happen. However, encouraging students to spend time on breaks defeats the object of bringing finals into December instead of late January as to for."

I don't quit understand - is there no answer to appease you? Those who decide to continue academics during Winter Break are making the decision for themselves. The move of final exams prior to Winter Break has been a Godsend to the majority of us. Final exams in January did not allow a stress-free break. Kids felt they should be studying even if they were trying to enjoy the break.

No, we cannot eliminate homework - this would bias towards the geniuses who perform well on tests and it wouldn't prepare our students for college.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:37 am

Legal Eagle,

This has been a wonderful debate, but a few questions I had for you got lost above. Could you please search on "Thanks!" - I am deeply grateful for your help.

If this past season wasn't enough for everyone else, it was for my family. One way or another, we are going to provide for a challenging education with sacrosanct family time and time for normal life EVERY DAY. Starting now.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:40 am

Paly Alum,
Gentle reminder -- the alternative to having sane or even no homework is not having only tests. The educational pursuits can encompass all kinds of activities, they should just happen during the school day when kids can get the support and help they need, and families should be able to set boundaries on school life so they have a family life, too.

People who never have discretion over their own time never learn to be fully autonomous individuals.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

My point about some families stressing out their kids by having SAT prep classes and studying shows that for some families, they will always find a way to study over breaks no matter how much leeway we give them about no study over break.

Not all families like the change in finals.

In my house, we had to forego several Christmas activities during finals week and I know that several high school students remained at home "studying" while families visited grandparents, etc. The fun stuff always takes place before Christmas and after Christmas my students are rather bored (since friends are away skiing or some such) and spend most of the time in bed, watching video games.

Now perhaps since kids can't have fun before Christmas, someone will start putting on Christmas parties, Carol Singing, Cookie exchanges, etc. after Christmas rather than before so that the kids have something fun to do to make up for the fun they miss before Christmas.

But that is just me and my family. We still have our tree, we still eat and bake the Christmas food and we can go buy our Christmas presents in the after Christmas sales. Merry Christmas everyone.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Paly Parent,

Merry Christmas to your family, too.

It's true people will make all kinds of choices with how they spend their time. That is their right, and a choice they should be able to make, but it should not be a reason everyone else is unable to set boundaries between school and family time.

I don't think it's possible to settle a debate over instructional approach; we acknowledge this in our district by having choice programs. But the choice ends for those who prefer project-based/whole child learning after 6th grade. We should be offering choices. I think for compulsory education, that is the best answer to ensuring the state is not compelling me to put my whole family life at the disposal of a specific kind of educational approach in order to give my child a Constitutionally guaranteed education (CA Constitution) equal to others' (CA and US Constitution).


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I propose the 10-10-10 plan:

10minutes/per grade/ per school day

10% of the grade max is homework worth

10% off late penalty (max)

This would put the genie back in the bottle, and revert focus back to in-class activities, labs, classwork.

.. And while this seems very proscriptive to some, please keep in mind that the further our schools depart from healthy boundaries and quality teaching, the more likely the solution is going to be imposed upon them and micro managed from above.


Change comes from within or without.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 1:52 pm

@Parent/JLS - like I said, if someone wants to push for no homework for their own kids, that's fine. Good luck with that, and I just hope it doesn't take up too much of the district's time. If you want to engage on homework policy, limits, etc., in the context provided by the district and/or schools - also fine, and I hope it provides you some satisfaction.

But for people like Sorting Hat, with a "10/10/10" proposal, or others who say that too much or too little of grades are based on homework (or anything else), or that there should be more choice programs, etc. - my reaction is thanks for your contribution, and if the professionals we hire to run our schools decide the try it, then great. Otherwise, oh well. But I defer to people who devote their careers to K-12 education on these matters vs. some anonymous online posters, who are no doubt intelligent and well intended, but not experts.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

SortingHat,

Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent contributions to this discussion.

I would add to your list the possibility of allowing families to take part in blended learning opportunities. Rather than making school all or nothing if they find it doesn't fully meet children's needs, allow families to individualize their children's programs in a way the school can't could achieve the same ends. If families find that a child could learn the material for, say, a history class better through a local learning center that is more self-paced, and that class constituted most of the child's homework burden, simply allowing families that flexibility could let people solve the problem for themselves.

I believe the situation still requires an overt recognition of the need for clear school-home boundaries and a way for both sides to set them in a healthy way.


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Posted by Jordan
a resident of University South
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:22 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Curious,

"I just hope it doesn't take up too much of the district's time"

You still really don't get this. This is not about homework, this is about BOUNDARIES.

It will only take district time to the extent that district personnel refuse to respect the boundaries of family time and feel they need to retain discretion over how my family spends its time after school ends. If they miraculously decide that boundaries are healthy and allow me to set them tomorrow, it will take no one's time.

However, over the past year, poor educational practices have had a near abusive effect on my family and child. So I will pursue it regardless of whether district personnel handle it well or not.

I would turn your point back to you, if you are the kind of person who believes the "experts" always know better than you no matter what you experience and what you suffer, and that even schools -- who use the excuse that they have too many children to individualize instruction -- know your children better than you do, then you have that choice. One of the great things I love about this great nation is that I have the choice to pursue an autonomous path. One of the great things I love about this region is the spirit of independence and innovation, the maker spirit.

Salman Khan didn't begin Khan Academy as an expert in education or teaching, and yet his resource is now used by schools and teachers, experts, all over the world. Business research shows most innovations come from users, not the companies with their "experts" - users are the "experts" about the problems that need to be solved. You could start with this free link to Eric von Hippel's books Sources of Innovation and Democratizing Innovation Web Link

And parents are the experts on their own families. School districts are unique governmental power structures precisely to give local control to FAMILIES -- not in order to set up administrators and teachers as insular and answering to no one from above or below. Even the ed code acknowledges that education is supposed to be a partnership and incorporates parents as partners in education, and does not take the view as you do that they are beside the point and the "experts" know everything. Clearly, as Mark Vincenti above admits, even the most caring of them don't have any idea of the impact of what they are assigning on the home life of their students.

Again, your "let the experts handle it" is a power play and I don't think most parents in this district will fall for it. Which is why I love this place.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Jordan,

If you think it's a ridiculous ignorant question, how about reading the discussion, and providing more than just name-calling to back up your assertion.

Here are the facts:

*All California children have a Constitutionally guaranteed right to an education, along with many safeguards to ensure fairness.

*The US Constitution and the CA Constitution pretty much guarantee a fair education without discrimination.

*All children are subject to compulsory education, it is not a choice.

*The US Constitution, in the 4th Amendment, limits the intrusion of government into the private lives of individuals.

Here is the basic issue of this discussion: I should be able to expect to access my right to an education, the compulsory education, without having to in exchange set aside any limits to the intrusion of government into my life.

If I want to have a 24/7 school experience, I think that should be available because clearly some people desire it, but since it is clearly possible to provide high-quality education in a very different way, without requiring me to have no control over my family's time when school is out, that should be an option, too.

This question really wouldn't have been asked when I was a child, because none of these other opportunities enabled by all this connectivity existed back then. Homework was the only game in town. Many people didn't even have access to libraries. The usual trade off was homework versus boredom, thus homework was regarded as an unquestioned opportunity. Not so today.

It would take an entirely new thread to discuss the ways the world has changed now, but suffice it to say, it gives people reason to ask the question: Why are there no clear and enforceable boundaries between school and home life? When my child spends the majority of the waking day at school, why am I not able to set a clear boundary between school and home so that I have discretion over my family's home life?

Children benefit from having time with friends, chores, responsibilities like taking care of siblings, pets, after school jobs or volunteering. They benefit from time with family. They benefit from rest and play. They benefit from pursuing their own projects, extracurriculars, and learning opportunities. Most of all, they benefit from just having control over their own time and being autonomous individuals not controlled 100% of the time by the demands of school.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm

@Parent/JLS - I think I do "get it," but you are entitled to your opinion. You want schools to be run a certain way (which you call "respecting boundaries"). That's fine, I just hope your desire is handled through normal channels. If you sue or push for special treatment, that might take up undue time; I hope it doesn't.

I agree, you have the right to pursue your path. For instance, you could home school (where you can certainly respect your desired boundaries), or choose private school, or choose another district that suits your needs better. I hope you find something that suits you.

In terms of family control of education - that's not quite right, and a somewhat popular misconception. Voters control education, not families. And your right to control extends to electing board members and approving certain kinds of funding (bonds, parcel taxes); you don't have any control beyond that. That's important in my mind, since public education doesn't exist simply to help families pool resources, it is because education is required for good citizenship. The state undertakes education because it is in the interest of the state, the economy, and current and future citizens. If you want education controlled by the families, then private or home schools are good options. Public schools are controlled by the voters, and regulated (heavily) by state educational law.

BTW, you are not alone of course in your search of homework free life. Here's a few links. President Hollande, the Helendale, CA School Board, and 1901 reformers all agree with you!

French President Proposes Banning Homework
Web Link

The Helendale School District in California is instituting a no-homework policy for students in K-8th grade beginning this fall. According to vvdailypress, “First- through sixth-graders will complete any independent work during daily lessons, while seventh- and eighth-graders will get an added ‘homework time’ class period.”
Web Link

HISTORY OF HOMEWORK
Web Link


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Curious,

"I just hope it doesn't take up too much of the district's time"

A bit funny since the topic is about students' time.

What I'd like to remind everyone is that young people need more time.

Mr. Vicenti brings this up nicely "Any student, whether feeling upbeat about life, or having hit the "speed bump" of a rejection in romance or friendship, or feeling the setback of a failed audition or an athletic defeat—or perhaps having trouble just getting out of bed in the morning—will surely feel more valued and comforted in such an environment."

What is that environment?

Does that answer really belong only with professional educators?


2 people like this
Posted by Homework is Punishment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

When I was in the first grade, I had no sword every night after school. As a result, I got Physically punished for having homework on a daily basis. Finally, my parents called the school after two solid mo ths of this and asked how in the world I could be screwing up so badly in class that I had to finish my schoolwork at home

My teacher had to explain to my parents that homework was no longergiven as punishment for a kid who did not finish their schoolwork in the classroom because of goofing off, as it had been in their generation. EVERYONE from first grade up had homework of at least an hour a night at the primary level.

My parents complained to the school board that this was pushing young children too hard, and that I was u able to complete my chores after school due to "excessive" homework!

Then, I had children of my own, and they had over an hour a night of no Emory in kindergarten, increasing to six hours a night by tenth grade.

Now I have grandchildren in preschools, and THEY have over an hour a night of homework at the age of three!

Don't kids have childhoods anymore? We are going to have some. Rey pent-up and burned out ,it's who will seek to have their childhood after college, when it is no longer appropriate. Let children have their childhoods during childhood!




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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

MIT/JLS Parent,

Slow down and read carefully. I did not say "ergo families in Palo Alto should not be able to set limits on the school day?" They should and do, often. So does the board, which recently instituted a homework time limit.

I support reasonable amounts of homework and homework counting for a reasonable amount of a student's grade. That seems to anger you so I assume that for you only no homework for anyone will suffice.

As for the quality of the research that I cited vs. Alfie Kohn who, googling him, is not a researcher but seems to sell books and gather lecture fees for a living, I'd go with mine. But you are right. I didn't do the research so it could all be made up.

There is an easy way to find out how solid it is. Call the researcher. His name is Professor Cooper. He's been at Duke University for over 10 years and is now the Chair of Duke's Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. Here is his CV which cites all his research, papers, books, speaking engagements, awards, grants, visiting positions which include Stanford and Harvard and education policy work - 30 pages of it. His phone number is on page 1.

Ask him how his findings jive with Kohn's and whether students can reach their highest potential just by improving air quality or whether homework and clean air can help students learn even more.

Web Link

As for the JLS survey, the survey I cited was only given to 7th graders so no one knows what 6th or 8th graders overall would say.

It looks like all that survey work was done by the Developmental Assets group not PAUSD Web Link. What I shared came straight out of the raw data and is not someone's interpretation of the results. So despite your implication that that survey was somehow flawed because it was conducted by an "administration notorious for being less than honest with parents," it appears to have had no hand in writing or interpreting it.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Some kids are better than others at taking exams. Some kids are better than others in multi-tasking. Some kids are better at in-class comprehension. Some kids are better at processing homework. Some kids are better at math, reading, art, science and/or other subjects. Some kids tackle "busy" work quickly. Some kids work better in groups, some better solo.

I'm trying to be nice here (and no offense), but have you given any thought to the concept that your kids' homework skills are not as developed as others? Or that their in-class comprehension holds them back from processing homework as well as others?

Our kids did Duveneck, Jordan and Paly. Neither took more than 5-6 AP courses. Both were socially active and had time for family activities as well. One did a sport off-campus, the other did two varsity sports (as well as summer). Homework got done with plenty of time for hanging out, social networking, etc. One chose to miss some homework assignments, the other chose to do all projects at the last minute. Both are highly successful in their collegiate fields of study. Both have stated that they were amazed that most of their university peers were not ready to manage and succeed in their first few years of college.

The issue you're fighting is that a public school district has to be one size fits all. And unfortunately, your assessment of your kids and homework does not fit the size/fit that the majority of families are comfortable with.

My kindest suggestion to you is that you either need to find someone who can assess your kids and their learning/comprehension skills --- and how they convert that to timely homework processing. Or perhaps you should look at a different school environment that will meet *your* needs versus what the greater majority of 12,000 students seem to handle pretty well.

Again - not trying to be discourteous here. But I think you would be better off trying to find a tailored solution that helps your kids succeed within PAUSD (or at another school environment) than trying to overhaul the overwhelming generally accepted paradigm of homework.


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Posted by Homework is Punishment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm

In the first and fourth paragraphs, it should read: "I had homework.." and, "an hour a night of homework...".

In the last paragraph, it should read: "some very pent-up and burned out kids..."


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 3:34 pm

"You want schools to be run a certain way"

Actually, I want my HOME LIFE run a certain way, and I don't think I should have to give the school the ability to have first say over that in order to for my child to exercise the Constitutionally guaranteed right to a public education.


I just hope your desire is handled through normal channels"

Already tried, took up a GREAT deal of MY time, didn't work.


"you could home school (where you can certainly respect your desired boundaries), or choose private school, or choose another district that suits your needs better."

You haven't provided a choice that includes my rights. My child is entitled to a free public education. I live in this district, it is not for you to tell me to go somewhere else if I - and many, many other families - want to solve problems in this district.


The purpose of PUBLIC EDUCATION is for citizenship; the purpose of SCHOOL BOARDS as governmental structures is for local control of public education (look at the school board association sites if you want a place to start). While power among parents in our district may be as limited as you portray, I'll grant you that, school boards have the discretion to change their procedures to give parents more power. Again, the purpose of school boards as power structures is to allow local control, i.e., control by locals with interest in public education. Voters, yes, and especially families with kids in school.

Thanks for the great links -- I appreciate the great discussion even though we see things differently.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm

@Parent/JLS - if you went through normal channels and it didn't work out - well, in my mind, there's your answer. Probably not going to happen. You could try to sue and/or bully to get what you want (after all, it worked for the Mandarin Immersion folks), but as before I hope you don't since you want something that seems different from what most people want.

I should add that like Crescent Park Dad, our two high school grads seemed to get through high school fine, with time for sports, friends, weekends, etc., as well as homework. They now attend good colleges and seem to have been well prepared. There were crunch times, but that seemed to be the result of bad (read: no) planning on their parts vs. excessive work. We did emphasize choosing courses/lanes that suited their interests and abilities and that getting a B was not a cause for family mourning. Each family is different, but that's our experience.

I do continue to disagree that "especially families with kids in school" are meant to control local education. It is one-person, one-vote, kids or no kids. I agree that the school board could choose to give parents more weight (for instance, by polling parents and then implementing what they prefer) - but I haven't seen that and would definitely oppose. The public schools are by and for the community, not just students and their parents. If you want a parent/family driven school, private schools can provide that.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:16 pm

This is why,

"That seems to anger you so I assume"

Can you please stop assuming, twisting what I say around, and then shooting down your twisting of what I say, and actually read what I've written, and answer that? I have asked you some direct questions and you still won't answer them. I welcome you to speak for yourself, rather than twisting around what i say.

Please also don't assume I am angry just because I have a counter to misstatements you make. Just because people disagree with you does not mean they are angry with you.

Glad you are now admitting the survey you are generalizing to all grades is just a 7th grade survey. Thank you. Even IF the survey you brought up is reliable, was asking the same question at issue here, and hasn't been poorly interpreted, you cannot generalize what is happening in 7th grade to what is even happening in 8th grade (I say for the 3rd time). The survey Chris Zaharias has tried to point you to directly asked kids in high school and refutes your generalizing of that 7th grade survey to other grades. Your bringing up the 7th grade survey yet again does not counter his.

You are the one saying a little improvement in test scores justifies homework and the lack of boundaries between school and home. I'm saying any benefit you can currently point to (and you point to very limited one) can be gotten other ways, AS IS ALREADY HAPPENING in other programs. Intense direct instruction is not the only educational game in town (literally). You point to a single researcher while ignoring the fact that, while he may be doing good work, it is also not the last word and there is contradictory conclusions by many researchers and his view is not the consensus, -- especially in a changing world (way above I put a link to an article about the conflict from Great Schools).

As for the impact of improving indoor air quality on student performance, the single researcher you reference is not an expert on indoor or environmental health, is not a researcher in those fields, but if he is a credible researcher, he would probably direct you to those who could provide you with the substantial research and CONSENSUS on the impact of better indoor air on student performance AND wellbeing from meta-analyses of all the research by scientists at the EPA, the CDC, the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health, the California Department of Public Health, and you can even get information about it from places like the World Health Organization, and the California Department of Education (start with their architectural review department who will be able to provide you with a long list of research). Far from pointing you to a single, old study, you would find a wealth of current research supporting the consensus on the many benefits to good indoor air quality in schools, including student (and teacher) performance.

A single well-respected researcher at Brown University published a major study connecting even moderate levels of indoor mold with depression -- something you would think our district would care about given the problems we've had -- our district people seem to have no trouble ignoring a single researcher when it suits their purposes.

Since we have already been promised improving indoor air quality in bond projects and have paid for it, and it could bring about numerous improvements in measures of student wellness and performance we care about, why would we even wish to argue against doing it? That makes zero sense.

I brought up Alfie Kohn for summary, because he reviews available research and refers to copious other research, you don't have to take his word for it, go read the research. Again, a good education and a solid view of any subject requires that you consider not just the narrow support for your pre-existing opinion.

Regardless, Legal Eagle is right. Argue for homework if you like, but be honest that it extends the school day and man up about subjecting the extending of the school day to public debate.


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Posted by Experienced
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Crescent Park Dad: It is offensive that you think OP has a child with poor study skills. On the years my children have had some of the insane, overly challenging teachers, it was Hell. The other years, with the sensible teachers, they glided by with 3.75+ GPAs. I think your view is distorted because your children didn't have the super rigorous teachers. The counselors are aware of the athletes when they create their schedules because the last period has to be a class they can miss for traveling to games. The counselors are known to give the athletes the easier teachers. Only very few can do extremely well in both sports and academics along with taking rigorous AP classes. My children chose academics over sports because they are STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and there was no chance for college sports recruitment.

Those who choose sports have 2 hours of practice every day (some have practice on Saturdays). Add 1 hour for transportation/prep/chill-down. Add dinner. Add private coaching for some. On game days, if the athlete is on a freshman team, the athlete has to play his/her game, then stay and watch the JV and Varsity games. How do they complete their homework? While "watching" the games. Most PAUSD homework requires concentration not necessarily attainable by teens who are sitting amongst a chaotic atmosphere. Add a club sports team during the off-seasons. If they are on crew, they are up at 4AM. If they swim, they swim before and after school (I think). Track meets are 4 hours.

And you claim your children had time for varsity sports, family, AND socializing? They must be amazingly talented. Good for them.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

"The public schools are by and for the community, not just students and their parents."

Huh? School isn't for kids? Whah?

"I hope you don't since you want something that seems different from what most people want."

I think even this thread is evidence that a lot of other families want what we want, the national discussion on too much homework is evidence that a lot of families want what we want, the copious research on the harm of too much homework is evidence that a lot of families want what we want. And your and This is Why's responses are evidence of what this conversation is really about: control and power.

The ability to set a healthy, enforceable boundary between school and home life. Why does this threaten you so?

Parents: Do you want to be able to have control over your home life? Do you want to be able to expect, regardless of when it is, for school to be over and for your family to have control over your time? Or do you want your time after school always to be subordinate to the school day?

My kid just finished a first draft of a scientific paper for an adult journal, something he was working on over the summer but had to put aside because of school. Not one thing he brought home was as valuable an educational experience as writing that paper has been. I'm very glad your family had a great experience. Mine is not, but could be if we were able to set HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. I don't want your opinions about your experience to translate into whether or not everyone else, or I, can establish healthy boundaries between school and home life and have control over some family time during the day.

Again, the only way this will take up anyone's time at the district is if they feel they have to fight to control my family's time 24/7. I hope very much if it does become a debate, that they will debate the actual issue and listen to what is going on, not resort to the kind of political posturing and power plays you have in your post.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Dear Legal Eagle,

I am still hoping for your very intelligent input on a few remaining questions -- please search on "Thanks!"

Thanks !


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm

@ Experience: I guess you missed my statement of, "I'm trying to be nice here (and no offense)..."

I'm not going to bite on your sarcastic assessment of our kids. Clearly you didn't read the details where I stated one kid blew off homework and another always did homework or projects at the last minute. Not exactly amazing execution.

The kid that was a Paly athlete did aquatics - practices in AM and PM.

Both kids had Friedland for CS and Math...if you think that's an easy teacher assignment, then I wonder who do you think is more difficult? Our athlete never got a break on teachers...he didn't play football...


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm

@JLS Parent:

You asked:

Also, could you please add something about boys being discriminated against? I do not have a good enough grasp of the latest academic support for the mismatch between the way we educate boys and the outcomes that are now favoring girls (speaking as a woman who attended MIT when it was less than 20% women), but I can really see the way what I read plays out in our situation. Could you please add anything you know about that to your suggestions?

I do not know anything about this, but would not expect this to be successful.

Here's the link to the UCP complaint form for PAUSD that I would file to complain about the homework. Just to be sure, is this the right one? Which box do I check? I presume I put the rest as an attachment and say "see attachment"?

Unfortunately a prior poster is correct and CDE has recently published a brochure stating that CDE is narrowly construing the regulation authorizing UCP complaints to be limited to specific programs and types of complaints even when the complaints are of legal violations by the district. Although the regulations clearly state that UCP complaints apply to " filing, investigation and resolution of a complaint regarding an alleged violation by a local agency of federal or state law or regulations governing educational programs," CDE has narrowed that through interpretation to apply to only certain specific laws. This is likely done in order to limit the number of appeals coming to CDE as the docket for CDE appeals is years long just for those things that are specifically authorized.

What this appears to mean is that complaints of district illegality that is not specific to the programs enumerated in the CDE brochure cannot be made through a UCP (but of course can be made through a local complaint process and through litigation). Although the brochure specifically states that the UCP is not to be used for concerns about "homework policies or practices" this is a concern about compulsory education as well so that would not necessarily be a bar to using the UCP if there was another proper way to use it, i.e., if a grant program was implicated, or if the impact of homework is discriminatory.

