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School Board adopts new homework policy

Original post made on Jun 23, 2011

The School Board voted Tuesday night to approve a new homework policy, which has been 14 months in creation and was subject to a number of last-minute changes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 8:27 PM

Comments (27)

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Posted by Randy Randleman
a resident of Mission Park
on Jun 23, 2011 at 8:55 am

I have to agree with the persons comment about this being seen as micromanaging the teachers by the School Board. The teachers know best what the kids need to practice. If there are a few teachers that just assign homework as punishment or consistently over assign it then the district should just deal with them on a one to one basis.

W. Ron Sutton got it right with saying its communication as the main problem. It is difficult to even find out what homework the kids have and when its due. If you go to Zangle there is a spot for homework assignments, but out of my 3 kids at Amador only one teacher follows that practice, making it nearly impossible to find out what they have due. The teachers insist on using their own web sites to list the homework in and not use Zangle as they should. This is like Microsoft having a web site for there products, but letting each engineer have their own web site describing the product and how to use it. It would make it impossible for Microsoft to manage their products, sort of like PUSD managing their homework.


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Posted by E-Family
a resident of Old Towne
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:41 am

Homework should NOT be just busy work... and it's not necessary to over extend the students and their families. Weekend homework is counterproductive to family time, which is multitudes more important that 'teaching to the test' as done here in Pleasanton. I want my kids to really 'think out of the box', 'learn to question and explore' and not just solve 100 math problems in 3 minutes. There are too many misguided teachers with homework in Pleasanton, at all levels of our public schools.

Estimates made by my kids teachers... for how long an assignment should take has also been misguided... My kids should 100% on Star Testing in multiple categories... but, the 20 minute homework still took 2 hours to complete.. go figure :-P


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

Something has to give here and so far, the students have suffered. This is long overdue. And while we're at it, let dump some of those useless projects that get sent home.


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Posted by Elizabeth Dallmann
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

Randy,

I agree with you - it is difficult for parents to follow up on their child's homework even when we have access to the teacher's web pages. Sometimes the teacher also changes the homework in class. I know it is a lot of extra work for the teachers to use both Zangle and their own webpage, but it helps the parents to teach the kids responsiblity and accountability in their schoolwork, resulting in more completed and turned in assignments.

Elizabeth


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Posted by W Ron Sutton
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

Even as a member of this Student Achievement committe, I had forgotten that our textbook policy in PUSD is to reuse UNMARKED textbooks, from year to year. This policy of not allowing markings in textbooks results in students NOT being allowed to quickly highlight key words, concepts, etc. The student must note "some other way," which is usually by hand-writing when studying a textbook. You can imagine how much longer it takes for a PUSD student to capture these notes. With school and after school activities, I can picture our students spending too many hours "re-writing" what could be highlighted as they prepare for class or tests.
There are solutions for this "no notes in textbook policy."
My favorite, modern, new tech solution is to stop using paper textbooks and to use "eReaders" and online curriculum. Scott McNealy founded curriki.org to provide FREE, open source educational materials. Join me in urging State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, to stop spending CA educational $s on expensive, out-of-date, printed texts that must pass a long committee approval process and get watered down in the process, when open source materials are current, correctable in minutes, and can have competing, but professionally written and correct versions. Email to: ttorlakson@cde.ca.gov


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Posted by just a thought
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

You know, it's the students who really need to know what the homework is, not the parents. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about parents being informed, and Zangle and teacher made websites are great for helping with communication. But if you're looking to know what's due and when, then I have to ask, shouldn't that be your child's concern? If he/she is present and participating in class then he/she will know. Please, make your children take some responsibility.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Most eReader devices do not have any markup facility. I agree about switching to open source textbooks.

I guess I'm not understanding what the problem is with having to take notes in a notebook instead of a textbook? Writing information down is a part of the learning process. I think you're more likely to remember information after writing it down than just reading it because you've had to process the information twice. Perhaps the issue of time is in learning best practices for notetaking.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:20 am

@Just a thought,

While you are right - many students, especially younger ones, are still learning this process; and some students even in high school refuse to take responsibility, requiring parents to monitor the homework assigned and done. Having a way for both parents and students to access homework assigned easily helps increase the accountability.


