Trustees OK new homework guidelines for high schools | January 2, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 2, 2009

Trustees OK new homework guidelines for high schools

Teachers asked to be aware of total work load

by Harry Stoll

The school board approved new homework guidelines for high school students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, at its Dec. 9 meeting, in an attempt to balance testing schedules and night-to-night assignments. The new guidelines were recommended by a committee of district administrators and parents.

"Kids should learn what they need to learn and still have a life," said Trustee Paul Gardner. He said his children often had at least three hours of homework but some of it was busy work.

Students and parents also had complained that students were being tested the same day on different subjects. To address these problems, the language of the new guidelines includes the wording: "the staff should make efforts whenever possible to be aware of homework projects, and testing schedules across the curriculum."

How to create this awareness and use it to even out homework and testing, given the varied schedules of high school students, is to be worked out by the start of the next academic year. Both existing and new guidelines require the principal and staff at each school to develop and regularly review a homework plan.

The new guidelines continue the policy requiring each school to devise a method whereby "students do not receive an overload of homework one day and very little the next."

They also change the maximum estimated time for nightly homework from 30 minutes per hour of instruction to a total of three hours. This might appear to be the same thing, but it's a significant change and would allow teachers to load up one subject area on different nights.

Homework is defined by the guidelines as any work assigned to be completed outside of class. Elective classes - such as drama, speech and debate, and athletics - will require more homework time as will honors and advanced courses, the new guidelines state.

Weekend homework assignments are allowed for high school students if deemed necessary, according to the guidelines, which limit estimated homework to three hours for the weekend.

But present and continuing guidelines state, "Assigning homework over holidays is highly discouraged."

"Overachievers make family holidays a living hell," said Board President Bill Clarkson.

The committee did its homework, according to district spokesman Terry Koehne.

"The task force, comprised of various stakeholders in the district, considered the latest research on the topic as well as several student surveys conducted from grades kindergarten through 12," said Koehne in an e-mail after the meeting. There were no students on the committee, and no student addressed the board on the new guidelines.

The board approved the guidelines by a 4-0 vote and delayed their start to the new academic year rather than from the recommended start at midterm 2008-09. Trustees emphasized that each school site should be working to develop a homework plan.