1. One possible avenue of complaint is of the illegal extension of hours of mandatory education. That complaint would not be made using the UCP but could be made the following ways:

A. A local complaint using local (non-uniform) complaint procedures, pursuant to BP 1312.1 (starting on page 3). This is not appealable to CDE but would have the same possible publicity value -- that is, you could file the complaint, organize a complaint drive, organize a parent/student boycott of homework until the complaint is resolved, get the Weekly to cover any press conference or events you create to publicize it, etc.

B. A lawsuit to challenge the assignment of compelled and mandatory homework and the punitive sanctions assessed to your student (expensive, not recommended unless you do it pro se or have pro bono representation.

2. A similar challenge would be a violation of the "Safe Place to Learn Act", Cal Ed Code 234, which provides that "It is the policy of the State of California . . . to improve pupil safety at schools and the connections between pupils and supportive adults, schools, and communities."

The complaint would be that the assignment of excessive homework that goes far beyond the amount allocated under the district's own policy does not comply with the Safe Place to Learn Act for all the reasons you have identified -- it undermines rather than fosters the connections between students and supportive adults, schools, and communities.

This would be filed as a "local" complaint as well because it only violations of the bullying portions of this statute appear to be covered by the UCP.

While either or both of those could be filed as UCP complaints and then appealed to CDE after the district rejects them, it is likely based on CDE's narrow interpretation of its own jurisdiction that it would simply decline to consider those appeals.

Given that the issue was always political not legal, I don't regard it as all that significant whether or not a UCP appeal would be heard by CDE. The filing of the complaints and appeals would themselves be a newsworthy event -- parents from Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley are taking their complaints about excessive homework to the State, school board ignoring the law and its own policy, etc. The story is "parents rise up against homework" not "UCP covers/does not cover/whatever." CDE would never do anything with it anyway -- there are savage bullying issues that languish for years without being decided by CDE -- the point was always to create a media event that would raise awareness and consciousness.

3. If PAUSD receives grant money from ASES (After School Education and Safety) categorical programs, then that program requires that there be both homework assistance AND enriching educational activities intended to supplement the core curriculum. If the entire time of the program is spent on homework and there is no time left for enrichment, then that could be a UCP complaint. I don't see any evidence that PAUSD receives ASES grants but perhaps it does.

There may be other categorical programs that are impacted or part of the LCAP plan that is impacted by excessive homework.

For example, the LCAP is intended to be the district's plan for how it will use state funds to close the achievement gap. Excessive homework that is compelled and carries large penalties for noncompletion increases the size of the gap. Perhaps this practice (whcih contradicts policy) violates some part of the LCAP itself and that would bring it under the UCP.

4. Complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, national origin (i.e., language), or disability, are covered by the UCP.

It is virtually certain that the burden of excessive homework falls disproportionately on students from underrepresented racial minorities, english language learners, and disabled students. File an anonymous UCP complaint stating that the district has failed to enforce its homework policy, that it has unlawfully extended the school day, and that students of color, students who do not speak English as a first language, students from low income families, and students who are disabled are disproportionately impacted by this illegality. These students are unfairly burdened relative to their advantaged peers by excessive homework because they lack the resources to complete it without outside assistance. These groups of students are systematically being disadvantaged, underserved, and left behind as a result of homework that requires adult help to complete.

This is the most promising to me from a UCP perspective, so I would check the "discrimination" box if using the UCP.

5. The UCP covers complaints of the denial of a free public education under the California Constitution. This generally deals with fees. There is a fairly tenuous argument that the excessive homework that introduces new material requires tutoring to complete it. Students are being denied a free public education because free tutoring is not available. This is probably kind of a loser but reasonable to put in as an also-ran argument.

I think that you have made some truly excellent points about the incursion on family time and you have stated in a way that I think is extremely cogent. It is hard to argue that homework until midnight does not destroy family life. I know many people who can't take vacations when they want to go see grandparents but teens have homework or group projects to do. I think the negative impacts to family life and the destruction of a time period that belongs to the child or the family is an important and under-discussed issue and I thank you very much for raising it.

It is very thought provoking to consider also the question of the opportunity costs associated with homework. Teachers currently assign homework in a cost-free world in which they feel free to take as much of the students' time as they want, since it costs them nothing. Particularly given that the academic literature has repeatedly shown that the benefits of homework are limited, and that beyond a certain point it is known to be detrimental, it appears that much of this work is all cost and no benefit. When the work is of low value, e.g., coloring, cooking, endless problem sets, new material never taught, work that is not graded, etc. then there is no countervailing benefit to counter the negative effects to student and family time and autonomy.

There were threads here a few years ago about the fact that students cannot have time to have after school jobs, to volunteer other than for naked resume building, and so forth. The Developmental Assets rubric about community connections has always rung extremely hollow sloganeering in a context in which students have no time for those connections -- indeed, they are probably just one more burden on the time of the kids that competes with reams of mindless busywork.

Please carry on your crusade, organize the community, and post back on your progress. I think many are in agreement that this insanity must come to an end. I think Parents United for Sensible Homework (PUSH) would be a pretty good name. You should connect with Cathy Kirkman of mypausd.org and with Marc Vincente of Save the 2008.



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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Legal Eagle,

Thanks again for your intelligent contributions to this discussion.

You'll have to forgive my very basic questions, but is the Williams Settlement Complaint form the same as the UCP? Because we used to have something like this Web Link

"Anyone may use this form to file a complaint regarding one or more of the following problems: (1) insufficient instructional materials; (2) an unsafe or unhealthy school facility condition; (3) a teacher vacancy or misassignment, and/or (4) a restroom that is closed, not fully operational, or not cleaned, maintained, or stocked regularly."

Is #2 what you were talking about re: safe place to learn?

It's my understanding that the board reports the number of Williams Complaints every session to the public, or is it the Superintendent reports it to the board? Is it just every semester or every board meeting (when is the next board meeting?)

The current UCP form is almost indecipherable. As you might know, I'm not easily discouraged but even I scratch my head and have no idea what to do with it.

Also, what if the District office has answered a complaint or a concern about homework by telling you not to bother them but to file a UCP? What box do you check? (What box, by the way, do you check when the issue is facilities? Failure of the District to keep proper student educational records per the education code? Failure of the District to properly respond to educational records requests under FERPA?)

Again, are Williams Forms the same as UCP, and if so, why is ours so different than the above sample form?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Legal Eagle,

What about this: Forced Parent Work policies, which according to this is illegal under the California constitution and the Ed code. Here is a link to a current suit regarding forced parent work policies and charter schools.
Web Link

The report has such subjects as "charging for access: how CA charter schools exclude vulnerable students by imposing illegal family work quotas"

Excessive homework is a de facto parent work requirement, because the school day is extended at home and the parent required to act as the teacher or teacher's aide. The district can claim you should take a completely hands off approach, but I have plenty of evidence of the bad things that can happen when you do and the school coming back to you and telling you to do stuff then. Is this what you meant? (Which box?... Eek, can I complain about this complaint form?! Anyone who knew enough to fill it out probably wouldn't ever need to complain!)

Why do you think the discrimination against boys is a dead end? There is a lot of research about this and how boys' focus develops later, far fewer of them are getting to college because school programs favor the cognitive skills of young girls now, etc. I find all this switching gears once home is just a nightmare for a kid who is already overwhelmed by all the switching gears at school. I hear far more complaints about trouble for boys focusing at school, and of course we all know they are diagnosed with ADHD and medicated far more.

Which brings me to another question: Homework policy itself, even implemented perfectly -- is that supposed to encompass total time devoted to homework or account only for the most productive time doing homework, which is a subset in the real world. Ten minutes per grade, equals 2 hours for 12th grade. If you can sit down and work on one thing for two hours, that's totally different than having seven subjects, tests in more than one of them, a few overdue things, some emails you need to send to teachers to ask for extensions, going on Schoology (let's not ignore all the research about attention costs to going online), permissions needing signatures, picking up supplies for some math art project. There is a transition cost to switching between subjects, gathering materials, keeping the planner up to date, etc. In two hours, a kid is going to need a bathroom break, particularly if they had to switch between a whole bunch of disparate things. The point is, two hours of work time might be three or four hours of actual time to accomplish in the real world.




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Posted by Definition, please
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm

The 10/10/10 model suggested above will not work because there is too much work to be completed at home that is not categorized as "homework". If you do not complete any work at home, you aren't just doomed to an A- as the maximum grade. You are going to fail projects, reading or vocabulary quizzes, essays, and tests. When discussing what gives the schools the right to assign "homework", we have to acknowledge that plenty of the work done at home is not categorized as such.

We also have to acknowledge that we are probably not receiving the clearest data from our students regarding how much time our students spend on homework. There are students that probably "cheat" (eg, reading SparkNotes instead of the assigned reading, or using the answers in the back of the math book to save time) which will give a lower figure, students who are also roaming around online or staring into space and calling that homework time, and students who are inflating the hours they spend a night to fit in (and that definitely happens; I remember complaining about my homework load to friends, and always adding an hour or two to the total, because I wanted to fit in and complain with them. Ah, teenagehood). The numbers we have are skewed.

I have given some thought, and have some suggestions:

1. Eliminate a period of class a day, with the intention (which will have to be enforced) that teachers will not need to give as much homework because there is more time in class. Weekly, that is about 4 hours back in the school day. If teachers have more time to review the material, then that should eliminate some homework. For example, if a math teacher has ten more minutes to go over liner equations, then fewer practice problems will be needed in the evening. This might be harder at the high school level, but certainly seems doable for middle school, and since students do not get preps then there is no prep to lose. (If we do add this to middle school, perhaps consider giving them PE period to do homework if they are involved in athletics already, like what happens in high school.)

2. Have supervised homework sessions in the library. Enforce quiet, phones are NOT allowed (maybe they have to be checked-in on the way in?), and the internet is off. Students who have been working diligently for two hours (which is the "maximum" amount for seniors) can get a note excusing them from the work not completed. Hire Foothill/Stanford students to help if needed. Even if that starts at 5:30, kids should be home for dinner and evening off to relax.

3. Make the "busy work" assignments optional. If a student has a C+ or below, then they can bake French cookies or make an artistic representation of a book scene or create a commercial for the decimal point. IF a student has above a B-, then they can't do it. Otherwise we will have students that feel like they have to when they don't, or parents who are forcing their kids to do activities to pad their grade which really are meaningless. The students who need them and want them can keep them. Those that are doing okay do not.

Mr. Dauber, I hope you consider these.


3 people like this
Posted by Experienced
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm

@Crescent Park Dad: I read your initial posting but the "no offense" was overpowered by the arrogance of the greatness of your children. And if "one kid blew off homework and another always did homework or projects at the last minute" and they earned good grades and took 6 AP classes, plus played Varsity sports, they are academically superior to the norm. If they did well in Friedland's classes for CS and math, then your children are as I stated, "amazing". CS is not an easy elective, and Friedland teaches only the highest lane of math, which is appropriate for STEM majors. So your experience is off-base from the majority of students, while you speak as if it's the norm and any student who can't handle it has a learning disability.

@Definition, please: Your suggestions seem more appropriate for micromanaging elementary school children.


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Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2014 at 11:40 pm

@Crescent Park Dad - fwiw, I did not find your description of your kids arrogant or esp. unusual, frankly. There are plenty of kids who are varsity athletes and do well academically. Our kids are similar, and while we are proud of them, I wouldn't consider them exceptional students at Gunn.

@Parent/JLS - While I know you'll find agreement on setting homework limits (the Board certainly agreed), I don't expect the "no homework" camp will prove very large. You're right that if the district simply agreed with you it wouldn't take much of their time; unfortunately, it seems they don't agree. I hope you find a solution that suits you.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

Experience,

It's not @Definition's fault that the homework assigned in middle and high school is micromanagement.

Crecent Park Dad started a weird angle here, comparing each other's children.

I thought the camp was homework with boundaries, not a no homework camp

Boundaries (constraints) and incentives are the parents of invention, a real change in grading homework and homework could open up opportunities for that other big chunk of time in education, the instructional day.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2014 at 7:15 am

The problem with message boards is the potential for misinterpretation of intent, sincerity and/ or content. Obviously that is the case for my posts. Not trying to compare anyone's kids to anyone else's kids. The fact is that kids, parents and families are different. Different learning abilities and skills develop at different stages and ages. PAUSD cannot realistically set up a curriculum for 12,000 individual students. While one family may want zero homework, another may want a very rigorous program. The reality is that PAUSD is going to be somewhere in between.

How you choose to manage educational requirements is your decision. Fighting PAUSD on perceived constitutional rights is one way to go. Another way to go is to analyze potential inhibitors to your student's individual success and see how those can be resolved. Or do both. IMHO, your greatest bang for your buck/time would be the latter over the former.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2014 at 7:46 am

Homework is part of the "Commitment to Learning" Developmental Asset measured in a survey that it says has been given around the country for 45 years.

Here is more from that homework question answered by 3,422 PAUSD students - 83% of 7th graders and 74% of high school students:

PAUSD 7th graders:
2 hours or less of homework a night - 89%

9th graders:
2 hours or less a night - 64%

10th graders:
2 hours or less a night - 55%

11th graders:
2 hours or less a night - 42%

12th graders:
2 hours or less a night - 48%

If the question had been asked of 8th graders and the decrease was similar to that between the advancing grades, 75% of 8th graders would have reported having 2 hours of homework or less a night.

The percentages go down in high school because many students choose to take honors and APs classes which say upfront that "students who choose to enroll in Advanced Placement, Honors or accelerated courses should expect loads higher than [the homework policy limits for standard college prep classes] and should refer to class catalogs for homework expectations."

Take Paly's 10th grade Chemistry. Standard Chemistry is now under the board homework policy so pencils out to about 2 hours a week. Chemistry Honors is billed as requiring 3 to 5 hours.

The same is true in AP classes which Paly tells students at registration are geared toward students "capable of managing a demanding workload and learning rigorous content independently with minimal guidance and support."

Many many students pick a path through middle and high school that has homework completed by dinner time and go on to college.



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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

First, whether or not regular lane Chem is 2 hours per week of homework depends on the teacher, My student had much much more than that.

But assuming that "why" is right, 7 academic classes assign 2 hours (assuming that no honors are taken) that's 14 hours per week, or 14/5 = ~3 hours per night, which is DOUBLE what a 10th grader (100 minutes) should have. The only way you can even in theory get it to work out is by using the weekend, in which case you get 14/7, or 2 hours total per day, but half of our high school students report more than that, and a third report MUCH more than that.

I don't know if you have ever had a high schooler in Palo Alto but if you had you would know that the policy does not reflect reality.

Back in reality, here is a very interesting story. Oak Knoll Elementary in Menlo Park restricted homework back in 2007. Menlo Park adopted a policy quite like Palo Alto's a full 5 years before we did. The principal of Oak Knoll decided to enforce it, as our principals should do. He wrote a letter to the parent community, which I will reproduced below. Here is the link: Web Link

In my opinion this is what our Superintendent should do. We already have the policy so why are we continuing to experience (or are we? Dauber says we are "flying blind" so maybe it is being unevenly implemented under our silly "site based" or more likely "teacher based" nonmanagement management "style". We need to see our policy, which appears to be very similar to Menlo's on paper, enforced.

Dr. McGee, why would you have a policy that teachers scoff at? Why adopt Schoology then require it of noone? How can you manage a district if you don't manage it? "Site based control" means "Zero management." If we have zero management, then why do you get $300K per year plus a million dollar interest free loan? Why are you here? A potted plant could manage a district that has a formal policy of no-management.

Just to note, JLS parent, the Menlo Park situation got on TV and garnered a lot of national press, so you could expect the same if you start filing complaints if you have a media and community organizing strategy. I hope you connect with others who are interested in the same issue that I mentioned previously. Kirkman in particular advocated project-based learning and learning innovations. Others have advocated a third high school for years with a SEL focus. I think that there are many in PAUSD who would also join a movement to finally limit homework to sane hours.

One issue you will have to deal with in any organizing drive is the fear of retaliation. This is the reason people are not filing complaints about the lack of enforcement of the Homework Policy -- they will fill out anonymous surveys or go to confidential focus groups but will not complain about a teacher or admin while their student is subject to their "site based" authority.

Good luck!



Oak Knoll principal's letter on homework policy
Below is the text of a Sept. 5, 2006, letter to parents from David Ackerman, principal of Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park, on "The Future of Homework."

(For related story, click here: Web Link )

"Over the past decade there has been a significant increase in the amount of homework schools require. Not many adults experienced an hour or more of nightly homework when they were 10 years old. This increase may have come in response to the call for higher expectations, comparisons of American student performance with that of children from European and Asian countries, and the pressure created because of state testing programs.

"When I talk to teacher groups about the explosion of homework, it's often stated that, 'We give homework because parents expect it of us.' Teachers report that parents believe that the homework is a sign of a rigorous program. It has also been reported that parents want the homework because it keeps the kids busy.

"When I talk with parents the viewpoint I most often hear is, 'The teacher believes this work is important and we feel we must support the school.'

"Ever increasing amounts of homework for younger children has become the norm and accepted practice. A majority of both teachers and parents support this position because they feel the system demands and believes in the efficacy of homework. More than any other single person, I believe I most represent the Oak Knoll 'system.' Here is what I know and believe about homework.

"The preponderance of research clearly shows that homework for elementary students does not make a difference in student achievement. It is hard to believe that a strategy used so extensively has no foundation. Even the most ardent supporters of homework have only been able to produce evidence of associative rather than causal relationships.

"In addition, it is not surprising that there is no research that demonstrates that homework increases a child's level of understanding, improves their attitude towards school or inspires a love of learning. For a large number of students we know the opposite is true -- large amounts of homework stifle motivation, diminish a child's love of learning, turn reading into a chore, negatively affect the quality of family time, diminish creativity, and turn learning to drudgery.

"Unable to produce evidence that homework improves student performance, proponents often site outcomes that seem true because they make some kind of intuitive sense. 'We give homework because it develops responsibility, study skills and work habits.' Once again, there is no research to support any of these claims. If there was, we would be able to say with some level of authority how much homework it takes to develop good work habits -- two hours a week, four hours a week, or maybe a half hour every other day.

"We don't know what is necessary -- there is no data. I would suggest that our present one hour, four days a week, thirty-six weeks a year, following a six-hour school day is much more than is needed to develop age appropriate work habits in nine and ten year old children.

"I certainly don't believe that homework teaches our children responsibility. There are very few choices in homework. The children are completing work that is required. They are complying with adult demands. Comply or suffer the consequences. This is not my idea of responsibility."

"The argument for homework that makes the least sense to me is, 'They get lots of homework in the middle school so we better get them used to it.' Parents and teachers say this resigned to the fact that this homework experience may be painful, work against quality family time, and diminish a young child's fondness for learning. We want to get them ready to do something they are not going to want to do when they are older -- by forcing them to do it when they are younger.

"Young children are not the same as older children. What is good for older children is not what is good for younger children. There are developmental differences. Author Alfie Kohn says, 'The fundamental choice we face as parents and teachers is whether our primary obligation is to help children love learning, or get them accustomed to gratuitous unpleasantness so they can learn to deal with it.'

"With all that being said, what are we going to do about homework at Oak Knoll? How will we work and support the homework policies of Menlo Park? In no particular order:

"-- We will promote reading as the central aspect of our homework. Preferably, reading of the child's choice.

"-- We will not provide weekly homework packets that have not been differentiated based on individual student needs. Weekly packets help parents and students manage time. However, packets of this nature almost always include homework of which the child has demonstrated in class that he has absolutely no need to complete.

"-- At no time will homework exceed the district maximum time limits.

"-- We will not assign homework for homework's sake.

" -- Homework, other than reading, will be assigned when a specific need arises, when it's necessary to practice a skill or complete important work.

"With these directions in place, most parents will notice a considerable reduction in the amount of homework. The Oak Knoll teachers will be working to comply with my direction as principal and with the policies adopted by the Menlo Park Board of Education.

"Parents should also notice an increase in the relevance of the homework to their child's needs.

"Should you have questions about the quantity and quality of homework please feel free to contact me."

-- David Ackerman (e-mail: dackerman@mpcsd.org)





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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 30, 2014 at 9:56 am

Crescent Park Dad,

You said some things here that are really key in this discussion:

"PAUSD cannot realistically set up a curriculum for 12,000 individual students. While one family may want zero homework, another may want a very rigorous program. The reality is that PAUSD is going to be somewhere in between.

How you choose to manage educational requirements is your decision. Fighting PAUSD on perceived constitutional rights is one way to go. Another way to go is to analyze potential inhibitors to your student's individual success and see how those can be resolved. Or do both. IMHO, your greatest bang for your buck/time would be the latter over the former."

This thread has gotten really long, but I would encourage you to go back and read through the first half of it again, because there are different perspectives and counters to some unnecessary ruts we get in in the homework discussion that are expressed in the two paragraphs above. This is NOT a rigor versus less rigor issue. I wish you were right about choice, but how I choose to manage education requirements is not my decision in this district, unfortunately.

But providing eminently possible options and choices is one way to provide for the 12,000, ensure different learning styles all get a high quality education, and allow those who wish to set healthier and more distinct school-home boundaries to set them.

The point of this thread is boundaries. Education is compulsory, and kids spend more of the waking day in school than they do with their families and in control of their own time. As a parent, I should be able to know that there is a clear end to the school day, and a clear start to family time that I and my child have control over, to expect and even plan on it. Anything less is an Unconstitutional intrusion by government. The state (small "s") goes to great lengths to set the end of the school day, changes usually involve conflict. There is good reason for that; they should not just be able to do an end run without bounds around that where families are concerned through homework.

The choice is also not homework proportional to the quality of education, it's not rigor versus lack of it. Many posters have pointed out that high-quality education does not have to involve homework. Craig Laughton is a well-known poster on this list, with advanced degrees and STEM orientation who clearly values high-quality STEM education, and said one of his best math classes had no homework. Another poster concurred. It can be done. If you value homework, imagine having such a class AND the ability to do accelerated math of your choosing with the time you have after school. Or having such a class AND the ability to do something much more substantial after class in order to be far more competitive in your college application (and just a happier person).

Studies of homework, even given the drawbacks cited by the Oak Knoll principal, don't even really control for attempts to achieve the most high-quality results without homework, because high-quality attempts to achieve the latter do exist and succeed. (Which means they wouldn't be part of a study on homework, it would be comparing apples and oranges, the programs have to be structured differently, not just offering homework versus not.)

While I think how people choose to spend the family-time part of the day should be their choice, even if it is all homework, I can't understand why anyone who prefers a rigorous education with homework would object to having an equally high-quality education during the school day without mandatory homework, that would allow them to accelerate their learning path even more (possibly by adding something else with homework of their choosing). While I didn't have the opportunity to attend a rigorous high school (and resented it, frankly), I had a part-time job at a chemistry lab at the university in high school, from which I learned a great deal, took part in (even starred in) community theater, tried to teach guitar (it was perhaps a better learning experience for me than the kids, I'll admit), took part in numerous activities and clubs, learned other languages, etc. Looking back, I was able to make up a lot of the academic ground my first year at MIT, but I would not have learned how to be comfortable with and happy with who I was had I not had the opportunity of so much time at my discretion in high school.

Teaching/tutoring others and jobs and internships in STEM fields would be in many cases a far greater learning experience for many kids than sitting at their desks doing more homework. Too much homework deprives our kids of those opportunities, and for what? Have we put overt effort into providing the equivalent educational foundation during the school day for those who wish it? We have to some extent in early grades through our choice programs, but not in the later ones. Even tragedies haven't spurred the administration to such efforts.

That said, I do not think the issue of setting healthy boundaries has to resolve the homework issue. Some families, for whatever reason, want homework for their kids. Others want less. Others want a different kind of instruction that they feel allows kids to get a broader base of skills and accomplish a high-quality education during the school day. (They tend to be the project-based side.) The answer to some people wanting homework and some not wanting homework should not be something in the middle, it should be that we provide options, AS WE ALREADY DO THROUGH 6TH GRADE, aspire to do but don't through 8th grade, and can and should do through 12th. We may yet do this, but setting up a program like this won't happen quickly, and if McGee doesn't get a different team who are more interested in and capable of innovating (and who are more professional/less personal, and less interested in actively thwarting change), it might not happen at all. (To be the best, it's usually necessary to take some risk, focus on the goal, and be willing to learn from mistakes.)

One way we could serve all 12,000 students is to incorporate learning options in PAUSD the way some other districts nearby do. Give students the opportunity to choose to participate in blended learning, or independent study for part of their coursework. Some students could use this to ACCELERATE their work, so that they are spending less time doing busywork and rote work, and less time switching gears in school, while still participating in the local public school. Several frameworks exist in practice in other districts and our board language is already such that we could adopt this overnight if we chose to. It doesn't set boundaries for the district, unfortunately, but does allow a kind of escape hatch for some families to at least choose to find ways to set boundaries for themselves. The opportunities available to such a blended learning option multiply daily. If, as you think, very few families are interested in this, it would allow the district a very low-stakes way to serve everyone including those most unhappy with the status quo.

In a perfect world, one in which we had district administrators who got up in the morning excited to serve families and even to innovate in education, none of us would even be thinking about court cases. Palo Alto could be ground zero for showing how innovation in education is done, at no risk to the traditional program. If you think this is a good way to go, please let your opinion be known to the powers that be.

I want to keep this thread positive, so I will just say, no one considers a legal route as their first or even anything close to a top choice. I very much want McGee to succeed. But my family and the kids are my first priority. Please read the letter Legal Eagle provided above from the Oak Knoll principal. Wow.




2 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2014 at 10:10 am

Crescent Park Dad,

"Another way to go is to analyze potential inhibitors to your student's individual success and see how those can be resolved. Or do both. IMHO, your greatest bang for your buck/time would be the latter over the former."

Thanks for clarifying, and your point speaks to the heart of the issue. On the one hand "PAUSD cannot realistically set up a curriculum for 12,000 individual students," so it's about individual success with the one size system which actually means each individual teacher's one size.

PAUSD's one size system is not sufficiently flexible or appropriate for many students, in terms of of balancing school and non-school time, and good question, is this right? Students already spend thousands of hours in school, and why are they being held accountable for time outside of school as well?

Students are graded on "individual success" in a system that is successful for some, but it offers no options for those who do not fit the size. Not just because of ability - there are many many more reasons why sometimes kids need more time like processing divorce in their family, death, illness and circumstances. Or they may want to pursue other interests, hobbies, which by the way are the kind of kids who are very successful later on as well. The fact that many kids fit one size does not really mean it's right - it just means most have adapted (tutors, parent support, summer work)

Legal Eagle nailed all the issues in her most recent post, and the letter from the Principal in Menlo Park.

Ackerman states
"We will not provide weekly homework packets that have not been differentiated based on individual student needs...."

Establishing individual needs is something that comes from classroom time (why class size matters) but that's usually one size too, despite all the talk about differentiated instruction. I'll believe differentiated instruction when there is differentiated homework. Nevertheless, it should not be allowed to have homework weigh on a grade unless it's a very minimal part of the grade (or extend the school day). 10% is plenty.

Maybe the fear is that homework is the reason why PAUSD is successful? That wouldn't be too good. I think one can expect that there is an awesome mix of students here, with talents and contributions to make who are ready and willing learners. I would trust that by giving them more free time, they will make the district even more successful.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2014 at 10:14 am

Parent, JLS,

Apparently I was writing while you posted, and just saw your post:)


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Thanks one size. I sure wish the new Super had the ability to bring in his own administration, like a President does.

I will add that the watershed moment for me as an MIT student was when I learned how to take regular time off. It's counterintuitive if you are working as hard as you can that you would do better if you take time off, when you don't think about work, don't plan, just leave it behind. At least to a kid who never learned good work-life balance, as we are failing to teach our kids here as well. When I learned that skill, things became a lot easier and i became a much more successful student.

But as intense as MIT is, university students spend far less time IN CLASS than high school students do, than high school students here do. And your work is far more flexible so you can manage your time better.

I think we do these kids no favors by putting them in a position where their measures of success involve virtually no autonomy or self-direction, just how well they stay on the homework hamster wheel. Regardless of how anyone feels about that, I don't feel like I should have to defend my ability to have some inviolable time in the day that belongs to me and my family. Court cases usually are where these things are decided.


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Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm

A couple more thoughts, spurred by a conversation with someone smarter than I am:

1. The failure by the district staff to follow the board's homework policy is itself literally unlawful. The board policies are the equivalent of ordinances passed by the City Council -- the board is a local legislative body and has passed local "laws" requiring that they be carried out by staff. There have been court cases in which a school district did not follow the board policies, and either the district's action was ruled unlawful or the fact that the district failed to follow policy was found to be evidence of malign intent.

This is cleaner and less complicated than challenging the extension of the school day, and opens the possibility of challenging all homework assigned to your student that exceeds the amount permitted under the policy as well as the fact that the district has failed to implement the board policy. This could begin as a local compliant under 1312.1 (as described above) and then lead to a court challenge. It could not be done anonymously.

2. Failure to follow a board policy could be taken as evidence of discriminatory intent. The Seventh Circuit held that where a board policy required district staff to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and staff failed to do so, the ignoring of the board policy provided sufficient evidence of discriminatory intent to state a claim of intentional discrimination. It may be that the ignoring of the board policy in the homework context could provide evidence of intentional disregard for the well-being of students who, if they are harmed thereby, might be able to receive the types of damages relevant to an intentional injury.

All of these ideas require of course that you are not anonymous and that are complaining on behalf of your child based on the assigned homework.

The real question in my mind is how many threads like this one in which people in the community search for a way to use the law to reign in the conduct of district staff will have to happen before the district administration decides to at least follow its own rules.

By the way, I added up the homework in the Paly course catalog. Just the middle of the range of the lowest lanes of Math and Science would fill up the allotted time for 9th graders (3 hours each for Algebra and Bio/week) is 6 hours/5 days = 1.2 hours per day. In ninth grade that is supposed to be 90 minutes per day, so that would be almost filled just by 2 out of 7 classes, and does not include history and foreign language both of which are known to have quite a bit of homework.

Who knows if this is actually what is being assigned, if it differs by teacher, or what. The policy was put in place in 2012 but there has been no effort to obey it. If the City Council passed an ordinance, for example, requiring staff to enforce parking but the staff said "we don't feel like it, we think the meter maids should have to buy in before we make them do it" I cannot imagine that would go over well.

These are new ideas and new claims so it's not particularly neat but as people continue to brainstorm around the question of how to stop the assignment of excessive homework, I expect that the best ideas will emerge.

Nothing herein should be construed as legal advice, just some ideas. I am not a lawyer, just an interested citizen.




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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm

This is why,

Your data must be wrong. What year was the questionnaire completed? Maybe the students didn'the want to admit how long they spend on homework because our students are spending many more hours on homework, I guarantee it.








homewor


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 30, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Mom,

I was wondering the same thing. But even if This is Why's statistics are right, they are hardly reassuring. First, do they represent total time from start to finish of work that students devote to assignments, or do they also include all the overhead that goes along with doing homework, especially for children who have trouble concentrating and need a break after school? In our experience, after the last tragedy, instead of hearing our complaints about too much homework, we got a letter home saying the kids had more trouble than previous years concentrating in class (and therefore this justified continuing to send too much homework home so that the very same kids could not get enough sleep, etc) and including patronizing and clueless advice like "Budget homework time and take breaks." (In the meantime, indoor air problems that are known to cause concentration problems continue unaddressed or poorly addressed.)

My experience with many kids is if you ask them to tell you how much time they spend on homework, they don't include things like going on Schoology to get the assignment and other overhead. Is only the best productive time of idealized children who don't get distracted to count, or is it actual homework time?

I also noticed the 8th grade statistics are not there, and it's quite a difference between 7th and 8th. This is Why, do you know the date of your listed statistics and also do you have the 8th grade numbers? Perhaps a link to the information? Thanks. Rather than being reassured, I find them more a confirmation that a lot of kids, not just a handful, are doing more homework than the limits.

45% of 10th graders and 58% of 11th graders spending more than 2 hours a night on homework, that's almost 2/3 of 11th graders. Crescent Park Dad pointed out that his kids found everything easy and participate din sports, took APs, so one can hardly assume the increase is all accounted for by people who are spending more time than the policy allows by choice.

As was mentioned above, why should honors courses not be included in the homework policy limits? Many parents have pointed out that honors versus not honors doesn't correlate with the amount of homework. I think AP classes are a good example of choice adding time voluntarily, but what are the statistics on how many of those nearly 2/3 of 11th graders spending more than 2 hours per day on homework time are spending it all on APs? That doesn't explain the 45% of 10th graders, nearly half, whose homework time, from Why's own stats, violate the homework policy. (Since 2 hours is in excess of the amount of time 10th graders should be spending, and the school discourages 10th graders from taking APs, it's hard to accept Why's justification, perhaps the percentage in violation of the policy is higher than half.)

From the Gunn Counseling site:
"AP classes at Gunn are designed for the junior and senior year students. In addition to handling the coursework, there is also a maturity factor that is needed for the courses."

So, as they say, something doesn't add up.

I find it interesting that we are even discussing a statistic, when our own attempts to even enlighten staff about the extent and impact of the homework on our lives has been met with silence, hostility, and denial. And aggressive discouragement of communicating with teachers and district personnel.

Legal Eagle - I am grateful for all your advice, but still scratching my head over the UCP form and even which box to check. it seems geared to discourage its actual use. I can't even tell if this is a Williams Complaint form or if they are two different things. Do you know if they are different or the same?


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2014 at 9:00 am

MIT/JLS Mom,

The survey asked about "homework," so what that included - study breaks, etc - was left to the student to interpret. ("how much time do you spend doing homework outside of school?")

"That doesn't explain the 45% of 10th graders, nearly half, whose homework time, from Why's own stats, violate the homework policy."

No proof that there is a violation of the homework policy since there are several OPTIONAL accelerated and honors classes that Paly 10th graders take which carry more homework: Chemistry Honors, Accelerated English, Honors Geometry, Trig and Algebra 2, advanced art and Spanish honors.

"why should honors courses not be included in the homework policy limits?"

Because the committee was looking at students who took regular courses only? If there was another policy for honors courses the limits would be higher. Each advanced course says, or if it does not ask the IS, what its homework expectation is. If it is too much, don't take the class.

That recent (2011) professional survey data indicates that half of the students have 2 or less hours of homework a night in grades 7 and 9-12. 8th graders were not given the survey.

Legal Eagle seems to be saying that winning on the merits is besides the point, it is the media buzz - news that a few parents filed complaints because they want their kids to be assigned less homework than the rest of the class - that will bring pressure to bear and change should follow.

Maybe it will or maybe it won't. But first check out the rules on claims brought to generate publicity. Legal Eagle didn't address this but you may be required to pay ALL the legal fees - yours and the district's. Perhaps Legal Eagle will take on your case for free given he is giving free legal advice here but the district does not have an attorney on staff I presume so will have to hire one. There was a recent article about this in the Weekly which showed that legal fees add up quickly. Is it worth it?

Always quicker and less expensive is to continue to advocate for your own child's unique circumstances. It sounds like your 8th grader faces some unique and difficult challenges. In addition to trying to free up time to publish a paper in an adult journal, he has "trouble concentrating" because of allergies/"indoor air problems that are known to cause concentration problems."

If you are sure that you exhausted all options - taking to teachers, counselors, principals, superintendent, board, independent study, etc - and no relief has been provided, consider waiting it out since the data suggests that after next semester it will get better since most kids have 2 hours or less homework in 9th grade.

Or transfer your child into the Connections program when school starts up next week.

Or, if his challenge is diagnosable (i.e., allergies making it hard to concentrate), have you tried an IEP/504 plan?


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 9:24 am

The more I read of all this the more it seems to make sense to me that education in this country needs a big overhaul.

Kids overseas spend more days in school and more hours each day in the classroom. They spend less time doing outside schoolwork (homework) and generally end up with better test scores.

If we want to be truly competitive with education here, then we need to spend more hours teaching each school year and we need to grade our kids on what they know and understand rather than what they do.

How come other countries give university degrees in 3 years rather than 4? It is not because they teach to a less higher standard for their degree requirements, instead it is because they don't have to waste a year doing GE requirements to make up for what the kids haven't learned in high school.

How come other countries have far less university graduates going to grad school? It is because their degrees tend to make them more qualified to getting a real job in the real world.

It is about time this country overhauled its education system, big time.


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Posted by Connections
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 11:04 am

Why said:

"Or transfer your child into the Connections program when school starts up next week. "

1. The notion that there is less homework assigned in the Connections program is false. The teaching approach is different in some areas, but there is plenty of homework, including on the weekends.

2. The Connections program is so popular it is over-subscribed, with only about half of those applying getting in, even after the program size was doubled this year for incoming sixth graders, so there is no option to "transfer your child" in next week.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2014 at 11:36 am

Three years in college...but an additional year in secondary school.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm

This is Why,

As usual, your suggestions are unhelpful, though I'm not dismissing you because I've tried myself.

Connections does not have less homework in 8th grade, they seem to be getting more than everyone else in 8th grade. Connections is not a full program in 8th grade, and the major homework comes from English and Social studies, which are the only classes in the program by 8th.

Waiting it out? You just gave us all data that showed 7th graders had FAR less homework -- why would anyone expect that waiting it out would improve things, the kids are told the 8th grade homework is to prepare them for the higher homework burdens of high school. Third request: can you please provide the 8th grade data and links to the source of your information because we have no idea what that shows (and your previous attempts to generalize the much more favorable 7th grade data to all grades still cast a long shadow on the reliability of your claims).

The fact is, you don't have any idea what is included in what kids considered their homework time, and you have no idea whether the majority reporting doing homework in excess of the limitations are because of honors or not. All we know is that a high percentage of kids are spending longer doing homework than the policy allows.

The fact that you can even suggest waiting out more of what we have endured means you are as clueless as our school and district administration about homework, stress, indoor air quality, our school programs (like Connections, independent study, etc). For awhile I thought I must have been speaking with one of them. You still haven't answered why you are such a defender of homework that you are willing to interpret every piece of information (even when there are very big gaps) to assume it favors your conclusions and views.

If you were concerned about legal fees, you might look into the indoor air quality problems in our district a little more. We have a giant lawsuit or more like lawsuits waiting to happen, and the failure to follow even our pathetic district policies and long-standing efforts to cover it up are neither going as unnoticed or being anywhere near as successful as district people think.


3 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm

A comment on IEP's and 504's (kids with learning issues that have special educational plans). In our experience at in 7th and 8th grade at Jordan and at all years at Paly, teachers paid NO attention to the ed plan for our child. The request was simple, please give all homework in writing unless it was posted daily on a website. In 6 years out of 30 plus teachers, 4 complied with the request. And that is about as simple of an accommodation as you can ask for.

Unfortunately too many of the teachers consider immune to the rules and think that rules don't apply to them (such as homework guidelines, no homework over breaks, IEP accommodations, etc) because their subject is too important. Sometimes this is simply due to passion for their subject or in the case of new teachers, inexperience in how long assignments might take.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Why,

I should probably add again -- this is not even about homework so much as boundaries and power. I think families should have the ability to set boundaries so that some portion of their day is respected as theirs, that they have control over, and isn't subject to demands from the school day.

Do you think that is a reasonable thing to expect, that families can set such boundaries? Or do you think that schools should continue to be able to treat after-school/family time as some kind of bottomless well where school demands continue to take priority?

Please answer at least THAT question. Are you in favor of clear boundaries or not?

Most school administrators either don't think of that question, or would answer in the negative or as evasively as you are likely to. Since they hold the power, it usually takes a higher power - courts - to create change.

Given the way this issue of too much homework is being struggled with nationally and even internationally right now, do you really think parents who wanted to pursue this, especially on 4th Amendment grounds, couldn't get legal help? I do not think there is any cause for the district to get their legal fees back in such a situation, especially if the practices and behavior of some of our core people in the district office got more daylight. I think people would get a lot more information that would invite lawsuits, legitimate ones, too. Said district people would look back with nostalgia at all the softballs they got from this community during the OCR mess.


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Posted by Paly Parent of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Just a few things to add:

--In middle school, the grades don't count (except for laning, and you can have some influence on that). So if you think the homework is busywork, or eating up too much time, your child can skip it--and take the consequences of lower grades. What homework seems to do in middle school is teach time management, organization, and how to study for at test. 4 hours of homework to me in middle school, though, sounds like a kid not working efficiently, who may be spending more time surfing and chatting than focusing. In this case, it's an opportunity to figure that out now, before high school when it matters more.

--In high school, your child will have a choice to make--take fewer classes and more prep periods, and use those preps for homework, or take more classes and do the work at home. Paly had so many interesting class options my kids maxed out their class schedules and had no preps; that was their choice. So they had huge amounts of homework, and had to work very efficiently, but I don't think they would have given up those extra classes.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Paly Parent of 3,

I know this is a really long thread, but it's really important to read through a lot of it before assuming it's a usual homework retread. This point has already been dealt with. We tried, yes, you do fail if you don't do even some of the homework. I also keep my kid off of media to the extent humanly possible precisely because it costs focus, and even try to ensure he is in the habit of checking Schoology at school so it doesn't have to be done at home. No smart phone, no tablet, no computer of his own.

My kid is in a higher lane in math and bored at the pace, even as he has other skills he needs to work on and isn't a perfect student. But the homework in math has never been a problem. This issue has been discussed several times above. This is not about rigor or no rigor. (Please read the discussion first.)

This issue is about boundaries. Regardless of what choices we make or don't make at school, does my family have a right to expect part of the day to be under our control, without intrusions of school taking priority in order for us to expect to fully/equally participate in public education? Since it clearly ISN'T a choice between high quality education and massive homework -- the massive homework is a choice that is an aspect of a particular educational approach, not essential to whether the work is advanced or not -- should the school have to serve the segment that wants to set a healthier boundary between school and home? Since they CAN and already DO through 6th grade, why is this even a debate?

If the school only provided locker rooms for boys but docked girls for not changing and for being tardy if they tried to use the bathrooms or wore their gym clothes all day, you wouldn't say, so what, they won't flunk out of school if they just accept the lower grade. That's discriminatory.

I'll ask you the same questions I asked Why above: answer the boundaries question. Maybe you don't need those boundaries, and if you don't, you should be able to choose that -- I would defend your ability to. But many families do want to set those boundaries for their kids, without being forced to choose between a good education and having a family life. The great thing is, they don't have to, it's not an either/or by any stretch.


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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I completely agree with Paly Parent of 3, except on the point that 4 hours of homework is due to inefficiency. We've had some teachers who pile on the homework - usually the new teachers who figure our kids are geniuses and can handle it. In 6th grade, my now college freshman, had two such teachers. Soon after he came home, we had to crack down on it so he could get to sleep by 10:00. Projects, tests, quizzes, you-name-it, there was a lot of work - mostly projects always in the background. He earned all "A"s but the next year, I decided to just let him work on his own so he wouldn't be burnt-out by high school. Fortunately, he never had such unreasonable teachers again. He slacked-off a bit and then in 8th grade came around again and decided to take his grades seriously again. I did the same with my others - told them that middle school grades don't count towards college so just do your best. My second one did have a rigorous year with lots of homework - he had 3 quizzes per week all year (English, Spanish, Math) - it just depends on the teachers.

The only class to not sleep through in middle school is world language because it builds upon itself. They get history again in high school. And don't worry about English - they won't learn much anyway - writing is peer grading these days - it's up to the parents to teach their kids how to write through their feedback. Disclaimer: There are some middle and high school teachers who do give writing feedback, but the majority don't. One infamous Paly teacher doesn't even return the papers till the day before grades are due so students never learn.


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Posted by Counterproductive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 31, 2014 at 6:25 pm

The most progressive countries with the most successful school systems have cut homework way back to no more than thirty minutes per night at the high school level ( Finland, Poland, Germany, etc). However, their school days are longer, as are their school years (10-10 and-a-half months), so far more work is accomplished during school hours. Yet, they give more recess time, even at the high school level, to keep the kids' minds and bodies refreshed. They also have DAILY physical education.

As a result, these countries score far, far better than the US, China, India, or Japan--all fans of the " load them down 'till they drop" method of education. Their drop-out rates are virtually non-existent compared to ours.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Hi Mom of 3,

Thanks for sharing your experience. So the question here is: when your child was getting 4 hours of work a night, what if you had cancer? What if your child wasn't getting enough sleep and was depressed? Should you have had to choose between your child participating normally in the program, or having time of your own that you could count on?

The whole point of this thread is of boundaries, not whether homework is good or bad. Should families have the right to time of their own during the day, that they can enforce, time that is considered important and must be respected regardless of what else is going on, time they can count on regardless of what anyone else thinks of what they do with it, in order for their kids to be able to have an equal education as the Constitution in this state guarantees?

When your child was getting 4 hours of homework a night, what if you could have said, my family needs discretion over our time after school every day, and it will hurt my child's opportunities and cause stress not to get the same education with his peers -- luckily, I have choices for educational approaches so that my kid can still get the same high-quality education without such a major after-school workload.

I think people who want that non-stop 24 hours school work experience should be able to CHOOSE it, but I shouldn't have to choose to have a lesser education for my child simply because I want to set healthier boundaries between home and school.

I don't know why this question is so hard/painful/difficult for people to confront: to get an education, should you have to give up the ability to control at least some of your day without tendrils of school control reaching into every minute?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 6:50 pm

JLS Parent

Since this is your thread and you are setting boundaries as to what topics people should comment on and are relevant to your discussion, many of us have mentioned that countries that have less homework and yet better test scores, have longer days in school and a longer school year, meaning a lot more hours per year in the classroom.

Since you are concerned about your daily family time, how would you feel if the school day was longer with less homework and that the school year lasted weeks longer than what we have.

Many people think that our summer break is family time, while others feel that it is a time for packing in more academics or other educational content. How would you feel about a summer that lasted just 4 weeks - probably starting July 4th with just 4 weeks break?

You are commenting on most people who discuss the value of homework, how about letting us know what you think of longer school days and longer school years.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi Paly Parent,

I think some of the things others are mentioning are great examples and information, showing that it is possible to do things differently and have well-educated children while maintaining family-life balance.

It's hard to answer about a hypothetical on extending the school day when so many other things wouldn't necessarily be equal. Would I want us to emulate China with its sorting system and intense non-stop study or Finland with a motto of doing whatever it takes for every child and focusing on work-life balance -- it's probably obvious from my thread which I would personally choose. However, resolving one side or the other in our society is probably not realistic, and it isn't even necessary in order to resolve it for those who want a model more like Finland. Offering choices is important.

As others above have mentioned, forcing districts to deal with homework as part of the school day will force them to include it in the requisite public discussion about the length of the school day. I think that's really the healthiest thing to happen, regardless of when exactly the school day ends.

And I believe it's really important, as we move into this age with this universe of opportunities we couldn't even imagine months earlier just opening up before us, that we find a way to be flexible and allow people the take advantage for their children, not allow whole generations of children to lose out as the wheels of traditional bureaucracy grind forward. A discussion about boundaries is fundamentally a discussion about power -- who has the ability to choose how a child is educated. I'd probably be fine with the extended school day -- if it meant I could count on my child being completely done with school when school was done, and if I had the ability to choose some amount of independent study if the program wasn't high-quality, and especially if there was an attempt to first attain the stated goals in other ways than extending the day first. But that's part of the public process of extending the school day that homework does an end run around, as has been pointed out.

I do like the Finnish model but I don't think it's necessary to force it on our system. Anytime there is a way to achieve an outcome without unnecessary wheel spinning, I'm all for that. Learning language, for example, really doesn't have to involve a lot of homework (haven't studied 8 languages plus some dialects to varying degrees of fluency under different circumstances). Is the goal fluent speaking, or making people grammar or literature experts in those languages? Sometimes I think schools spend too little time considering that question. Or they say it's one but the de facto answer is the other because homework always wins. If they have to work within the constraint of a family-time boundary, they have to perhaps spend more time thinking about how to keep improving language education without just being lazy, frankly, and assigning more homework.


2 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2014 at 7:36 pm

@Counterproductive - might want to check your data. Here's the 2012 PISA scores. Web Link
Looks like like East Asian areas (Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Korea) are showing the highest results and most improvement. Do they have little homework and daily phys ed? Or maybe eating rice every day is the key?


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Paly Parent asks would we take the Fonnish model, even if it means less summer break.

Answer: yes, in a heartbeat.

But for this to work, it probably needs to be a choice program or site-level difference.


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Posted by Mom of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 31, 2014 at 10:55 pm

To Parent (at JLS): In regards to your questions, "What if your child wasn't getting enough sleep and was depressed? Should you have had to choose between your child participating normally in the program, or having time of your own that you could count on?"

We did have three different years where my children were excessively sleep-deprived and depressed when we had a string of difficult teachers and I hated it. But complaining to one high school teacher about excessive expectations resulted in a "C+" grade when this child was in the 3.7-4.0 GPA range. Many parents were complaining to each other but no one wanted to approach the teacher and I was the idiot who did, which affected my child's grade. And this was a regular lane class and parents of AP students were upset. These teachers have so much power over our childrens' college acceptances.

Your best bet is to do as everyone else, which is to keep quiet and do all you can to support your kids through the difficult times, through paying for tutors or through your tutoring to accelerate the time spent studying instead of your son struggling to figure it all out on his own. Or accepting the grades your child earns through not turning in homework or not studying for tests if he wants time to himself. Thank God, we're done in a couple years and I can get my life back. As the cliché goes, "If the heat's too hot . . . "

Anyone here who thinks there is hope for the schedule to change, as per longer days or more days in the school year is hoping for a miracle. Longer days won't work for athletes and people are not going to shorten their summers - there was already complaining when the schedule shifted a couple of years ago to starting the year earlier - some grade level got ripped-off and had one less week of summer. Remember, this is a public school district. Your needs would be better served in a private school.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:57 am

Mom of 3,
I am so sorry to hear you went through that. Thank you for your courage. I have similar battle scars. Which is itself SO wrong that anything like that should happen in a school district. If we even want to pretend to teach kids to learn from mistakes, be resilient, be upstanders, be honest, be good citizens - we have to lead by example - how is it even possible to teach something like that via those who don't know how or won't themselves? How can we teach troubled or hurting kids to reach out to people who do not otherwise behave in a trustworthy and upstanding way toward them or their parents? But I think someone has to stand up. This is our kids.

(When I was in high school, I had a teacher who seemed to have it out for me and did something pretty awful/dishonest, and while nothing anyone did changed the outcome, ultimately my witnessing how my otherwise not-very-assertive mom and my other teachers stood up for me literally changed me and changed my life, it was a gift that dwarfed the negative. You gave your child a rare gift by your example that is probably worth more than anything learned in that class all year.)

This quote by IF Stone is one I am reminded of constantly when kids lives are at stake and people are too afraid to join together to do what's right: "The essence of tragedy is not the doing of evil by evil men but the doing of evil by good men, out of weakness, indecision, sloth, inability to act in accordance with what they know to be right. "

We really should all be standing up because there is strength is numbers. I have seen exactly what you describe in other school spheres, parents talking to each other but afraid to speak up or with (or challenge) district personnel. For good reason.

Your saying: "Thank God, we're done in a couple years and I can get my life back." says it all. It's the reason for this thread. When you're done, your kids will also be done with their childhoods. I want you and every family to have the ability to BE families in the meantime, and get a good education here at the same time. Learning well doesn't have to be hazing, it can actually even be better when it's fun, and we should be giving our kids that gift, too.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 9:46 am

This is exactly why I think education has to be changed from the top. An overhaul of the US education system has to be done at the national/federal level, not district level.

Some of the recent candidates for legislators, all parties, seemed to be talking education reform. These are the people who might make a difference if they get elected.

Education should be an election issue next time round.

Unfortunately, it is not very likely that the media will start pushing and asking for it. So perhaps getting some of our media political talking faces on our side.


2 people like this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 11:17 am

JLS Parent,

I presumed, erroneously, that your child is in 8th grade by all your statements about how much homework JLS 8th graders have. Based on the survey data, the rumors of unbearable homework are not true for most JLS 8th graders so may not be what your child experiences next fall either.

It is not clear what your child's 7th grade challenge is since you say that he understands the material. You want class time to be used for teaching. All would probably agree with that. But otherwise is it that 10 hours (4pm to 2am as you say) a night of busywork is assigned each night all year? Or is the problem certain projects? Certain classes? Certain teachers? Would you mind spelling out exactly which classes are problematic and why and how often?

What is driving your thread also seems to be your desire to have "core learning take place in a more self-paced, accelerated... way, so that there is more time for and a focus on higher-level and project-based learning" like the program you mention in San Jose.

Premised on the presumption that something needs to be done in time to help your child:

I am not suggesting that you leave the district, but that is an option. Some PAUSD elementary families send their children to private middle school and pop back in for high school for reasons that are specific to their child's unique needs that large public schools, with 30 students in a classroom, cannot meet. They travel to San Jose and San Francisco and places in between each day.

The San Jose Unified program you herald, which is free and closer to Palo Alto than Nueva in Hillsborough you said you'd send your child to in a heartbeat, accepts transfer students and gives priority to 8th graders so it might make sense for your child. Web Link It may be hard to get in to but so are private middle schools. Kids manage to nab spots at those so applying is worth a try I'd think.

If you are intent on staying local and building a movement to reform the district, consider pushing to pilot a core middle school class or two as at-school pull-out enrichment courses for students like your son rather than "embarrassing" the district with expensive untested legal theories against homework/intrusion on home life that may not work, may be worse for students for whom homework helps with their learning, or simply will not pan out in time for your child.

MANY interesting ideas have been floated in Town Square that do not have the momentum to morph into movements like one tried a few months ago about your other issue above - air quality - which did not get off the ground despite threads like this.

Web Link

Web Link

IMHO an anti- or "no credit" homework movement won't either in part because the data shows that homework is NOT a problem for most PAUSD middle and high school students here.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 11:53 am

Oops. Meant to say 7th grade homework survey results - the grade your child is in - which shows that 89% of JLS 7th graders have 2 hours or less of homework a night compared to your child whom you say has homework that fills his after school hours until bedtime which some nights is 2 am - 10 hours/day - and even that isn't enough time to get all his assignments completed.


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Posted by ha ha ha
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm

I love this thread! It can be distilled down to:

"I don't want my child to have to do homework but he should still get straight As"

Board, make it so!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Why,
I am still waiting for you to provide data for 8th grade, and a link so that I can substantiate it, since you first cited only the more favorable data of 7th graders - more than once - and used it to generalize to the other grades, even though the statistics you yourself provided later show that many times more high school students than 7th graders, around half of 10th graders and 2/3 of 11th graders, have homework that exceeds the policy limits of our district.

Chis Zaharias' survey also indicates that a large percentage of kids get too much homework. Mark Vincenti's group in part exists because kids are getting too much homework. Are you suggesting the merits of setting boundaries has anything to do with whether his movement is successful as a movement? If you think parent movements cannot succeed, that speaks more in favor of legal action, don't you think?

You continue to avoid answering my questions, even the most basic, and stick your head in the sand about everything many parents are saying. Do you think that families should be able to set limits on the intrusion of school into their lives in order to exercise their right to education as others? Given a choice between improving school programs/offering choices for different learning styles (as we already do until 7th grade) so that we can offer a high quality education while still respecting the boundaries of home time for those who wish it, versus digging in on the ability to treat family time as some kind if slush fund for the school day with schools always having first say, which would you choose? Please answer.

It's a power question. Forget about the homework question, it should be easy for you to answer since you don't think homework is a problem. Who has priority over a child's a family's time after the school day is over in order for children to have an equal education as is their right?

I already know you don't think homework a problem, but the fact that we even had to debate a homework policy at all shows that you are wrong. However, let's assume for a moment you are right. If you think homework is such a non problem for PAUSD families, how would it be in the least threatening or embarrassing for PAUSD to affirm the importance of school-home boundaries? If homework never violates them anyway, it would be an easy publicity win, an opportunity, and easy to let people set boundaries for what you seem to feel would be for show anyway. I'm still interested in hearing your answer.

If, on the other hand, parents above and I are right, then the district would have to choose between improving the educational program/having the discipline to teach the program better in the school day, and defending what really amounts to laziness and failure to consider the time of families as important. If the district is "embarrassed" by having to argue that it should have priority in the control of children's time even when they are home in order to provide the education (and rather than making an overt effort to improve the program or provide choices instead), as with other recent debacles, the district will have only itself to blame.

Happy New Year everyone!


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Ha, ha, ha,

I don't think you have read this thread, I invite you to first, and then join the discussion.

This discussion distills down to: families here think education AND family time are important. Can and should schools have to respect boundaries on family time in order for the children to exercise their rights to a public education?

If schools do have to respect boundaries on family time, that has implications, if they don't that has implications. Public education seems to have developed under the assumption that they don't. Maybe that was fine in a bygone era when the time of ordinary people wasn't considered very valuable by the state, and homework was an undisputed educational opportunity. Times have changed, and it's time we had that conversation.


3 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm


Taking the last two posts - my interpretation is that the camp that likes homework (as is) are saying a few things.

1. You should not be able to get an A without homework
2. Homework is the teacher's domain
3. PAUSD is successful because of homework
4. Those who can handle it are successful

Which would all be fine, except for the fact that homework is expected to be done outside of the school day, and that is a "problem" in that there are laws and common sense (otherwise policies would not be written) that say - there are limits to what you can expect from students (in terms of their time outside of the school day).

Before our policies can make any sense, a discussion about what is fair needs to take place. And before what is fair can be answered - you need to decide where is eduction supposed to happen.

1. What percentage of instruction is supposed to happen during the school day?
2. What percentage of instruction is legally appropriate to be expected outside of the school day?
3. How does grading, and power over students' time outside of the school day reflect the balance.

The current system is completely unfair because it allows each teacher to decide, then each teacher has a different method, and worst of all is that the stakes can be extremely high with certain teachers. Keep in mind that with a teacher who puts high stakes into each homework grade, it can (and is) often death by a thousand cuts for those who do not fit the one size system.

Before suggesting that families relocate, or suck it up, I'd ask PAUSD to decide how much of the district's and student success should come from homework. And how that should be reflected in grades.

The "number of hours" per grade and so forth is a recipe for disaster because each student is different.


2 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I was referring to the "last two posts" when I referred to the most recent posts (had not seen parent)

to This is why and ha ha ha

From the handles themselves, these two perspectives will not allow for any progress or change to what needs change. Homework and grading have been out of control for too long.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm

One size,
Wow - that's a really astute summary, thank you for putting that into words.

In terms of the three questions, I wonder if the state DOE has codified an answer in any way, even to say that districts need to decide in concert with parents.

Ken Dauber - if you are still watching this thread, do you know the status of our district in relationship to one size's questions?


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Parent, JLS

Another angle to this is that usually struggling students are asked to work twice as hard to keep up with a regular class. Since the school day is taken up by one size instruction, that means their home time is basically gone, if they want to keep up. This is a discriminatory practice. To expect struggling students to give up more of their free time for academics. What if they want to do sports, theater, or need to care for siblings at home?


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm

and of course, the need to scrupulously make the distinctions of what is work done inside the classroom and outside, per Definition please.

The teacher who gives 50% of the grade to writing, most likely expected to be done at home. Was that 80%? A struggling student would want to have access to the teacher during the many hours spent in the classroom, but they instead need to take all that home, and most of their grade is from home work. How is that even allowed?


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Posted by Just Read
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Homework is essential, yet too much does cause considerable family stress. Those who don't understand have never encountered the situation or chose to ignore it. A Paly teacher who is a friend of mine says it's sad to see students who are "doing school" with no signs of joy in their faces.


8 people like this
Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm

@Parent & one size,

The length of the school day is set out in Administrative Regulation 6112 (Web Link). The homework policy is set out in general terms in Board Policy 6154 (Web Link) and more specifically in AR 6154 (Web Link).

The Board policy on homework includes language that is relevant to this discussion, including: "Effective homework practices do not place an undue burden on students. The Board recognizes the value of extracurricular activities, unstructured time and adequate sleep for a student’s success in school." The devil, of course, is in the details, and we can't begin to intelligently assess how well the policy and associated regulations are being implemented without more detailed data about how much homework is being assigned and how much time students are spending on it. I'm happy that Dr. McGee is pushing forward on that data-gathering effort.

Beyond the issue of time, of course, is the educational value of homework. The Board policy states:
"Homework should be designed to:
- Deepen understanding and encourage a love of learning.
- Reflect individual student needs, learning styles, social-emotional health, and abilities in order for students to complete their homework.
- Provide timely feedback for students regarding their learning.
- Include clear instructions and performance expectations so students can complete the work independently.
- Be assigned in reasonable amounts that can be completed within a reasonable time frame.
- Provide teachers with feedback to inform instruction."

We also need to be able to demonstrate how well the district is doing at meeting these standards.

I recently posted a summary of some of the issues that have come before the board in the last month, including the general issue of student stress and social/emotional wellbeing, including homework, on a blog I have started for this purpose here: Web Link. I welcome your feedback and input.

I also encourage everyone to share their experiences and ideas at school board meetings. Board meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month at 6:30, and every meeting includes an "Open Forum" where anyone can speak for up to 3 minutes on any topic. Agendas are generally posted on the Friday before the meeting, at Web Link.


3 people like this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm

JLS Parent,

I've addressed your questions already but here are answers in brief one last time.

1. The 7th and 9-12th grade survey results are taken verbatim from the 2011 survey. Google JLS and Developmental Assets survey to find them if you want to confirm.

Chis Zaharias' survey has 50 responders - no way to know BTW how many are PAUSD students - compared to the professional Developmental Assets one that had 3,200 PAUSD students take it; by his own admission ("I'm no statistician") he cannot stand behind its statistical soundness. Web Link

From the post above, Mark Vincenti's group supports homework. It is not advocating for all of it to be done at school nor for none of it at all.

2. No idea how you concluded that I do not see any "merits of setting boundaries." Above I said that there should be homework with reasonable limits that account for a reasonable amount of the grade. I suggested 10%.

There already are limits in the homework policy.

The homework policy does not apply to honors, accelerated or AP courses which have their own homework expectations set out in the course catalog. Those courses student have the option of taking, so I am not convinced that they need to be folded into any policy.

3. There is nothing that shows that in general homework "exceeds the policy limits of our district." Remember, many take advanced courses and homework for those classes is folded into the stats too. Again, those courses are outside the policy.

4. "Families should be able to set limits on the intrusion of school into their lives in order to exercise their right to education as others."

Agreed but I see it differently than you do. I see the school giving students opportunities to learn. Families can decide what of that which is being offered they want their children to do, accepting that doing less can impact how well their children learn the material and so potentially their grade.

You argue that is not about equal opportunity to learn but equal learning so the student who decides to do the least work sets the bar for an A because it is not fair for schools to allow one student to learn more than another. By extension, that means that the entire class should get an A if a student blows off all learning since he sets the bar. That's silly.

5. Students who do the homework AND master the material are entitled to high grades.

Whether students who master the material without doing the homework should get as high of marks is something I cannot opine on. That goes to what skills homework teaches students independent of content mastery. For questions of education pedagogy I defer to the Superintendent.

6. Some have suggested here that your child's experience cannot be generalized to the entire grade.

At least 89% of JLS 7th grade families are finding that JLS is doing a fine job of, as you say, "respecting the boundaries of home time" if defined here as 2 hours or less a night, especially since many are taking advanced classes in 7th grade.

You are deflecting providing details about how it is that your JLS 7th grader, who learns all the material as it is taught in class, ends up spending 10 hours a day on homework and still fails, or at least comes close to it, while those 89% get it done in two hours or less with passing grades.

You also have ignored/dismissed every one of the many suggestions that many have patiently posted here in earnest attempts to help you mitigate the situation for your child.

Bottom line after some 200 plus posts it seems is that you are intent on bringing a constitutional legal challenge claiming that schools have no right to assign X hours of homework (whether x = 0 is not clear) because you think that either a court MAY interpret the law that way or the district will rollover, cowering out of embarrassment.

Know that many will be upset that you are forcing the district to spend thousands of dollars to defend its practices and by doing so take money out of services their children use.

Of course, the district could just meet your demands. But the district meeting demands each time someone threatens to sue it is unworkable because, once it does what you want, someone else will just threaten to sue for more graded homework and it will have to switch gears to meet that demand too. Responding to threats is a zero sum game.

Given the years it will take to move your challenge to the court room, there is no way it will be resolved in time to help your child but that is besides the point I guess.


1 person likes this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 4:49 pm

This is why,

What would you suggest in the case of the where 50% of the grade is writing, and most of it (let's say all of it) is expected to be writing done at home. If the weight of the grade is limited to 10%, should the amount of homework stay the same with less credit, or the work shifted to the classroom? If the work is not happening in school, should the student have to attend 100% of the class?


6 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm

I am so impressed with Ken Dauber. I have never seen a school board member post to Town Square before and his honesty and clarity is a breath of fresh air! I don't know if the others are going to be able to keep up with his brainpower and clarity -- something tells me no. But at least he is being public and telling us what is happening! We finally have someone on the board who is playing for our team !


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Posted by parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Mr. Dauber, you might want to be careful by posting here. You may have inadvertently violated the Brown Act:
Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 1, 2015 at 6:11 pm

That is not what that article is about. That article is about how a quorum of board members can't communicate among themselves not abput how the can or can't communicate with the public.

Ken Dauber is the peoples board member.


5 people like this
Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 6:52 pm

OneSize summarizes the obstruction to limits as:

"1. You should not be able to get an A without homework
2. Homework is the teacher's domain
3. PAUSD is successful because of homework
4. Those who can handle it are successful"

You can see that applying induction on these rules, if a little more homework makes PAUSD a little more successful, this forms a tragedy of commons with a race to consume the kids time. The homework will ratchet up without bounds. If the system is limited by a 24 hr day, then homework loads will peak at the maximum amount that 'A' students can bear in a 24 hr day.

Looking at the sorting tendency of the schools, we see this is about 30% of kids get 'A's.

So when the top 30% have hit their limits, that is when homework peaks. The rest of students are beyond burnout. Certainly trying to teach the to do your best or teach perseverance is hopeless in this scenario.

This level of rigor may be well beyond curriculum goals, or may be compensating for inadequate teaching in class or may be biased by the use of tutors. All of which are just gaming the competition to be included in that 30% who get A.

Whether you like homework in principle or not, do you want your kids success to depend upon the extreme measures classmates are willing to go for grades?

Do you want to play the game where there are no limits?

Because taken to its logical conclusion, it is only the kids with the best tutors and most time who win.

This is the point OP is making .


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Because taken to its logical conclusion, it is only the kids with the best tutors and most time who win.

This is the point OP is making .

(Hit send too soon)

... This is why we need boundaries.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 7:02 pm

From the web link I posted above. Not sure why it was removed...Because posters on here are anonymous there is no way Mr. Dauber can know if another board member is participating... He should be careful.

"Another example is social media. It’s ironic that board members collaborating on a public forum (Twitter, blogs, etc.) is a violation of the Brown Act despite the fact that this is immensely more open, transparent and accessible than forcing people to go to a board meeting! For instance, my fellow board members won’t likely ever comment on any of my EdSource Today articles out of a fear that more than one other board member doing so would unintentionally create a “serial” meeting, violating the Brown Act despite the fact that expressing one’s views on EdSource is as transparent as it gets! Using modern tools, we can go much further than the old paradigm of “show up to a meeting and make a comment.”"


1 person likes this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 7:03 pm

TheSortingHat:

"about 30% of kids get 'A's."

Your source for that?



4 people like this
Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 7:48 pm

@parent from Escondido School

Thank you for your comments on the Brown Act. The Brown Act bans a majority of a body (in this case, 3 of the 5 members of the school board) from discussing or deliberating outside a board meeting about issues within the board's jurisdiction. It doesn't bar publicly commenting on such issues, except if doing so creates a discussion involving 3 or more board members. In this case, I'm the only board member who has commented in this thread (in the article you cite, the author is himself a member of a school board, so if another board member comments there are already 2 board members involved).

As to whether other board members might be commenting anonymously -- I doubt my board colleagues would comment anonymously, and I also doubt whether truly anonymous posting would qualify as discussion or deliberation, since no one knows who is behind the opinions expressed. Since I think there is value in hearing from local elected officials on topics of interest, I don't think it's necessary or desirable to ban all participation in forums like this on that basis. But I am careful to avoid inadvertent Brown Act issues, and thank you for the reminder on that point.


3 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Can anyone explain why AP and honors classes are exempt from boundaries?

All classes should have a balance of what is in-class work/learning, and what is expected to be done at home.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:06 pm

@Ken Dauber - Does your participation in this forum prevent other Board members from participating (less they cause a serial meeting to take place)? If so, does that create a problem?

As a poster pointed out above, they like that you post here - but it might not be obvious that one board member posting might prevent others from doing the same.


2 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:20 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:26 pm

As long as a poster is making a valid point about the topic, it should be OK, otherwise start a new topic.

You wonder why your post is removed? Has nothing to do with homework or the original post.


3 people like this
Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:47 pm

There is no average amount of "A"s distributed. Some give 2, some are more generous. It'seems something the Board should check out because only a few "A"s is stressful when many may be capable and this can lead to cheating.


5 people like this
Posted by Edmund B. . .rown
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:50 pm

The allegation that when public officials speak to the public it somehow in some crackpot theory violates the Brown Act should be news to Melissa and Camille who ran for re-election together and all they did during the campaign was discuss board issues, including things that they were both in agreement would or should be on the agenda and how they would deal with it. The very idea that the Brown Act bars public officials from speaking publicly about the issues is literally insane. Please take your jibber jabber elsewhere.

I'm sure the current board members wish that Dauber would not speak to the public but not because they LOVE the BROWN ACT. Because they LOVE secrecy and they can't stand that someone who cares about doing the public's business in public has finally been elected.

Go Ken and don't let these bullies get to you.


3 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Curious,

I can only hope that the offline conversation about the legality of homework will survive. Your comments about eating rice all day were unnecessary, and attitudes like that will not serve students.

Arrogance is ok as long as you don't have to do the work. Students should have rights and protections of their time away from school.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Why,

Could you please stop deliberately misstating and misinterpreting what I say and then drawing conclusions from your own misinterpretation? You are arguing with yourself and it's so far from what I am saying as to be either the opposite of what I am saying or almost indecipherable. At the very least, it's pretty off topic.

Plus you wrote a long treatise there and still won't answer my question: Do you think families should be able to draw clear boundaries between school and home so that they control some portion of their time during the day without school control? (That could even mean some homework - I am asking you to weigh in on the actual topic of this post.)

You wrote:
"You argue that is not about equal opportunity to learn but equal learning so the student who decides to do the least work sets the bar for an A because it is not fair for schools to allow one student to learn more than another. By extension, that means that the entire class should get an A if a student blows off all learning since he sets the bar. That's silly."

Actually, I never argued anything of the sort -- in fact, while it's hard to understand exactly what you are saying, my points are almost diametrically opposed to what I can gather from it -- you keep doing that, despite my asking you to please stop misstating what I said. I would ask everyone reading this to please read the entire thread, as it's a good discussion and "Why" seems to make a habit of continuing to misstate things despite corrections.

It's not fair for schools to discriminate in their program *offerings* to different students -- that's a pretty fundamental principle in the law and educational code. It's not fair for schools to discriminate by offering one child a high-quality education, and another not. For example, if a high percentage of high-school girls complained they were failing gym (with attendant consequences to their grades-based opportunities) because their physical performance standards were identical to adult men's, it would be discriminatory for the district to say the answer was for the girls to just not take gym, rather than making it possible for girls to participate in a gym program that is designed to provide for both young men and women.

I can't really engage in this sideline anymore than that, your misstatements are so convoluted, they're hard to even understand. There is a great deal of law around fairness in education -- you might start with the California Secretary of State' site, or the Department of Education's OCR.




1 person likes this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2015 at 9:18 pm

"The very idea that the Brown Act bars public officials from speaking publicly about the issues is literally insane. Please take your jibber jabber elsewhere."

Not sure what post this refers to. The outside post quoted earlier referred to school board members commenting on each others' online comments. My post referred to multiple board members posting on a thread like this. I didn't see anything about public officials speaking publicly in general, which of course they can (and often do) do. But I do like the use of "jibber jabber" in a post, which I have never been able to manage myself.

One size, not sure what attitude you are referring to, but sorry if my humor offended you. Hopefully humor can serve us all at some level!


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 9:36 pm

I finally found the statistics Why has been citing to claim we don't have a homework problem, as a proxy, I guess, for "Why's" perhaps feeling we have no need to set boundaries. (Since Why won't actually answer a direct question about setting boundaries, I am basing that on Why's habit of denigrating those who wish to.)

I'd like to repeat that while homework is the way the boundaries are usually crossed, this is a boundaries issue, not a debate about the value of homework, except to the extent that if the school considers homework a necessary and important aspect of the education (rather than unimportant, optional or extra credit), then it would be discriminatory for districts to tell families who want to set healthier boundaries and control part of their day that they should just leave the district or tell their children not to do the homework and suffer the consequences if they don't like it.

Why wrote:
"You also have ignored/dismissed every one of the many suggestions that many have patiently posted here"

And I will continue to as long as you keep making suggestions that are either delusional because they aren't possible (e.g., choosing independent study in middle school), based on faulty conclusions, or downright offensive/discriminatory (e.g., move away if you don't like it).

However, Why, if you would personally like to put up the significant six-figure sum our property taxes have put into our school system since our child has attended, as a personal gift (with a gross-up for the gift tax), I would be happy to try a private school next semester and perhaps even for high school. No?

Given that you have dug yourself into a rut claiming there isn't even a need for setting boundaries because you claim homework is not a problem, really, why do you protest so much? Why also not ever answer my questions?


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 1, 2015 at 10:51 pm

I searched on "JLS Development Assets" and arrived at the district page with the California Health Kids survey, the Development Assets survey, etc. Far from being reassuring, they paint a picture of children who are spending too much time doing homework and far too little time doing other things. For a community accused of trying to pad kids' resumes for college, it was actually really sad. Here's what I saw

1) Middle School Development Assets Survey

A) On an average school day, how much time to you spend doing homework outside of school?

Those doing 3 hours or more: 11%,
2 hours or more 47%

Since the limit is supposed to be no more than 10 minutes per grade per day, even an 8th grader should have significantly less than 2 hours of homework per day. This survey shows almost half of students in middle school are doing homework in excess of the homework policy, and it could be a lot more than half, because the limit is lower than 2 hours (it's only 1 hour for 6th graders).

Far from it being because of demanding courses, only math is laned, and math in general, advanced or not, at JLS at least does not give too much homework. "Why's" assumptions about why have no basis in any evidence from this survey or observation.

B) 27% usually feel bored at school, 94% usually or sometimes feel bored at school.
Clearly, there is room to pick up some slack during the school day.

C) 50% spend zero time every week in clubs or organizations other than sports, and 78% spend less than 1 hour. Per WEEK.

A broader question: How many evenings per week do you go out to activities at school, youth group, congregation, or other organization? For 26% it's ZERO, 45% it was 1 or less.

Social lives: 35% never go out just to be with friends during the week, for 65% it's just one day per week or less.

D) Suicide and violence are by far the most frequent risk-taking behavior, despite risk of suicide ideation correlating with many factors we don't have to deal with here in our district, and by and large are kids are squeaky clean compared to the national average.


2) High Schools Development Assets survey:

A) On an average school day, how much time to you spend doing homework outside of school? Clearly, the vast majority of children are doing more homework than homework policy limits. Since these honors and AP courses don't exist in middle school, and a significant fraction of middle school students also have more homework than the policy limits, one cannot make assumptions about why this is. All we know is that nearly all high school students have more homework than district limits allow, a large percentage substantially more.

9th grade (limit 1.5 hours):
Only 20% spend 1 hour or less
81% spend 2 hours or more
37% spend 3 hours or more

10th grade (limit 1 hour 40 minutes):
Only 13% spend 1 hour or less
87% spend 2 hours or more
45% spend 3 hours or more

11th grade (limit 1 hour 50 minutes):
Only 14% spend 1 hour or less
86% spend 2 hours or more
58% spend 3 hours or more

12th grade (limit 2 hours):
Only 21% spend 1 hour or less
80% spend 2 hours or more
53% spend 3 hours or more


B) How often do you feel bored
Usually is over 40% in all grades except 12th when it's almost 40%; usually and sometimes bored close to 100% for all grades.

C) In an average WEEK, those who spent ZERO hours playing or helping sports teams:
30%, 31%, 38%, and 44%% respectively, by grade.

How many clubs or organizations other than sports at school per WEEK, those who spent
0 hours: 45%, 41%, 31%, 30%, respectively, by grade
1 hour or less: 70%, 60%, 51%, 43%
2 hours or less: 84%, 76%, 67%, 56%

Clubs or organizations other than sports outside of school:
0 hours per week: 57%, 55%, 58%, 58%
1 hour per week or less: 70%, 66%, 67%, 67%
2 hours per week or less: 82%, 78%, 77%, 80%


How many evenings per week do you go out just to be with your friends?
All grades, the percent that said ZERO is about 30%.
All grades, just 1 day: it's 60-70%.

Just a little piece of trivia:
The number of times the word "boundaries" is mentioned in the high school report: 40
Among other ways, it suggests that good parenting involves setting boundaries, and "safe interpersonal and physical boundaries"

Key Supports for Young People
"Clear, consistent boundaries and guidelines"


When we've complained about homework, we've often heard it justified by the schools telling us that learning how to work efficiently is a necessary life skill. Yet here, the district doesn't seem to feel it should lead by example.

As I reported above, when I was at MIT, I didn't become a great student until I learned how to take time off and had the discipline NOT to work all the time, to establish some work-life balance. I was able to do more work and perform better by NOT working all the time. When I saw the benefits in practice, I was astonished that I had never ever been taught such a valuable life lesson in K-12, if anything I had been taught the opposite. As I said, the kids who burned out in high school did not do well at MIT. The kids who were the most under their parents' thumbs in high school also tended to be the wildest.

Since we are interested in rigor, we should be teaching our kids how to make good use of their time through good work-life balance, and understanding how to set good boundaries in life to be healthy emotionally (something the development assets survey seems to say is important).

If people like Why want to stick their heads in the sand and believe we don't have a problem, then they should have no issues with other parents setting boundaries (as they ostensibly would have no effect).

The homework and school programs would benefit in their implementation from an awareness of family boundaries, and just as the lesson I learned at MIT, would probably be better and more rigorous programs for it. As I have said above, I think we have really great teaching staff in this district, and I have great faith that with the right support, they could provide a great education without having to assign homework. I do not think it should be necessary to take away a very intense all-day-all-night schoolwork approach for those who prefer it, but especially in this day and age when kids can make professional movies with a cellphone or a computer of their own with $100 in parts and a youtube video or two, we really shouldn't be scripting their time 24 hours a day, we are doing them no favors by not allowing them some autonomy.

Regardless of the homework argument, even if someone wanted to let their kid sit around and watch Gunsmoke reruns when they got home from school, that should be their decision and none of my business. Families should have some time of their own that they control, they should not have to hand over discretion for every minute of their lives to schools in order to access the right they have to a public education.


1 person likes this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Parent,

Those numbers for feeling bored in school, and 1 day a week to see friends are scary. Boredom in young people usually means exhaustion.

The best part of the day is spent in school, that's where most of work should be happening. Imagine if adults were not allowed to do most of our work during work hours, and a big chunk would be expected to be taken home? You'd have to be a contortionist to pull that off.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Parent,

Those numbers for feeling bored in school, and 1 day a week to see friends are scary. Boredom in young people usually means exhaustion.

The best part of the day is spent in school, that's where most of work should be happening. Imagine if adults were not allowed to do most of our work during work hours, and a big chunk would be expected to be taken home? You'd have to be a contortionist to pull that off.


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:49 am

one size,

I agree. Normall boredom correlates with getting into trouble, but like I said, these kids are about as unusually squeaky clean as it gets.

Why,
I think you should take a look at the survey data again. You have misinterpreted the survey data, too. When you gave percentages for 2 hours or less, what you were really providing was the data for 3 hours or less. The survey broke up the amount of homework thusly: zero, half hour or less, half hour to an hour, 1 hour (to presumably 2 hours), 2 hours (to presumably 3 hours), and 3 hours or more.

Kids who are closer to and within the homework limits target would only be the 1-2 hour category (and many of those don't even fall within the homework policy limits) and below, not the 2-3 hour category. To create the statistics you gave above, you added in the very large number of students in the 2-3 hour per night category whose amount of homework unequivocally violates the homework policy.

The numbers I gave above are the correct way to view the data:

7th graders doing 2 hours or more of homework per night (when the limit is 1 hour 10 minutes):
47%

9th grade (limit 1.5 hours):
81% spend 2 hours or more
37% spend 3 hours or more

10th grade (limit 1 hour 40 minutes):
87% spend 2 hours or more
45% spend 3 hours or more

11th grade (limit 1 hour 50 minutes):
86% spend 2 hours or more
58% spend 3 hours or more

12th grade (limit 2 hours):
80% spend 2 hours or more
53% spend 3 hours or more

The numbers show the vast, vast majority of kids are doing more homework than allowed by the homework policy and it's happening in 7th grade, too, when there aren't APs or honors courses, and only math - which doesn't have much homework - is laned.

Given the seriously flawed and stilted way you reported and used the statistics, first (mis)using 7th grade numbers and claiming you could generalize to other grades, and then outright misusing the data from the other grades, I think you owe it to us to let us know if you are working for the district, as certainly seems to be the case from your posts. In fact, these numbers are the subject of board meetings, were they reported as you have represented them to the board and public?


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:57 am

I think my other question to you, Why, would be: Why exactly would one presume the district would be disinterested in setting healthy boundaries between school and home? The Development Asset survey would seem to indicate that setting healthy boundaries is an important part of parenting and modeling healthy behavior.

Why would anyone presume the district would spend legal dollars fighting parents in order to maintain discretion to essentially be lazy about how it delivers the education, using family time as an unhealthy ad hoc slush fund for schoolwork? Why wouldn't we all expect, under this new administration, that if a family brought this issue to the attention of the district, that it would be considered seriously and possibly even honored?



4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 2:06 am

Ken Dauber,
Thank you for serving on our board. I think a lot of us are really grateful for you and hope you can make a difference.

As my favorite Sandra Boynton cartoon says, Don't let the turkeys get you down...


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:48 am

I have seen this subject pop up to the top of the article list so many times I thought I'd re-read it.

There are a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts here.

School is a big problem for most of us ... as students or as parents, and I suppose as teachers. The "political" component these days has gone over the top.

But, for the homework question, my first-person anecdotal experience was, at least in math/science subject, once I started really doing homework, outside of class, to the extent that I did every problem in the book - that was when I started to really understand, remember and always get "A's" in math. Since I was an engineering major that was mostly what I cared about, but I'm guessing it would help in any subject. Homework bolsters and reinforces what you do in class, and sometimes teachers neglect whole points that are in the books. Great teachers should be the exception, not the rule, and we could probably help and improve the effectiveness of all of them with a basic computer-online curriculum that allows to the teacher to explain elaborate and answer questions about subjects instead of doing the rote presentation and leaving little time left for this if any.

Tutoring is also useful for those situations where you are stumped or do not know how to proceed or get a right answer. They should have tutoring of teacher office hours for this kind of help when students need it.

--

Just as an aside, when I was a student they used to talk about how some subjects were just missing. My parents used to be taught "civics", which explains our role as a citizen and how the country and government works. That still seems to be missing, with even less out there now to teach people their rights and responsibilities.

Same with useful things along the lines of home economics ... nutrition, cooking, balancing a checkbook, finance, investing, retirement, computers, programming, tools, shop.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 7:52 am

@ CPA: Paly requires students to take a "living Skills" class. They also offer many other enrichment or diverse courses;
Auto shop
Java and HTML
Glass Blowing
home Econ
Sports Med
Work Experience
Etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:32 am

CrescentParkAnon,

If concepts taken home were to bolster and reinforce what one does in class, there would be no tutoring industry, and computer-online bolsters could be used more effectively. Tutoring would also be sporadic, and you could probably get help from own teacher. From the growth of the tutoring industry, that's not what's happening. Tutors are paid upwards of $75 on a regular basis for Math, Science, and English. I haven' heard anyone needing a tutor for social studies, but that doesn't mean social studies doesn't take up home time. Some of the social studies classes are the most "home" work time consuming classes.

Asking students how long they take to finish homework has been the wrong way to approach this topic, and also to assume that 2 hours every day is appropriate. How does the school count school working/learning hours? At best you probably end up with 4-5 hours of actual work and learning time, and home work is supposed to be 2-3 hours? 2-3 hours when students are tired and weary nonetheless.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:33 am

Thanks for your thoughts, CrescentParkAnon. I agree, this has been one of the most interesting discussions on TS. This community amazes me.

I agree with you about civics, btw.

Kids really miss out if they don't have time to even consider a part-time job. I read some statistic about how such a much larger percentage of Americans used to have their own businesses, yet despite all the opportunities today, that hasn't come back to historical %s. Aside from doing more to let kids be autonomous by setting healthier boundaries so that they have control over oart of their day, maybe we should be teaching entrpreneurship to kids in high school, and perhaps instead of telling them what to do with their time all day, we should simply make more real-life opportunities and supports more available and get out if their way.


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Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:35 am

Oh, insult to injury is when a student's grade is heavily weighed by work done at home.

Attending class should be optional in these cases.


1 person likes this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:40 am

JLS Parent,

Wait a minute. Now you say "that if a family brought this issue to the attention of the district, [why wouldn't it] be considered seriously and possibly even honored?"

You haven't tried that yet?

You started off this discussion saying that you have, repeatedly:

"I have come to the end of my rope"

"we have already tried the direct route of just asking"

"[if] each person files a short, anonymous complaint, this would be big news the new superintendent could not ignore"

"I believe in working within and improving the system as a first productive step, too, which I and many others have tried for far too long with no success. The administrators don't hear the problems"

"this isn't an administration that works well with families...the only way to change things is to force them."

This entire thread is based on your statements that you have tried everything, no one is listening, no one cares and hence only legal challenges are left.

So if you haven't brought your child's unaddressed "24/7" homework challenges to the attention of the district, please do so. You might be pleasantly surprised by the solutions it offers.



3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:50 am

CrescentParkAnon,

While homework may be beneficial, the other side if the coin is that life is finite. If healthy boundaries between school and home are harder for schools to ignore, they would have to understand and expkore how to deliver such benefits another way, perhaps even better for being forced to constantly consider it. As I pointed out above, if the goal of the district is better test scores, I could probably achieve it by delivering an electric shock every time my child got something wrong, but overall, it's not a very good educational approach for a whole child.

We have these kids with us for such a short time. I'm fed up with basically having to channel the district when school is out. If kids have problems, the system shouldn't be relying on tutors.

Everyone here is so concerned about college, yet our numbers show a lot of kids who are too busy with homework to have lives that make them interesting to colleges. And just happier people.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:52 am

Yes Paly does have a living skills requirement.

The class is basically rubbish. Drugs and sex ed with some pc components.

Now if they really want to teach some living skills, they would cover finances, taxes, drivers ed, how to get a job, how to dress for success, how to rent an apartment, how to write a resume, and many other aspects of day to day life that would help them in the real world.


2 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:52 am

This is why,

This seems to be the first time this subject is being looked at as a legal issue.

Perfectly consistent with trying everything else first.

Why would a homework committee need to be convened, if not for several complaints about homework.

Not to mention concerns about social emotional health.

You have seemed to get very personal with Parent, and this speaks to the retaliation problem.


4 people like this
Posted by one size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 9:03 am

This is why,

This is why,

"So if you haven't brought your child's unaddressed "24/7" homework challenges to the attention of the district, please do so. You might be pleasantly surprised by the solutions it offers."

Ok, not to be an inspector here, but your last comment sounds like you are a district insider, and that's not very encouraging since it did seem like you really never got the original question at all.

But now, you seem to be saying that there are solutions?

Different from the solutions you have already suggested - moving or private school?



2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 9:19 am

Why,

It would really help a lot if you would read the actual thread/ try to understand it, and please respect my request to stop misusing and misinterpreting what I say. Taking statements out of context is another way of mistating what people say. I welcome everyone to read the thread.

I have brought the problems of too much homework to our school and administration in our own situation, and they were no more honest about it than you have been in this discussion.

"This issue" is the setting of clear BOUNDARIES between school and home life, the thing that would probably require a legal approach - In context, my first sentence there, asking you why would you assume, was in answer to your assumption that pursuing a legal avenue would require the district to spend a lot of money and time defending the ability to have such easy priority over family time during the day. Why would you assume they would have to do that?

The traditional channels aren't working, there is much evidence above that they aren't working for a lot of parents, not just here, either. Why should parents even be confronted with this? The length of the school day is subject to great public debate for good reason, homework should not be an end run around it. The lack of clearer, enforceable boundaries between school and home effectively means schools don't have to consider the family time if children as a priority and inviolable, nor the autonomy of students as an essential part of their development.

As with your previous posts, I almost can't even answer anymore because you take things so out if context, mistate and conflate things that shouldn't be conflated, and persistently misuse data and statements by me and other posters. You persistently refuse to answer basic questions about this actual topic, and have reported wrong statistics to support a flawed conclusion about homework. You haven't answered my question: are you for or against parents being able to establish boundaries so families have control of some time during the day? Given the intellectually dishonest way you used the homework data you yourself brought to everyone's attention, it would be germaine for you to answer, do you work for the district, and were those numbers presented that way to the board and public?



3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 9:24 am

Thank you, one size. The retaliation problem is very real. That comes down to a few individuals, though, it's not a systemic problem except for the chilling influence those people have had. A few bad apples, as they say.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 9:37 am

Why,
But now that you remind me of the complaint issue, perhaps you could enlighten all of us about how to file a formal complaint about violations of the homework policy. That is one approach I haven't tried, the UCP complaint form is so confusing, it's impossibke to tell if it's even applicable. If you could please assist on this issue, I will try this avenue as well.

Is that a boilerplate form from state requirements, is it the same as a Williams complaint/form, or did our district write it? If the latter, does anyone have an example of a clearer district complaint form from a different district? Does anyone know which box to check on our own complaint form if someone has a complaint about homework policy violations? About some of the points Legal Eagle above brought up?


2 people like this
Posted by reality check.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

It's pretty clear, from the data published, that the majority of students are able to do their homework in the time allotted.

Those that can't, can't keep up. This is important. You need to understand that because encouraging your child to "keep up with peers" is a recipe for disaster.

It's also clear, that it's then the parents that have stopped supporting their children. Parents need to tell them to STOP after the allotted time is up. Yeah, they won't get an A but, so what?! They should be telling their kids that it's OK to get Cs and not that they need to do homework they are incapable of doing in the allotted time. New flash! Your child isn't keeping up and you need to re-set expectations, not complain about the homework.

Then, instead of telling their children to STOP, they blame the district for allocating too much homework. Go figure!

The whole homework committee's assumption was flawed. They assumed you could set a limit of x minutes per grade regardless of the child's ability. This message was then sent home. What should also have been sent home is that it's the parent's responsibility to enforce this limit. Children should not be working to midnight. If you've lost so much perspective that you allow that to happen, it's not the district's fault.

Finally, if the district should do something, it should provide 3 levels of homework - like an "either/or" approach. You get a maximum of A, B or C depending on which homework you take. The amount of expected time will vary for each assignment accordingly The parents, in conjunction with the student can choose which grade they go for.
Now, parents, ask yourselves, which of the A, B or C homework pack you're going to choose!


2 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

reality check,

Lovely idea - a homework caste system. To work with your assumptions though, "the majority" of students would currently be getting A's.

Again, it seems that the take-away is that PAUSD's success is based on homework. And grades are apparently used to declare individual success in navigating the ropes, as opposed to any connection to learning. Sounds about right.

The achievement gap should look at this issue, and decide what education you are entitled to DURING the instructional day, and what is supposed to be done on a student's free time. Anything over that are bells and whistles that the rest of the population can fight about.

And AP classes should be accessible to disadvantaged students, as they are in other parts of the country.

AP and Honors classes should not be able to skirt what you can get for your showing up in school every day.

The fear that PAUSD's "success" will falter by doing the right thing is irrational. Leave it to eager and able parents to turn the extra time into something outrageously useful for their kids.

What needs to happen first is that the system should serve a regular kid. Regular kids do not have 24 hour parents micromanaging their every move. To the extent that all or most learning happens in school, the better for everyone.


1 person likes this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:14 am

meant to suggest that the achievement gap task force look into this.


1 person likes this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:21 am

And if the achievement task force is looking at this, they should see if disadvantaged students are able to participate in the many other school opportunities, sports, theater, journalism or if they have to give up EC's to keep up with homework. Easy enough to close the gap by taking away their free time.

Internships and that kind of thing. These count in measuring the gap.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:38 am

reality check,

You wrote, "It's pretty clear, from the data published, that the majority of students are able to do their homework in the time allotted. "

Upwards of 80% of students in all grades of high school, per the district's own survey, report spending more time on homework than the policy limits. Around half of 7th graders or more report spending more time on homework than the policy limits.

Second reality check for you: a lot of kids are bored. The homework burden and how kids handle having their focus and time controlled all day until bedtime doesn't correlate with whether the students are able to handle the material or not. We provide for different ends of the educational approach spectrum through 6th grade, but then only one thereafter. My kid is an advanced math lane, and math happens to be the only class without too much homework. He's bored in that class and wishes he could accelerate his learning path in math, but guess what? Opportunities for acceleration come with grades in that class and he doesn't worry about having a perfect grade. Every one of your assumptions is wrong.

I'm at the point as a parent where I feel like I shouldn't have to spend my life having these debates anymore. They all focus on homework. Family time is important for life. Personal autonomy is important for life. If you ask me which one I think will equip my child better at age 18, a strong creativity, curiosity, and personal autonomy, or a pile of t-shirt projects and colored maps and 5-point essays (the teacher didn't even grade), I'd choose the former -- and I don't think I should have to deal with that constantly under assault.

Regardless of any debates about school, families should be able to and expect having clear boundaries between school and home. Yes, schools may have to adjust (though if you are right that homework no problem, why are you even in this discussion, the boundary would only be for show), but there's no evidence clear boundaries would hurt rigor in anyway, in fact, plenty of evidence that it could help districts to have clear boundaries in order to be more efficient. (As message they claim to try to send our kids, ironically, through boundary-less homework.)


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

Dear Ken Dauber, Dear Weekly,

This discussion has brought to light a serious misinterpretation of district data on how burdened kids are by homework, how their lives are being affected by homework, and whether homework policies are being followed in this district. Given the stakes, I would really call on you to look into whether this misreporting is just a phenomenon of online posters or if that data really was provided in the same misleading way to the public and board over the last several years. Frankly, I would think if the kind of intellectual dishonesty over such a major issue as exhibited by a few posters like "Why" on this forum came from someone of major responsibility for student wellbeing in this district, it would be grounds for dismissal and the district correcting the information publicly and apologizing to the parent community.


1 person likes this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

reality check,

I do agree that if a student "over" challenges him/her self with an AP or Honors class, they should accept a lower grade if they can't fly as high as the top students.

But stamina should not be the pre-requisite to access a challenging course. All students should try to take an AP class, but currently they are discouraged by fear of the homework.

For regular classes, homework should not even be an issue if most of the learning can happen during the school day.


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Posted by UCP Info
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:53 am

The district's current UCP form for this type of complaint is outdated, confusing and of limited use; it is posted here. See: Web Link

Fortunately a form is not required to make a UCP complaint (see below).

For general information about the UCP process and what is required to make a complaint, see the California Department of Education's website: Web Link

For CDE information about UCP complaints involving discrimination, including for discriminatory bullying and harassment, see: Web Link Linked to this CDE page is CDE's model UCP form for this type of complaint, which is quite clear and user-friendly. PAUSD has chosen not to adopt this model form, and instead continues to use an older form that is outdated, ambiguous and confusing (entitled "Compliance with State and Federal Programs").

Fortunately the law does not require that any form be used for a UCP complaint to be valid (and the district understands this), so feel free to disregard the form and instead write your own letter describing the basis for your complaint (you might want to review the CDE site to assess the basis for any complaint).

As long as you put your complaint in writing, label it "UCP Complaint," sign it and deliver it to Charles Young (Associate Superintendent) at the PAUSD district office, that should be more than sufficient to initiate the UCP process. A formal form is not necessary under the law.

Still, it would be helpful if the district could update its UCP forms to make them more user-friendly (perhaps adopt CDE models, to save staff and/or lawyer time), along with step-by-step instructions (in user-friendly language) on its website regarding how to file a complaint and what to expect from that process once a complaint is filed.

The UCP process remains a mystery to many, despite the fact that it is one of the primary means for initiating investigation and resolution of certain types of parent/student/citizen complaints under state law. More transparent, user-friendly information provided by the district to the public on this topic would be appreciated by many.


5 people like this
Posted by GRace
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 2, 2015 at 10:57 am

I attended Harvard Undergrad and UCSF Medical school neither had as much "homework" as I saw my son receive at Gunn.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:04 am

@UCP Info,
Thank you so much! (times 1,000)!

Just a hypothetical question, though, since Charles Young is in charge of so many areas. What if your problem is a complaint about Charles Young or one of the areas he's in control of?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:27 am

By definition, an AP course is college level work. Content is more difficult and students should expect that college level homework will be assigned.


5 people like this
Posted by UCP Info
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

@Parent

Charles Young is the district's designated "Compliance Officer" under state law, so he is the person in charge of handling all UCP complaint; a UCP complaint is most properly addressed to him. If the complaint involves actions by Dr. Young, you might also send the superintendent a copy of the complaint, so he is informed about the nature of the complaint as well.


3 people like this
Posted by Don't believe it
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:37 am

An AP course is not college level work. You can tell that because many colleges don't accept them to satisfy prerequisites, and it is taught by a high school teacher, not a professor. It is actually a hybrid of: a high school course on steroids, whatever the college board in New Jersey defines as content, and the interests of whatever high school teacher is serving as the instructor.

Thinking of an AP class as somehow "college" is not helpful. Better to think of it as a high school class with content defined by a standardized exam.


2 people like this
Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:41 am

@Parent,
"91% of JLS 7th graders have no more than 2 hours of homework a night, with over half of JLS 7th graders having 1 hour of homework or less each night. "

Yeah, you're right, your child needs to work to 10:00 PM every night because of homework. With that data, very few other children need to. So who's making your son work to 10:00 PM every night?

Your child is bored in math, really? He's only in 7A math. He had the opportunity to test out and go straight to 8th grade math unless he failed that test and is not so good at math or you didn't ask him to do it. You are now blaming the district when you had your chance to set him up correctly.



"Lovely idea - a homework caste system"

A caste system implies no choice and not dependent on ability. Your interpretation is the complete opposite of how I read the above proposal, which would be all about choice and ability.

I also like the other question of whether you'd accept an A, B or C for your child's homework or more family time. Aren't all parents entitled to make this decision?


To answer the OP's original question:
"What gives the school the right to give my child homework?"

Your child doesn't have to do the homework. There. I've said it.

It's entirely up to you to choose whether they do their homework, how much and for how long. You have complete control. Mot the school or district. It's this idea that parents are impotent in the face of the homework that is making you avoid making the hard decisions you need to make for the sake of your child and family.


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Posted by Louis Moffett
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:19 pm

1. In lieu of homework, ask your school if your child could be graded on the basis of inclass exams. If your child learns enough without having to have done the assigned homework, everyone should be satisfied.
2. If the homework assigned appears to be simply busy work, suggest alternative assignments or projects.
3. Public schools may not have a legal right to assign homework. Private schools are likely to assign even more homework. Your choices are limited.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kinda
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm

AP courses allow students to gain college credit. However, they are not necessarily as rigorous as college classes, but it depends on the high school teacher. It'seems best to repeat the same class in college even if it can be skipped. My son took AP Calc AB and got a "C" but the teacher told the entire confused class that college calc would be easy after his class. He got a 5 on the AP test. Sure enough, he had 3 hours of Calc homework in college, got a "B", but would have struggled to pass if he hadn't seen it already at Paly. Then again, his prof was known to be rigorous. If you get AP credit and skip a college class, you're taking the chance that you miss out on foundation if you're a STEM major.

Living Skills fills the CA health class requirement. JLS Parent would be pleased to know that students can take it in the summer instead of relaxing.


2 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

another reality check,

Defining school success on the basis of "choice and ability" related to work at home is simply unfair.

A student should be entitled to a concept of total instruction, total education during a school year, and expect that most of that instruction should happen when they show up at school every day.

Grading is one way to control this concept (even This is why suggests 10% of the grade is a maximum level of weight homework should receive) but if a teacher unfairly (possibly illegally) creates a situation where the work assigned to take place at home will cause success or failure in school, then that concept goes out the window.

Your idea that it's up to parents to control homework "for the sake of your child and family" is bizarre. It's up to the school to control access to education and opportunities, and it should not be in the business of letting parents regulate that level based on "choice and ability."

This may indeed be something a court should settle. Instead of committees which start off assuming that individual student success should be tied to homework.

Regarding AP classes,

They have turned into inaccessible clubs for the homework mighty.

Honors and AP classes should be on the homework boundaries conversation, as a matter of equity.

What I most like about Parent, JLS's suggestions is that students will be the better for having autonomy.

The reality checks system implies parent control.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

another reality check,

As usual, I would encourage you to please read through the thread, this is a very interesting discussion and an important topic. Once you know what you are commenting about, I welcome your input. I will also thank you to please refrain from attacking my child or anyone else's child (whether based on such half-baked assumptions or not).

Unfortunately, what you have quoted there, ""91% of JLS 7th graders have no more than 2 hours of homework a night, with over half of JLS 7th graders having 1 hour of homework or less each night." was an ERROR, and erroneous statement made by a poster named "This is Why" which I was quoting in my response. If you will do the rest of us the courtesy to read further in the thread, the error was not only pointed out, but you could also check the source of the original data.

In fact, since the poster who originally posted the error seems to be from the district, and the wrong conclusion drawn from it so consequential to our kids and district policy, I have even asked one of the board members and the Weekly to please investigate whether the information was presented to the board and the public in a similarly erroneous way. For any employee with major responsibility for student wellbeing, I would think such a thing would be grounds for dismissal, and at least corrective action based on the actual data and an apology to the public.

The data from the district's own surveys, as I am now having to state again, shows that:

47% of 7th graders are doing 2 hours of homework or more a night, which is nearly TWICE the policy limit for 7th graders,

11% of 7th graders are doing 3 hours of homework or more a night,

when the district policy limit is 1 hour 10 minutes for 7th graders, meaning the actual percentage of children doing more homework than district policy limits in 7th grade is almost certainly more than half the kids.

Let me restate that: the district's own statistics show that around half or more of 7th graders are doing more homework that the policy limits set by the district.

Last reality check for you: many of us are suggesting other educational approaches. Children learn differently, and while I actually would not wish to take away the CHOICE of a child spending all waking hours doing nothing but studying, because I was the kind of kid -- especially in this day and age when a kid can decide to teach themselves to code using Youtube videos (as my did) or make movies that can be shared with millions of people with a pocket phone more powerful than the computers we used to put men on the moon, if they have the time in the day for their own pursuits -- I think an educational program that relies on heavy homework should be a CHOICE and not the only CHOICE that allows kids to have a high-quality education. Such a CHOICE is eminently doable, we wouldn't be the first. We actually provide such a CHOICE through 6th grade already (and pretend we do through 8th grade). We could do that for high school. We could also allow more independent and blended learning CHOICES in the meantime.

Regardless, the issue of whether it is important to allow parents to set clear boundaries that have to be respected on homework time, to be violated only by clear CHOICE such as participation in a program with an educational approach that values the lack of said boundaries as you apparently do, does not depend on the minutiae of a homework debate. The need to set healthy boundaries for family time stands on its own merits.


2 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Students in this district are highly compliant and show up every day with a general sense that education is a good thing. How rude to ask families to negotiate what's to be complied with or not. Asking parents to ask their kids to stop paying attention to the teacher's homework requests, is not a good sign.

Clearly, all logic about homework went dumb at some point, and it needs to be turned upside down, inside out, and that may indeed mean overriding the homework committee work that apparently is flawed for whatever point of view one holds. Sorry, probably a lot of good intentions, but that's not enough.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Louis Moffett,

Thank you for your thoughtful input. Unfortunately, we do not currently have a district that works well with parents, or one that supports schools individually to work with parents to provide that kind of flexibility. If they did, we would probably be trying to circumvent the problem by providing a blended program where we opted out of the classes with the most ridiculous homework and did them online instead. (They currently don't allow it for middle schoolers.)

However, how to solve the issue individually really brought up this larger issue of boundaries between school and home. Please read through the previous thread about the historical importance of homework to education and how that has changed with unprecedented access to high-quality knowledge environments. It used to be that homework was the only game in town, and an unquestioned opportunity -- with no computers at home, no Internet, no Amazon.com for cheap books, unless you lived really close to a really, really good public library, homework was the only educational game in town so no one questioned whether they needed to set boundaries on it. As "GRace" above also pointed out, and I have heard anecdotally from friends, many our generation even in private schools didn't get nearly the kind of homework our kids are getting here in high school.

The boundaries issue was spurred by the homework issue, but is not dependent on it. We should set healthy boundaries between school and home anyway, even just as practice for setting healthy work-life boundaries later on.

Since education is both a right and mandatory for kids k-12, the question of whether the state has the right to ask parents to forfeit control over their day after school is out is germane, especially in this day and age. Getting schools to focus on delivering a high quality education during the school day will have benefits to all of our kids as they would have a greater incentive to keep programs honed and innovating rather than doing the lazy thing of just sending whatever they don't get done at school home with kids.

But thanks for thinking about the issue -- I do hope one day we have an administration in this district again that puts the kids first and prioritizes working with families.


1 person likes this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Can someone explain where 10 minutes of homework per grade comes from?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

One size,

Thank you again for your insightful and intelligent comments. Your quote "probably a lot of good intentions, but that's not enough." applies to soooo many things in relation to our district!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Sorry, we posted simultaneously. 10 minutes per grade I believe came from the district policy/homework committee.

I agree with you, though, the concept of homework might benefit from being revisited, certainly in this district, in light of developments in blended learning opportunities and the impacts of homework on children's autonomy.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:09 pm

@Parent,
YOU brought up your son's current experience in math. I commented that he could have been challenged if YOU had so wanted him to do so. You can see it as an attack on your child but it was an observation of your parenting and apportioning of blame. As this thread shows it is all about YOU. Nothing to do with your child.

That 91% of JLS 7th graders have no more than 2 hours of homework IS accurate. It's in the survey results. Please re-read the results again before posting. You may want to ignore the data since it doesn't fit your argument but it's there for everyone else to see.

As to whether students should be able to have no homework and do everything based on tests, that's the way the world worked for centuries until they realized that it disadvantaged female students. It also added a huge pressure to tests, which is great for male students, not so good for female students who are less likely to take risks.
The change to more of a continuous assessment mentality was to counter that. You're seeing the outcome of that in the differences in results for boys and girls. You want to go back to that model for your son?

You want CHOICE but you don't want any responsibility. As has been stated, the district has no control over what your child does outside of school ours. YOU make those choices.


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Posted by Concerned PAUSD Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm

@One Size

Here's a link to a "white paper" authored by Challenge Success, a nonprofit research-based organization affiliated with the Stanford School of Education that has done a lot of work in this area of homework policy:

Web Link

The white paper is called: "Changing the Conversation about Homework from Quantity and Achievement to Quality and Engagement." This should be recommended reading for anyone interesting in learning more about this topic.

An excerpt from this white paper, found at above link, discusses the origins of the "10-minute" rule:

"In 1996, the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association (Henderson, 1996) published a parent guide about homework recommending that, in grades K-2, homework should not be more than 10-20 minutes per day, in grades 3-6 homework should be between 30-60 minutes per day, and in middle and high schools, the amount may vary by subject. This “10-minute rule” (homework should last about as long as 10 minutes multiplied by the students’ grade level) has been adopted by many schools (Kohn, 2006; Cooper & Valentine, 2001); however, this formula, though somewhat consistent with Cooper’s research cited below on correlation between homework and achievement, is not widely practiced."

For more information on this set of studies and other research, see the white paper and Challenge Success website, which is chock-full of good material pertinent to this thread and the issues raised.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Concerned PAUSD parent,

1996 research for the 10 minutes, oh dear....Thank you for the links.

Good to know that there is current research going on about homework. I hope to see how the balance is achieved in a public education in terms of what is expected to be achieved during the instructional day. That's the only way homework could possibly be defined. I had never thought about asking where the 10 minutes came from because I trusted educators to be using good logic, but some of the posts (which appear to be from professionals) are not making any sense.

another reality check,

The overreach is ultimately on students' time. Highly appropriate for parents to have a say about the time spent at home. But students should be looking at this closely as well. It would be easy enough to look at each class and calculate the balance between in-school learning and home work.

The fear of homework should not define achievement. Girls in Science should be looked at closely. You'd have to ask, but given a choice of the A, B, C packets you suggested, what person, girl or boy would want the A packet? Who wants to be a homework slave? easy enough to say, hey kid, then don't do it, but you may be discouraging populations from even trying.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

By the way, many teachers are good about the overall balance and fairness, and those coincidentally are the highly desirable classes.

This is a win-win if it wouldn't be so contentious of an issue.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm

another reality check,

I brought up my son's experience of not having a lot of homework in the advanced lane in any grade in middle school math as a counter to the faulty assumption made above that more advanced work = more homework. It did not make my child or any other child or even me fair game for insults. You didn't even read the thread and so even got the grade wrong.

Here is the link to the survey from the 2011 Developmental Assets that Why was citing:
Web Link

On an average school day, how much time do you spend doing homework outside of school?
None - 0%
Half hour or less - 3%
Between a half hour and an hour - 20%
1 hour (presumably to 2 hours, since less than was covered in the last question) - 32%
2 hours (presumably to 3 hours) - 36%
3 hours and more - 9%

Nearly one in ten kids at JLS is doing 3 hours of homework or more a night. 91% of kids are doing less than 3 hours of homework, but since the homework policy is 1 hour and 10 minutes, the statistic is meaningless in terms of assessing whether the homework meets the limit.

The most relevant statistic here, since the policy is just over 1 hour for 7th graders, is that 23% of kids spend an hour or less on homework at JLS, only about one quarter of the children have a level of homework that falls within the district homework policy. The school is significantly out of compliance with the district homework policy, per its own data.

47% spend 2 hours or more, and it's likely that a far greater percentage have an amount of homework that violates the homework policy. Since 7th graders do not have AP classes and the only honors class is advanced math, the violation of the homework policy cannot be handwaved away as Why above tried to.

Again, this conversation has brought to light a serious concern that district personnel may have interpreted the data as dishonestly as Why and you are doing here in order to minimize a problem that has significant psychosocial impacts to our children. If the same was done to the board and the public, it should be investigated and corrected. If there was yet more fudging in order to avoid dealing with another important problem, it's time for McGee to show why he's here.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm

another reality check,

Please read the thread before commenting.

You wrote:
"As to whether students should be able to have no homework and do everything based on tests, that's the way the world worked for centuries until they realized that it disadvantaged female students." and "You want CHOICE but you don't want any responsibility. As has been stated, the district has no control over what your child does outside of school ours. YOU make those choices."

Nowhere have I ever suggested anything about doing "everything based on tests," in fact I pointed out that kids do other things besides tests during the school day, such as assignments, projects, etc. Nowhere have I suggested we want choice but no responsibility.

But as for whether we have control over what our child does outside of school in order to participate in his Constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair education, that is what this thread is about. If you think we already do, then why are you even arguing this? Really, if you think it's a non issue and that despite district data to the contrary, that no one ever violates the homework policy, then why are you even arguing here? Parents asking for clearer boundaries would in that scenario not really changing anything, would they? They would just be clarifying something that is already occurring, so why bother being so aggressive about it?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 2:57 pm

I realize this is a really different conversation that most people are used to. I have really valued the intelligent input on the subject. Rather than continuing to repeat things for posters who aren't reading the thread, I would ask everyone to please realize this was a real conversation and to please read through it before commenting.

Thanks.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Parent JLS,

The white paper on homework that Concerned PAUSD Parent posted examines the issues that have been discussed here. Web Link

My take is that there is no rule about homework except that after a certain level, it's obviously detrimental. Besides taking away student autonomy, it actually hurts learning. Disengagement is a result of too much homework. That boredom metric. The 1 evening to see friends gets me the most.

The 10 minute multiple per grade should probably not be used for PAUSD. That's as one size as you get. The Board should consider changing this policy. It may be the root of the problem.

Discriminatory practices resulting from homework and related grading are not in the white paper, and a hard look at homework and classroom success in that context is necessary.

I agree with you that we have good teachers, it's this homework policy and homework success culture doesn't do anyone any favors. Certainly kids need to get their time off from school. We have good students, there is plenty of room to work with. The white paper does not see a correlation between less homework and kids getting in trouble.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Oh, and more homework does not lead to more achievement or higher test scores.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 4:52 pm

You stated "[your child is] bored in [the advanced math] class and wishes he could accelerate his learning path in math". I responded that you had the opportunity to make that happen and didn't take it. This isn't an insult to you or your child, it's pointing out the opportunities that you had but didn't take. The fact that you try to use your poor choice as an argument for change beggars belief. Please re-read the thread before responding.

Your posts are all about choice and no responsibility. The homework problems you have show your child is unable to keep up. Instead of setting his expectations appropriately and taking responsibility you want your child to avoid homework altogether and blame the school district. Please re-read the title to this thread!

There is no insult in a child being a C grade student. The fact that you interpret a C grade as an insult shows what you are really after. Stop forcing your child to attempt what he isn't capable of. You have complete control here. However, instead of helping your child understand his limitations, you're forcing your whole family to undergo huge stress. The problem isn't with the district, school or teaches. You need to look much closer to home.

As to why I'm arguing this; it's because of the damage you and parents like you are doing to your children. Once your child starts falling behind, you, plural, do one of two things: you start getting tutors and turbocharging your kid's education or you force your kid to do what they aren't capable of with no support and blame the school system. The one option that your child needs is to know you're behind him. Know he can come home with Cs and you'll still be just as proud of him. Let him know that getting a C is not an insult!

Wake up and do the right thing. Don't try and offload this responsibility to the school.


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Posted by ThaSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 4:55 pm

@one size writes: "The 10 minute multiple per grade should probably not be used for PAUSD. That's as one size as you get. The Board should consider changing this policy. It may be the root of the problem. "

Can you clarify this?

I read Coopers research on this, and cannot think of any reason this would not apply to PAUSD. Our kids attention and focus on task is unlikely to have any genetic advantage over Coopers research research subjects.

Sure our kids may be at a more advanced curriculum, but that just means they study harder material during the 10min/ grade time allotment.

I doubt they can burn the candle longer than other kids, and loss of focus kicks in at some point making more hw hours less effective.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm

...and for what it's worth, I don't see how the 10-minute rule can be a source of problems. It has never been implemented.

So we really don't know its impact - good or bad.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:00 pm

one size,
Thanks for the white paper. I just started reading, and this popped out at me, because Cooper's work was how "This is Why" justified pushing the homework:

"Harris Cooper (1989, 2001, & 2007) has reviewed hundreds of homework studies and is often thought to be the leading researcher on homework. His earlier work made claims about the possible link between the time spent on homework and academic achievement (Cooper, 1989). However, more recently, Cooper and other authors have found that the association between time spent on homework and academic achievement is not as strong as they once concluded (Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Cooper, 2007).

Specifically, they claim that there is almost no correlation for students in elementary school between the amount of time spent on homework and student achievement. In middle school, there is a moderate correlation, but, after 60-90 minutes spent on homework, this association fades."
www.challengesuccess.org
© 2012 Challenge Success

Whereas, the evidence that improving indoor air quality, as I mentioned above and as one can easily find through the EPA, reaps major benefits in terms of absenteeism, illness rates, AND student performance. You can raise student test scores just by increasing ventilation rates and decreasing CO2 levels. We were promised "improving indoor air quality" in the bond measure, but the district didn't put in place any measures to achieve or measure the achievement of this promise.

Improving indoor air -- we have paid for it (even though it doesn't have to be costly), we were promised it, it has been shown to improve student performance, yet we are not pursuing it. Massive amounts of homework -- even the leading proponent shows only a moderate benefit, and the measure of the benefit is fairly narrow (they don't measure things like the ability to be autonomous, etc) -- they continue to do.

Unless there are clear and enforceable boundaries, this kind of argument will never be settled. We should just set clear boundaries, offer pedagogical approach choices (DI and project-based) through high schools so people who want the homework can overtly choose it and those who want a more holistic whole-child approach have a high-quality education, too. This doesn't have to be a knock-down drag out. But it's clear the conversation about boundaries needs to happen or parents will always be fighting a losing battle for family time.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm

one size,
Thanks for the white paper. I just started reading, and this popped out at me, because Cooper's work was how "This is Why" justified pushing the homework:

"Harris Cooper (1989, 2001, & 2007) has reviewed hundreds of homework studies and is often thought to be the leading researcher on homework. His earlier work made claims about the possible link between the time spent on homework and academic achievement (Cooper, 1989). However, more recently, Cooper and other authors have found that the association between time spent on homework and academic achievement is not as strong as they once concluded (Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Cooper, 2007).

Specifically, they claim that there is almost no correlation for students in elementary school between the amount of time spent on homework and student achievement. In middle school, there is a moderate correlation, but, after 60-90 minutes spent on homework, this association fades."
www.challengesuccess.org
© 2012 Challenge Success

The paper then goes on to discuss how there is evidence that homework results in less sleep, which can lead to things like depression, fatigue, anxiety, etc., which probably makes kids less effective during school hours and the cycle continues.

As I pointed out earlier, if improving tests scores and similar measures of academic achievement are so important, why aren't we first doing other things we know that improve those things without taking away child/family time after school? If the school district is willing to go to any lengths if something will improve performance, why aren't we improving indoor air quality, as we were promised in the bond measure? The evidence shows improving indoor air quality, as I mentioned above and as one can easily find research about through the EPA, reaps major benefits in terms of absenteeism, illness rates, AND student performance. Even moderate levels of indoor mold correlate with a significant increase in depression over a more healthy space. (Did you realize your nose is one of the most reliable ways to judge this? Do you smell musty smells at school?) You can raise student test scores just by increasing ventilation rates and decreasing CO2 levels.

We were promised "improving indoor air quality" in the bond measure, but the district didn't put in place any measures to achieve or measure the achievement of this promise, despite it's connection with improved academic achievement.

Improving indoor air -- we have paid for it (even though it doesn't have to be costly), we were promised it, it has been shown to improve student performance, yet we are not pursuing it. Massive amounts of homework -- even the leading proponent shows only a moderate benefit, and the measure of the benefit is fairly narrow (they don't measure things like the ability to be autonomous, etc) -- they continue to do it. Inertia is a powerful thing.

Unless families work for clear and enforceable boundaries, probably through legal action, this kind of argument will never be settled. We should just set clear boundaries, offer pedagogical approach choices (DI and project-based) through high schools so people who want the homework can overtly choose it and those who want a more holistic whole-child approach have a high-quality education, too. This doesn't have to be a knock-down drag out. But it's clear the conversation about boundaries needs to happen or parents will always be fighting a losing battle for family time.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:21 pm

@another reality implies that parents are forcing kids to higher lanes and not accepting homework failure as a natural selection outcome of school competition.

A few items here:

- there is minimal laning in Middle school. Homework there is excessive and time consuming (especially so when the teacher fails to cover material in class and kids are left to puzzle over mystery work that is unknown)

--> not parents fault.

- High school suffers the same problem in normal lanes.

--> not parents fault.


- homework ranges from 10% - 70% of the grade; often 25%. Skipping it is likely to fail about half the classes. You seem to portray this as a choice, but it is a facetious choice.

- furthermore, when faced with hopeless teaching and heavy use of homework, many families turn to tutors for SURVIVAL in NORMAL lanes. This fails two ways - it is an unfair expense pushed onto families, and inflates the teachers self perception of skill. The teachers lose the benefit of feedback learning how hopeless they are, and proceed to overburden the whole class with more homework.

--> stir repeat continue


You see in the scenarios above , there is no actual choice that you claim. Your claims of parent blaming are facetious arguments put forth by the same teachers who are equally unaware of their own shortcomings and hw overload.

We have a case where these teachers (not all thank god, but many) and their supporters suffer a Dunning-Kruger effect: Web Link

They don't see the impact of their excess homework , and thereby fail to learn from it.

You can tell them a dozen times and they just cannot see it.

That is why we need boundaries imposed from outside the classroom.

We could start by implementing the homework policy we already have voted for!



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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:32 pm

The online parser seeped the Dunning-Kruger link above.

Trying this:

Web Link


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

The other pertinent parts of the Challenge Success paper include what I excerpted above: after reviewing 20 landmark studies and homework meta-analyses, Challenge Success says to "shift the focus AWAY from a discussion of QUANTITY of homework and TOWARD a focus on the QUALITY of the assignments."

Its one-page list of "recommendations for parents" do NOT include any of these:
- lobbying districts to require that all assigned homework be completed at school
- challenging the constitutionality of homework in the courts
- convincing teachers to not have homework be part of the student's grade, or
- putting pressure on school districts to stop assigning homework altogether.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Last attempt to get the PAOnline web link to work...

"Web Link"

Or just go to Wikipedia yourself if interested .


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

This is Why,

And your point is?


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

@This is Why points out:

"Challenge Success says to "shift the focus AWAY from a discussion of QUANTITY of homework and TOWARD a focus on the QUALITY"

Yes, and the homework committee chose a budgeting strategy to achieve this.

You see once you fix a budget, the system of teachers will use what time they have on higher quality work first. The are forced to prioritize. Basic budget management 101.

Quality is the outcome of implementing a time budget.

In Palo Alto, a simple approach of just talking about Quality won't achieve anything other than MORE TOTAL homework: all previous homework plus new 'Quality' homework ideas.

The committee was formed with the charter to examine the amount and relevance of homework. They had unanimous agreement among parents and teachers on the committee.

The district should implement it now.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Of course it is a choice.

"there is minimal laning in Middle school. Homework there is excessive and time consuming"

50% of daily homework in middle school is music practice (20 mins/day) and reading (30 mins/day). Lack of laning is not the problem where homework in middle school is concerned.


"homework ranges from 10% - 70% of the grade; often 25%. Skipping it is likely to fail about half the classes. You seem to portray this as a choice, but it is a facetious choice."

You state yourself that homework is only 25% of marks. Assuming you reduce the load and only get 40% for each homework the most you'd reduced by is 15%. Then goes onto hyperbole stating that a student who so reduced their workload would fail 50% of their classes.


"furthermore, when faced with hopeless teaching and heavy use of homework, many families turn to tutors for SURVIVAL in NORMAL lanes."

You have just proven my point. These parents are using tutors to get As because they believe, despite their experience with kids struggling with homework, that their kids deserve As. Let the kids find their own level and stop pushing them.

You seem to have limited knowledge of homework in the district and you have a weird inverted view of the world which claims that it's the teacher's with Dunning-Kruger syndrome.


Seriously, help your kids. You have control.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Why,
When you point out that Challenge success recommends we focus on the quality rather than quantity of homework, were you assuming, despite the discussion showing how little support there is for a large quantity of homework and the many potential harms, that they meant we leave large quantities of homework be and just stop talking about quantity? You do know that's not the intent, right?

Rather than restating what this thread is about, I will once again ask you to please refrain from restating what others have said, including me, you get it wrong almost every time, just like you misstated the data about homework our kids are doing.

The Development assets study you mentioned used the word "boundaries" 40 times, this discussion is about whether parents should have the right to place clear boundaries on family time in order to access their child's right to a public education. Are you at some point going to answer a question or even weigh in on the boundaries issue? Since you don't think the district gives too much homework, why are you even arguing about parents wanting to set what for you would be token rules?


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:28 pm

The Sorting Hat,

I think the 10 minute X grade level rule is a problem because instead of working as a boundary, it appears to work as a guideline. And that guideline is invasive on a daily basis. Given a choice, I would rather show up an extra day 1X per month instead of getting regulation 2 hours of homework every day of the week.
Without any rules or guidelines about the type of homework, the 10 minute rule justifies a certain level of clock hours to be the school's domain (daily). You're right it may not be good or bad overall, but given how bad enforcement is, I would not keep it so high. One hour per day for 6th graders is too much, in my opinion, and it should not change so much by grade level, if the classes are regular lanes.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:35 pm

The Sorting Hat,

I also think it's a grave mistake to leave AP and Honors classes with no homework boundaries. A homework policy should not exclude these classes.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

One size,
I'm not sure it's even worth responding to "another reality check" who is so out of touch with reality, thinks a large fraction of middle school homework is music practice.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:47 pm

another reality check,

"50% of middle school homework is music practice..."

is this your comment?



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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Parent, JLS

I posted at the same time, I agree, this is when the "humor" begins I guess, about a topic that is not really that funny.

But I have appreciated some of your humor in the comments, and I hope your question gets a serious answer.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 7:20 pm

@One size,

No, my comment was: "50% of daily homework in middle school is music practice (20 mins/day) and reading (30 mins/day)."

Everyone has gone through this. 100 minutes a week required for an A grade for homework in music and that's just in 6th grade. Unless you choose Choir.

See the difference? Unfortunately you've repeatedly misquoted or taken quotes out of context.

Your lack of knowledge on middle school homework combined with the rest of your misquotes in your posts indicates that you've never had a child go through the district. Really undermines all your comments.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm

One size - I think we are largely in agreement. While my preference would be for a longer school day and most work finished in class, I think you are probably right. Current enforcement of homework policy treats it as a loose guideline more than any sort of enforceable limit.

The board has left it without teeth.

Given that it is already law, compliance can be achieved by tying progress to raises and evaluations.

Also, I noted when it passed that at least one school board member commented that we should circle back and address honors and AP later, and consider developing a grading policy.

All of this would help.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 7:56 pm

@alternate Reality - you have such an amazing insight into my kids experience in middle school. It's uncanny that you speak with such expertise on my kids experience, and yet have all your facts wrong.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm

TheSortingHat, did you just out yourself as OneSize?

How do you think they even got to 2 hours a day in that survey? They're not spending the whole two hours doing math/language arts. They are noting that they need to spend 50 minutes per day music practice and required reading. It should be less reading since the requirements for an A is only 600 pages but that is the recommended time.

That bumps up the time and which you can easily say no to. Actually you could also lie on the homework sheet you sign if you really want your child to get an A and not do the practice.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm

@Sorting hat

You said "Also, I noted when it passed that at least one school board member commented that we should circle back and address honors and AP later, and consider developing a grading policy." Which board member?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 8:57 pm

another reality check,

I'm still wondering why you are participating in this discussion. You seem to think there's not a problem, so why would you be so threatened by parents who want to draw clear boundaries between the school day and home life? The district's own surveys talk a great deal about the importance of healthy boundaries.

FYI
The middle school survey results are for 7th graders. Kids do not have a requirement to take music in 7th grade in middle school in PAUSD.

My middle schooler informs me that the kids don't consider music practice as "homework", perhaps why it was a SEPARATE question on the survey. They do consider the practice reports they have to fill out as homework.

Perhaps you think they average the time they spend on their trip to Disneyland in their homework and that explains it all?

First you kept proffering false data about the hours kids were spending on homework and aggressively digging in when it was shown to be false by the district's own survey. Now you are making up an excuse for why the kids have so much homework. You have absolutely ZERO basis to explain away the data that way.

If you are connected with the district, that's concerning, and does bring up the question again of whether the same dishonest reporting of the data happened, unchecked, by district personnel in reporting the data to the board, the superintendent, and the public.

Ken Dauber, Weekly, do you know if the homework data were misreported as above?


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

"Another reality" trolls with this comment:

"TheSortingHat, did you just out yourself as OneSize? . "


No, I am not OneSize; although I'd probably buy him a beer to commiserate. You see from the surveys, online comments, the drive to form the homework committee and my own experience with other families, we see there is plenty of evidence that there is a problem with homework in this district.

I am not surprised there are others who share my perspective.

And well spoken others at that. I have to say that Parent JLS has stuck admirably to their topic, even in the face of your trolling.

As for the rest of your gibberish about surveys and music, my kids did not have music in 8th grade when they regularly had 3-4 hrs homework per night. But I suspect that any real data won't stop your trolling.... Let's see if I'm right.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 12:11 am

The link above from one poster about the district in Helenedale abolishing homework had a discussion about homework afterwards and this post from a middle schooler that says it all:

"I think that homework should be banned! I understand projects like science projects and leftover schoolwork, but Going to school is sort of like doing homework for seven hours. I NEED A LIFE! I haven’t been with my friend for almost a month because we both have too much homework. My piano is suffering, I haven’t learned anything useful from homework, and I find myself depressed every day! It is Sunday, and I am working on my homework while my family goes out and has fun. Then I wake up early, go to math, English, ect. for 7.5 hours, after 8 hours of sleep, ( I need at least 10) come home, want to paint, or learn how to build a bow and arrow, but am suck doing my h-work. I rush through it, because I do so much of it a day. I have the ability to be a straight A student, great ERB and star test scores, but am a B and C student due to late homework. I am usually up till 9:30 but don’t want to go to bed, but have to."

Let's give the kids a life. How can it be healthy for brain development if they have no time to just think and dream?

First, we need to separate the discussion about homework from the discussion about kids having a life. Families need time that they control. We need to put a priority on giving our kids a life. It should start with prioritizing family time/family life.

How much of the day should be home/how much should be schoolwork? Can districts provide a better education in less structured time than even now?

This TED talk by Stefan Larsson about What doctors can learn from each other is relevant to a discussion like this: (it's really enlightening and the ideas applicable to other fields - I didn't watch it for a long time thinking I knew what it was about from the write up, which really doesn't capture it).
Web Link

To some extent, though, we can never answer the question of what is the "best" way - different people have different beliefs and learning styles, and the world is changing and never perfect. Setting boundaries first means we give kids a life regardless of how long it takes us to answer the other questions or how imperfectly. Most of the information kids learn in school will be forgotten but if we give them a love of learning, help them become autonomous and independent, and support rather than squash their natural curiosity, they will be learners for life. They can overcome a lot if they develop as human beings.

How do we go about setting those boundaries, for those who care? In our own district, we need to show the administration we care about setting those boundaries, and making them enforceable. "UCP Info" and "Legal Eagle" above gave excellent information about how to file a UCP complaint which can be anonymous. I think UCP info talks about how you don't even really need a form. (Search on "UCP info" and you'll find the post above with links.) If more than a certain number of complaints are filed during a time period, it has to be publicly reported. Parents in this district seem to feel like they can't do anything, but they can.

People could copy their complaints/stories about too much homework, the need for setting healthier boundaries so the kids can have a life, anonymously, to Elena Kadvany or Bill Johnson at the Weekly, too. Just through making the suggestion to people like this, no one will do it. But if each parent realizes that they can't count on others to complain, and takes it on themselves to be sure they tell their story and stop being silent about children's suffering, many voices together makes each voice more powerful.

That said, I sure wish we had administrators willing to lead on this issue.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 8:25 am

Ken Dauber,

Do you support parents filing anonymous claims against PAUSD to, as both Legal Eagle and JLS Mom are advocating, generate publicity to cause the district to fear hits to its reputation as a way of pressuring it to see things their way?

Here a few parents are pushing to "abolish homework [JLS Parent]" because homework, JLS Parent claims, violates either the 4th or 14th Constitutional Amendment. Googling them her arguments I guess are that:

Homework is an unwarranted "seizure" of property (4th) or

Homework assignments somehow are illegal state laws that "abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens"/ deprive students of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law"/ deny students "equal protection of the laws" (14th).


For context, JLS Mom is also:

Saying to you by name that district personnel who don't interpret the research and data the same way she does are "dishonest," and asking if that "would be grounds for [their] dismissal"

Suggesting a "giant lawsuit [for] the failure to follow even our pathetic district [air quality] policies and long-standing efforts to cover it up" saying that the impact of that would have people looking "back with nostalgia at all the softballs they got from this community during the OCR mess" despite the parent mounting that campaign saying she intends hers to be "a completely friendly effort": Web Link


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Posted by another realith check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 3, 2015 at 8:37 am

In which case, sortinghat, I've never mentioned you or your kids and your posts makes no sense. Please read the posts before responding.

Not only do you forget that electives are still require specific amounts of homework in 7th grade, you ignore the amount of reading required for7th grade.

So, you don't even realize that most of the time noted in the survey results is for practice and reading. You are now pushing for 7th graders not to have to spending 30 mins reading a day. Your argument is that it's a shame the district asks our kids to do this when they could be having quality screen time instead.

You continue to attempt to misrepresent survey results when you don't even know what the children are saying. You then claim to want to change district policy based on your complete lack of knowledge.

Parent also misses the recent OECD report that shows a direct link between the amount of homework and the academic results. Going as far as proposing the Finland model without even knowing it doesn't even make the top 10.

The report is also sited as one of the main reasons for the growing achievement gap. Far from removing homework, we should be looking at ways to make it possible for all kids to have 2 hours of supported out of school quiet time where they can accomplish their homework with support if we want to start addressing that.

You continue to make factual errors throughout your posts calling on the district to cancel all homework (yet again, read the title of this thread). You've made a ton of accusations with absolutely no data to back them up.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

TheSortingHat,

Thanks for the information about the policy. If it has already been voted on, is there a reason why it's not being implemented?

Parent, JLS,

Great post from middle schooler.

The answer to your question "How much of the day should be home/how much should be schoolwork?" appears to have been answered with the homework policy. It is the 10 minute X grade level rule. This seems to give the school the right to give homework because in 1996 the "National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association" endorsed it.

Problems:

1. Since 1996, the researcher of the rule has since changed his mind. Per the white paper, he seems to now conclude that the correlation of student achievement to time spent on homework "fades" after 2 hours in high school. In middle school, the fading happens at 60-90 minutes. That means that the 60 minutes every day for sixth graders is in the "fading" range.

2. PAUSD has created a two-tier achievement system by declaring that Honors and AP classes are for students (and parents) who accept no homework boundaries. The excuse, as we all know, goes that the reason you need to be a homework slave between 6th-8th grade is to prepare you for high school (if you want to be high achieving), and in high school, it's to prepare you for college. Never mind that some AP and HOnors classes have acceptable boundaries, but a few are in the "hazing" category. The entire system is based on fear of these classes.

The classes without boundaries (no policy) could possibly be illegal because they exclude students on the basis of "home" work. The worst though is the message that PAUSD is sending by tying high achievement to homework without boundaries.

While I agree with you that the boundaries need to be set for student autonomy (and the benefits that this has for them as humans), I think that rights to a fair education are equally important.

Research and common sense confirm that too much homework turns kids off of school, makes them feel bored, possibly depressed as middle schooler feels. If too much homework hurts, it should not be used against you in so many ways, or be cause to exclude you from aspiring to taking an Honors or an AP class, ever. If the district is looking at data, I bet there are chokeholds in middle school student achievement which could be directly tied to the 10 minute X grade level rule, and the rule's related overreach.

My conclusion: A blanket 60 minutes of homework every day for sixth graders is way TOO MUCH when "fading" happens at 60-90. Increases should not be successive every year. Core subjects don't change, regular classes should stay at the lowest possible boundary and only increase for honors and AP classes, within reasonable and stated after school boundaries.

Grading should reflect the in-class work, and home-work grading balance. Honors and AP classes should be required to disclose the balance on the syllabus (max 10%, 20% of work done outside). As said many teachers are already working with a fair balance, but the ones who are not should not be able to be invasive without bounds.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:24 am

AnotherReality trolls: {all wrong, on every point}

Fun as this may be for you, I cannot let you speak for me.

My point should be clear: there is more than sufficient evidence in both public surveys and anecdotal experience that we have a homework problem.

The solution I advocate as most workable is to implement the homework policy as written.

That would be the first, easiest best step the district could do to establish boundaries and combat burnout, while maximizing educational outcomes.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 9:51 am

another reality check,

Required reading should also be able to happen in class.

Most everything could happen in class and you would not need to send it home.


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Posted by another realith check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 3, 2015 at 10:14 am

@SortingHat,
I've provided survey results, infinite portal data and references to OECD reports. You've provided "anecdotal evidence and feelings".

Spot the difference, then look up the definition of trolling.


@OneSize,
Yeah, because we wouldn't want reading to come into conflict with at-home quality screen time. Sheesh!


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 10:30 am

OneSize asks:

"Thanks for the information about the policy. If it has already been voted on, is there a reason why it's not being implemented? "

Good question. I'm not on the inside, so I cannot speak to motivations, intent, or desired outcomes, but observing that nothing has happened for two years tells me this is not a priority for the district.

In a more general sense, this is a problem about cultural change and coordination across multiple parties. These aspects require leadership and management.

- culture change always encounters resistance from within and without. You can see this in the thread postings here- some conflate a homework limit with no homework (10 min/grade is still a serious amount of time on task) as an example of the kind of distortions imagined by those opposing change.

Most of this resistance is rooted in fear and uncertainty. Fear of unknown, fear of failure, fear of being held accountable for poor results. Not everyone has the same concerns and likely many are ready to try it. But left unchecked, fear and uncertainty spread. The only antidote for fear is leadership.

Someone needs to stand up and describe what the new system will look like , what the benefits of change are, and what is expected of each individual, and how they will ( or won't) be accountable for various outcomes. Developing this requires a little bit of vision and a lot of communication. You have to repeat the message a lot. People need to trust that this is real and internalize the change ahead of the event. They also need to know that there may be some fumbles along the way, and that you work through them.

- coordination across multiple parties requires management ( which may be distinctly different than leadership and may be much more localized ) the problem here is how to coordinate so that seven unrelated teachers can hit a shared target. I imagine that until this is sorted out, many people will confuse uncertainty with the scheduling scheme for uncertainty with the goal. It is an area where you want innovation among participants, but you don't want obstruction from those who cant "see" the goal. There are some techniques for managing through this process. It might take a few weeks if done right. Simpler scheduling schemes are better than complex.

There are other aspects of management: getting actionable feedback; avoiding retaliation; and getting kids to open up to the possibility that they won't be judged or impacted in grades by admitting homework loads are too high.

Likely we will see a rather more bureaucratic approach which takes a semester to build a survey, and a semester to analyze the results and a year to try something later...

Really it should be pulled together with continuous surveys and weekly feedback. To specific teachers. And if there is a time budgeting scheme it should be adjusted after getting feedback.

So that summarizes it: Leadership to push through the fear and uncertainty of change; and management to implement the specifics of scheduling, feedback, retaliation/communication and adjustment.

Could be online in 2 months if it were an area of focus.


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 10:32 am

Another Reality: are you against implementing the already-unanimously-approved homework policy?


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 3, 2015 at 10:48 am

I am against implementing an arbitrary standard that has no basis in reality. These simple solutions do make make good rules.

As I've shown above; electives, reading, music, AP classes are all not dealt with effectively under the current homework policy. It is a poor policy, badly conceived and ineffectually executed.

The solution, however, is NOT to remove all homework as the OP declares.


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Posted by ThaSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 11:19 am

Another Reality comments:

"As I've shown above; electives, reading, music, AP classes are all not dealt with effectively under the current homework policy. It is a poor policy, badly conceived and ineffectually executed. "

This is a classic case of obstructing the goal because they cannot see how the implementation will work.


Given there has been no implementation, nor even a proposal to implement, it is perhaps premature to proclaim it a " .... poor policy, badly conceived and ineffectually executed"

...unless your goal is to obstruct the policy itself.

There are many implementation schemes that leap to mind that address most of your concerns, one of which is proposed by Mr Vincenti. The details are not hard to work out, they just haven't been worked out. The policy is fine, and workable in many other school districts . To claim it won't work here because we have music and AP is odd. Many places have music and AP. It isn't hard to imagine a working solution is available.




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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm

TheSortingHat,

" Leadership to push through the fear and uncertainty of change; and management to implement the specifics of scheduling, feedback, retaliation/communication and adjustment.

Could be online in 2 months if it were an area of focus."

I like the idea of tying homework policy to raises. There should be no raises raises until a homework policy is implemented. And all Honors and AP classes should be on the chopping block for equity reasons. No boundaries, no class. It's just lazy to leave them without boundaries, at this point. But possibly illegal and discriminatory, that should get focus. Addressing these classes has implications on what is being done in middle school. Everything is interrelated.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm

check writes,
"The solution, however, is NOT to remove all homework as the OP declares."

You said that, not me.

You are still missing the point of this thread. The point of this thread is boundaries. The point of this thread is that I feel I should be able to prioritize some time in the day that I have control of, that my child has control of, without tendrils of the school day reaching into every minute of it -- and still expect my child to exercise an equal right to a public education. If homework is important, and necessary, then it has to be considered in how one sets those boundaries, as it is the main reason for the lack of said boundaries.

Before we can even consider what my right might be to set boundaries, first we have to consider the current situation - why are there no boundaries? Are there any legal rights to set boundaries, are there any legal rights for the state NOT to honor boundaries, and if so, do they conflict with the 4th Amendment? Is THE LACK OF CLEAR BOUNDARIES between school and home an overreach of the state? Even that wonderful white paper linked to above doesn't consider home time as priority in its own right, it still considers homework as if homework is the higher priority. That assumption makes sense from a historical perspective, because just a few decades ago, when there was no Internet, no Amazon for cheap easy access to books, unless you lived really near to a public library, homework was an unequivocal educational opportunity. The world has changed a lot since then, and homework now competes for time with other, better opportunities, and without any boundaries to keep it in check, it ends up being something people like me have to sacrifice our family lives to, have to argue about with people like Why and Check, rather than just counting on having family time and school.

So the question is: what right the state has to my time and my child's time without bounds in the day in order for my child to exercise his (CA) Constitutionally guaranteed right to a public education?

I wrote (excerpts):
What gives the school the right to give my child homework? Under what legal framework are they allowed to expect my family to put all of his and our time 24/7 at their disposal in order to get a high-quality public education?

Is this just something we've all just kind of accepted, or is there a legal reason the school can do this?

Please do not turn this into an argument over whether homework is "good" or not. That's not why I'm asking.

Any teacher will tell you that at any time, about half the parents are complaining about too much homework and half are complaining about too little. I personally feel families know their children, and they are probably both right. What is best also depends on a lot of other factors, including access to alternative educational opportunities.
***

I don't see any suggestion in there that we remove all homework, in fact, I believe I have been consistently in favor of allowing people who want that kind of 24 hour approach to keep it. As an overt choice. I think I should be able to set boundaries without suffering an inferior education for my child. I feel there is good evidence I could get a superior education for my own child (meaning, superior for him) with little or no homework, because my child would have more control over his time, but only if the school program is designed to be high quality with little or no homework. There is plenty if evidence this is happening elsewhere, is happening in our own district already in lower grades by choice programs (Ohlone). So there's no fundamental reason we can't set those boundaries and still offer a high quality education.

Regardless of homework, I feel the need to set clear boundaries is now due. Rather than having to fight this ongoing and often ridiculous battle over homework, which IMO does not deserve priority over some family time in the day, I think I should be able to set a boundary the educational system has to respect, and be able to choose my right to an equal education as well. Where is that boundary? Do I have a right to set such a boundary? That depends on what right the state has to my time all day in order to provide the educational right. Even the Department of Education did not know how to answer that question. I think it's easy to see that putting all of everyone's day at the disposal of the state as some kind of slush fund for school time is an overreach, especially if it's not necessay for providing an equal education, as there is ample evidence. But settling the question, setting the boundaries legally, appears never to have been done, probably for good historic reasons that no longer apply.

I think the conversation about providing the best education for all would benefit from having to respect such boundaries. (Consistent with our own district's development assets report, setting clear boundaries like this is important for wellbeing.)

I would love more input on the thread topic, it has been a great discussion.


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Posted by another reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm

@sortingHat,
Total rubbish. If you put in a simple idiot policy that ignores a basic tenant that each child will require a different amount of time to do the same homework, it's impossible to implement.

The committee took a basic guideline and tried to enforce it across all grade levels within the district without understanding how it would work in practice. Ignored all elective, reading, music, AP, SE, ...
Even your post shows that you can't point to another district that has strictly enforced a "10 minute per grade" standard and had it successfully work in a high-performing district.

At best the policy is a guidance to parents about how long they should allow their kids to do homework. It's up to the parents to enforce that and, as with OP, parents are more interested in grades. This is also born out in the high school surveys, which identified peer and parental pressure as the top issues with both high-schools not the homework policy.

In spite of the policy, the district has held up its side of the bargain. The above survey results show that. But this isn't because of the poorly defined homework policy. It's because the teachers know how much homework to give the kids.

You shed crocodile tears about the 9% of students who are doing more than 3 hours per night but don't ask what they are doing. You don't realize that 10% of the class "test out" of units per grade. The only way you can "test out" is to pass the end of unit test. The only way you can pass the end of unit test is to have done the work already. 10% of the class is being effectively home schooled. How much time do you think that is adding up to in the survey results?

The real concern is the students like the child of the OP that are struggling just getting the regular stuff done. That isn't a problem with any homework policy and, as I've stated repeatedly, is up to OP to decide what they want to do about it.


@parent,
Actually, no, you did said it. It's at the top in big black bold letters: "What gives the school the right to give my child homework?" Might be an idea to read the thread before posting.


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

another reality check,

The homework policy is a guideline for parents?

Interesting. Could your position of what is wrong with the homework policy be what is holding back implementation?

Your insight now needs to be confirmed by the Board, and announced to the community.

Until then, I would suggest a moratorium on middle school homework.


3 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:10 pm

To Ken Dauber and any Board members who may be reading or posting anonymously:)

If you have missed the full conversation, please consider Parent's comments below, and let the community know where you stand on this.

Parent, JLS

"Regardless of homework, I feel the need to set clear boundaries is now due. Rather than having to fight this ongoing and often ridiculous battle over homework, which IMO does not deserve priority over some family time in the day, I think I should be able to set a boundary the educational system has to respect, and be able to choose my right to an equal education as well. Where is that boundary? Do I have a right to set such a boundary? That depends on what right the state has to my time all day in order to provide the educational right. Even the Department of Education did not know how to answer that question. I think it's easy to see that putting all of everyone's day at the disposal of the state as some kind of slush fund for school time is an overreach, especially if it's not necessay for providing an equal education, as there is ample evidence. But settling the question, setting the boundaries legally, appears never to have been done, probably for good historic reasons that no longer apply.

I think the conversation about providing the best education for all would benefit from having to respect such boundaries. (Consistent with our own district's development assets report, setting clear boundaries like this is important for wellbeing.)"


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Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Another Reality supposes:

"At best the policy is a guidance to parents about how long they should allow their kids to do homework. It's up to the parents to enforce that "


Um, er, I think you may not have read the actual policy.

The policy and AR's pretty clearly state that it is the teachers responsibility to design homework that can be completed on time.

Nowhere does it indicate that parents should tell their student to give up when hitting a time limit.

That is, in fact, the exact opposite of what it says - rather that parents should encourage and support.

Please read the policy. You would benefit from relevance.


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Posted by Another Aspect
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2015 at 2:54 pm

There is another aspect to this problem.

During elementary school, our child had trouble, not formally fitting into a category of disability. This meant tutoring to keep up. But there was so much homework, that homework, exercise, dinner, down time took us to bedtime. No time for tutoring!

Clearly many students don't run into these extreme cases. But a preponderance of students might be running into a downtime or sleep deficit as a result of a natural attempt to complete the assigned homework.

Maybe there is confusion about whether homework really needs to be completed or not? Many parents feel that completion is an important, or the only, measure of how much homework to do. I've yet to see guidance from any school here saying: "completing homework is not important."


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm

another reality check,

You clearly wish to debate the homework policy, which is a different topic. You have indicated your understanding that it is. Please start a different thread for the new topic. Thank you.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Another Aspect,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I do think the conversation about healthy boundaries for home time should stand on its own merits and not depend on the minutiae of the homework arguments.

You do bring up an interesting question, though. It seems like the issue of whether homework is even important or not, essential to the educational program, or to be regarded as something akin to extra credit, is not even settled among our own parents. But that just brings up the importance of healthy boundaries, so that the importance of family time is not subject to such debate.

My own experience is that failing to turn in a single homework assignment on time has resulted in the teacher notifying me that my child was failing a class and instructing me on the things I needed to do to be sure he was in line again. Failing to turn in all of a really busywork assignment in another class on time dropped his grade one letter grade. I don't really care about that, but realistically, that "sacrifice" did not put a dent in the too-much homework problem.

Generally,

I think the issue of boundaries also has to include attention and focus. Our many electronic devices have presented us with an interesting neurological study in the limitations of our own brain biology. A good boundary means one thing stops and another begins. Setting boundaries isn't just about time physically spent having to do what someone else tells us to do in order to have equal education. We're spending a lot of time discussing homework, even though the boundaries should come first, then then homework and everything, within the context of those healthy boundaries.

In discussing boundaries, there would be:
An acknowledgement of the value of family time
An acknowledgement of the importance of education
A discussion of modern reasons to overtly set these boundaries
The framework for ensuring the boundaries are respected
(of course) The legal framework for what exists and for the boundaries

What else would a discussion of how to set healthy boundaries between school and home include? Would it be important to exclude the homework discussion altogether, or is it worthwhile to include the homework discussion to the extent that it highlights the reason for the need for boundaries, and that they can be achieved in a way the serves the needs of those who prefer a lot of homework and those who don't?


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Another Aspect,

Homework has become a test of ability and that's a problem.

Is it homework or is it a test? If it's a test, then the teacher could test the limits of students for the work at home. Otherwise, homework should have very little stakes, and be a minor natural extension of class work.

Teachers manage 100% of the instructional day, so managing the 10% of work to be done at home should not be a mystery to solve. Apparently it's very complicated though because it's been 2 years since a policy was voted on, and no implementation.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2015 at 6:31 pm

While we're at it, please define "family time".


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Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2015 at 7:10 pm

I would prefer a definition of student autonomy, and as it relates to the teenage years.

When the homework mill starts in 6th, 7th and 8th I wonder how students see the homework policy.

It's 60 minutes every day as a 6th grader, and every year it is supposed to increase. Groan!!!!

I was the kind of kid who took daydreaming pretty seriously and lucky to have parents who encouraged it. I loved to read (for fun) and hated to be told what to read. In my 6th grade brain, I would have felt oppressed to know that school work was only going to get worst every single year.

Who relishes school work? You like to see friends in school, you have fun with your teachers, you are proud of belonging to your school, but given a choice, isn't less school work better? Even research is saying this - too much school work can kill achievement and the love of learning.

Family time may be a way to define non-school time, but the question I have is when do students get time for them to do nothing.

When I suggested that time for required reading could be made during the school day, Alternative reality made the remark "Yeah, because we wouldn't want reading to come into conflict with at-home quality screen time. Sheesh!"

Whose business is it what a kid does with their free time?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 3, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

"While we're at it, please define "family time""

Thanks an interesting question. If we are setting boundaries, do we really need to define family time? The point being, perhaps the best way to define the school day in order to set clear boundaries, as someone else suggested, is to include homework in the setting of the length of the school day.

I'm in agreement with One Size, perhaps it's better to think of the boundary in terms of autonomy. Or home time. The Development Assets Survey specifically talks about school boundaries and home boundaries, so clearly, the concepts of "school time" and "home time" are generally understood.

But discussing what "family time" is and the value of it to children's development could help focus the discussion on the need for boundaries, add more to the why we need them, and away from just a homework-centric discussion.

Kind of like the dietary equivalent of focusing people on healthy habits instead of just talking about avoiding donuts...

Is This is Why still here? They seemed pretty against trying to establish a boundary through a legal precedent. I'm wondering if you have any ideas for how to do so without going the legal route? (Sincere question) Remember, this is a boundaries issue, not a homework issue, so please if you would, answer the question rather than rehashing the homework arguments. If parents feel healthier boundaries need to be set, how would you work within the system to achieve them? Things like this are usually accomplished through court precedent.


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Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

Actually JLS Parent,

I said umpteen times that I support boundaries which the board HAS ALREADY SET with the bell schedule AND homework policy time limits. Homework for optional honors classes outside the policy do not bother me nor you if you were honest when saying that each student/family has a right to do as much homework as they'd like.

Reliable, professional survey data supports that this system, even before the policy intending to reduce homework went into effect, works well for most everyone at JLS. Your child's homework experience is not shared by the majority of JLS 7th grade students.

There are plenty of ways outlined above that do not include legal claims to help your child that you should push for and while you are doing that, as others have mentioned above, set boundaries at home for the sake of your child's health and happiness.

I don't support legal claims, which require the district to defer to expensive lawyers, just to generate "bad publicity" intended that is used as a club. That costs taxpayers (us) money that we paid to provide services to students (all of our children).

Google "malicious lawsuits." The first thing that pops up says that anyone bringing a lawsuit must show that:

- "facts exist for bringing the lawsuit."

That I suspect means your name (not anonymous), your child's teachers' names, the homework assignments and actual work your child turned in, subs in classrooms for the days his teachers will be forced to go to court testifying about your child's grades, abilities and how he compares to the norm, a 24/7 log you called an invasion of privacy and other proof that your child won't be promoted to 8th grade because he is "failing" middle school solely because of 10 hours a day of harshly graded homework he is forced to do and can't complete well, etc,

- "the legal theory asserted is valid"

Homework assignments are an unconstitutional "search and seizure"? a state law? Legal Eagle told you those won't fly.

Now you say homework discriminates against boys. The same assignment given to boys and girls discriminates against boys because they not as smart as girls? smarter than girls? all boys have trouble concentrating/ADD? Really?

You also say homework deprives your son of his legal right to a free education. Isn't your child getting access to all the same lectures and labs, textbooks, assignments and tests for free? Where does the law say that it is illegal to assign or grade students on anything beyond that which is of interest to the lowest able/motivated student in the grade because in California we must make sure that every education is EQUAL aka every student learns the EXACT same thing and nothing more? Did you think the words "equal OPPORTUNITY" were to have no meaning?

If the lawsuit is not valid, the district can ask the court to have you pay your AND its attorneys fees: "A malicious prosecution lawsuit seeks to recover all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending against the meritless lawsuit, as well as possible compensation for emotional distress, mental suffering, and impairment to reputation. Malicious prosecution lawsuits can be filed against the party who wrongfully sued you, as well as that party’s attorney."


3 people like this
Posted by Legal Eagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

In order to be assessed fees there has to be no credible basis for suit not just a loss. The suit must be frivolous that is so lacking in merit that it is clearly for harassment purposes. There are a number of theories that meet that low bar including that the district is legally obligated to carry out board policy but hasn't done anything so far to do that.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 9:15 am

A definition of family time is definitely part of the discussion.

It probably means different things to different people, but lots of things can come into the heading of family time.

If a family sits down to eat breakfast and dinner together and even if it is only 10 minutes or so, then the family is having time together. If the family eats at different times with phones, tv or video games, then that is not family time.

Family time can take place by Dad taking kids out for haircuts, or Mom to buy shoes if the hour is spent communicating and interaction takes place.

It doesn't have to be sitting playing board games although it can be.


2 people like this
Posted by One size
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2015 at 9:44 am

What about the amount of family time that is taken up by conversation about school?

The organizational and time management skills that we often hear are so useful to learn through homework. Depending on the students' proclivity to executive functions, this can become an ongoing nightmare conversation in a family.

I wasn't taught how to run an executive agenda (binder reminder) to keep track of my life in 6th grade. It's unnatural to have kids so "organized" but it has become an imperative to deal with homework.

What is homework?

It shouldn't be a time management course, and it should not be a test of ability. Both of these cause huge impairment to family communication.



2 people like this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

Legal Eagle, you say that "the district is legally obligated to carry out board policy "

Here's the board middle school homework policy:

"As a GUIDELINE, when teachers choose to assign homework, students MIGHT
reasonably BE EXPECTED to devote the following amounts of undistracted, focused time to nightly homework, including time devoted to long-term projects and test review:
6 60 minutes AVERAGE M-F
7-8 70-80 minutes AVERAGE M-F
Note 1: Students who elect to study music, can expect to be assigned practice time that is in addition to the above loads."

The board policy is a "guideline." The district shared this "guideline" with teachers.

Case closed?


2 people like this
Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 10:42 am

ThisIsWhy cherry-picks part of the AR' to attempt to skew the discussion


""As a GUIDELINE, when teachers choose to assign homework, students MIGHT
reasonably BE EXPECTED to devote the following amounts of undistracted, focused time to nightly homework, including time devoted to long-term projects and test review:"

And while this is a clause in the Regs, it sits right below this item, which is NOT a guideline, but rather mandatory(SHOULD):

"Homework should be designed to:

· Deepen understanding and encourage a love of learning.

· Reflect individual student needs, learning styles, social-emotional health and abilities in order for students to complete their homework.

· Provide timely feedback for students regarding their learning.

· Include clear instructions and performance expectations so students can complete the work independently.

· Be assigned in reasonable amounts that can be completed within a reasonable time frame.

· Provide teachers with feedback regarding overall classroom progress toward expected outcomes. "


What the guidelines do in deference to the overall requirement is to define what the time goals are for homework designed by teachers.


Nobody would read the entire context of this policy and come away with the misunderstanding that teachers can regularly design homework at 150% of these times.

Rather they should design homework that can be completed in a reasonable time frame.

Lawyered.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Etiquette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2015 at 11:06 am

Parent,

Please give the same respect you ask of other posters. You wrote that Another REality check wanted t debate the homework policy and claimed this is a different topic.

If you had read the thread before posting, you would have realized that Anothre Reality was responding to Sorting Hat's post asking if the Another Reality was against implementing the already-unanimously-approved homework policy.

I know it's a long thread but you really should read the posts before responding without understanding the context.

Please be more considerate.


2 people like this
Posted by This is why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2015 at 11:12 am

TheSortingHat

You said that these are "NOT a guideline, but rather mandatory (SHOULD)."

Not so. From the English Language and Usage guide: "Must and should are modal auxiliary verbs, and contrast in their deontic [duty and obligation] sense in the strength (and often in the source) of the obligation. MUST is stronger; it's used in orders. SHOULD is weaker; it's used in advice."

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 11:17 am

One size,
You are so right about the family time school takes up! That's one purpose for boundaries, so there is a clear boundary!!! Mentally and not just physically.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 11:20 am

This is Why,

I had really hoped to see you join this discussion and not just rehash even some erroneous interpretations of data, the situation, of homework, the law, the national conversation, and even of me and my child.

Actually, your post is why you come across as a district insider: despite discussion, you seem impervious to facts, truth, and data. You then state there is no problem based on a misstatement of facts, and accuse those who want to solve the problem of just being troublemakers.

This thread has been emblematic of the way our district handles problems. The "reliable, professional survey data" you yourself provided from the district does not "support this system" or show it "work[s] well for everyone at JLS". The data you provided shows the homework policy being significantly violated at JLS.

You have now used the data dishonestly on numerous occasions, even when I quoted the exact survey you gave. This kind of imperviousness to the truth and facts in discussion is typical of district insiders. This deserves some discussion, as you continue to misuse the data and refuse to disclose your connection with the district or interest in this discussion or why you are almost beyond reason in favor of glossing things over.

You made numerous erroneous claims based on misstating the data in the 2011 Development Assets Survey to say most 7th graders didn't have too much homework. This despite Project Cornerstone's own slideshow impression based on the same data that "Our youth do a lot of homework."

When presented with the proper interpretation of the data, even the data quoted several time, you continue to stick with your false impression.

But your recent post does bring up an even more troubling error. You have claimed your conclusion was based on the data from the surveys on this page: Web Link

yet only one of the surveys appears to have asked the detailed questions about the time kids spend on homework, the 2011 Development Assets survey, and that was before the homework policy was in place?

So, there doesn't appear to be any data on that page to evaluate what burden of homework our kids might have now at all. The CHKS doesn't seem to have homework data (please provide some more direct info if I am wrong, I have combed through them several times but maybe there is something wrong with my search function). The PARCS reality check survey doesn't seem to have any homework data.

But your dogged insistence on misinterpreting and misstating the 2011 Development Assets Survey demonstrates a troubling dishonesty in the use of data, and your insistence on trying to dismiss the many parents here reporting problems as outliers when their experience is consistent with the survey data you yourself provided, is even more troubling.

Again, to Ken Dauber, Terri Godfrey, and the Weekly, if this kind of intellectual dishonesty is being practiced in the district office and resulting in our problems not being addressed honestly for the sake of our kids, that should be looked into, and I would think would be grounds for dismissal. Were the data from the 2011 Development assets survey reported this dishonestly to the public? Have we had any such survey since the homework policy went into effect to compare? Have those results been interpreted as erroneously and dishonestly as This is Why has in this conversation?


3 people like this
Posted by TheSortingHat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 11:23 am

This is why clarifies:

"MUST is stronger; it's used in orders. SHOULD is weaker; it's used in advice."

Okay. I agree.

The teachers should design homework that can be completed in a reasonable time frame.

That is coming from the Board. To imagine that constitutes a friendly guideline, regularly exceeded by 150% still stretches incredulity.

I guess by that logic, the teachers can treat all board policy as something to be ignored?

My question to you: should teachers follow the spirit of this policy? Or should they not ?




1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Why,

Really, Why do you stick to your conclusions even when the evidence you yourself proffer is shown to be wrong? You cited some old studies from Cooper, but ignored that even Cooper has more recently published work disclaiming their previous conclusions.

You wrote, "I support the boundaries which the board has already set with the bell schedule and homework policy time limits" — evidencing that you do not seem to understand what a boundary is. The rest of the homework policy quoted above is also a boundary, it is not being followed.

The things you cited are not much of a boundary, evidence shows they are significantly violated and families currently have no reliable way of enforcing them. However, if you think it's no big deal, that boundaries already exist, and they are being honored already, then why are you so upset by people who wish to set a clearer boundary?

I do think if there are clearer boundaries set, people who wish it should still be allowed to choose the kind of educational path that means constant school expectations around the clock. But you continue to mischaracterize what that choice means.

I and many posters have said many times that the choice is not fair if it happens within the same school program that includes homework as an integral part of the education. The choice would have to happen at the level of school choice programs AS WE ALREADY PROVIDE THROUGH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and partway through middle school.

You yourself provided the following quote:
(National Education Commission on Time and Learning, 1994, p. 25)."

"To drop the use of homework, then, a school or district would be obliged to identify a practice that produces a similar effect within the confines of the school day without taking away or diminishing the benefits of other academic activities"

In other words, you yourself have shown the choice is different program designs, not asking the kids who want to set boundaries to choose to accept a lesser education within the same program.

Your quote goes on to suggest it's not a simple task, but few things worthwhile doing are, and we have actually shown it's possible in practice already through our own choice programs. Besides, your quote comes from 1994; the world is a different place now, which is much of what is spurring this conversation. It's much easier today to "identify practices that produce a similar effect" (there would be the definition of EQUAL, by the way, not your very strange interpretation of it).

For those who would like to read about setting boundaries, Kidpower is a great resource, they even have pages geared specifically to teens and adults. Here is a link to a page that talks about topics like What makes it hard to set boundaries, and includes common reactions to boundaries (starting with denial and minimizing), all very relevant to this conversation. Web Link

One principal that is especially relevant is that it's hard to set boundaries if you grow up in a home where boundary-setting was not allowed. If our kids grow up in a system where boundaries between work and home are neither set nor (de facto) allowed, they will have trouble setting them in life. The district's own Development Assets survey places a high priority on boundary setting. Do our district people understand what that means any better than This is Why?


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Why,

Your post was so riddled with erroneous misrepresentations of facts and what I and others have said, I'm afraid I have to answer you in multiple posts. Why are you so an