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Posted by W Ron Sutton
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

As a committe member, I can assure you that "all angles were considered," including the concept that "homework has NO purpose." But, despite our best efforts, I still think that we missed the MAJOR point of all the discussions and surveys: There is a significant perception, and therefore, communications, gap between teachers and students and their parents about the OBJECTIVE of a homework assignment and the TIME ON TASK expectations and ACTUAL TIME ON TASK spent. The main ISSUE is COMMUNICATIONS about TIME, and the recently approved SOLUTION is to assume that a reduction in homework QUANTITY as measured by teacher estimated TIME ON TASK will result in less homework and less stress on students and families. Since our professional teachers already assign homework based on what is necessary to meet their learning objectives, and they estimate that the TIME ON TASK to complete the homework is appropriate, I truly wonder if the new policy will actually result in any "perceived reduction" in student TIME spent on homework in the new school year, which is the objective of revising the homework policy. The underlying driving assumption in PUSD is that less stress results from less homework time. Notice that clarifying OBJECTIVES, ASSUMPTIONS and CAUSES is not easily done. As a result of that difficulty, I am concerned that we have a new homework policy that will not address the underlying issues. The good news is that everyone involved in determining the policy is committed, publicly, to making this an on-going, dynamic, annually adjustable policy revision process.


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Posted by just a thought
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

@ A Parent,
I do agree that it is a process and that it takes time for students to develop the habits necessary. I suppose that I should also disclose that I am a teacher.

My focus is on high school students specifically. I feel that if a high school student is not taking responsibility for his studies, then the natural consequence comes through in a lesser understanding of the material and possibly a lowered grade. Without this consequence, a student learns that his parents and teachers will shoulder the responsibility for him.

I went to school before the advent of the internet and I suspect the same is true for most parents of high school students. How did we get our homework done? It wasn't because the teacher called home everyday or posted assignments and due dates (along with educational objectives) online. We either got the job done or our grades suffered. I am concerned that the current generation is getting the impression that success comes to everyone regardless of work ethic or responsibility.


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Posted by Colette
a resident of Del Prado
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Hi am so happy to hear that something is being done to address the ridiculous amount of homework frequently given to students, especially those in high school. There were semesters when my kids would spend up to 5 or 6 hours of homework a night, and they are good students! The assignments given over vacations and weekends were overkill. My husband and I wanted to be able to do fun activitis with our kids, but homework got in the way. We promote a community of character, but we have also been producing a bunch of stressed out, tired kids who have limited time with their families. Heaven forbid we throw in a sport or other activity...My daughter's friend missed her 8th grade Awards Night because she had so much homework she never would have been able to complete it had she gone. So, thanks to all of you who worked so hard to address this problem. I really appreciate your hard work and dedication to our students and community! I look forward to seeing the changes!


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Posted by Start Afresh
a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Kudos to Trustee Hintzke for not accepting a policy that is a work-in-progress. There are ways to test new policies and practices and then make the final approval. All district policies should be considered as candidates for change if something is not working. This is no excuse for approving an incomplete and untested policy.
Why do parents think their kids are entitled to weekends free of homework?
This homework policy stikes me as a nanny-state policy that protects students (and mostly their parents) from the often-maligned "stress" and "practice". Stress and Practice are key methods of ongoing learning. I agree this new policy micro-manages our professional teachers. We don't need a homework policy. Period.
Teachers should know what is best to create learning for their students. Principals and department chairs should be responsible for insuring that teachers have this professional experience and judgement. Again, we don't need this policy.
If you want to get good at something, you practice it constantly. You don't declare Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as 'practice-free'.
This policy further dumbs-down our district, and as Trustee Grant says - this is a guideline for the average student. I thought we were a district that encourages and supports all students achieving their maximum potential.
Parents - if you want your children to be excellent, then you must take more responsibility. If you leave it to the district and this homework policy, your kids will be 'average'.


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Posted by Lee
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Homework and the amount of time it takes should have a limit so there is a balance of home life and school work. In middle school I think one to two hours is enough. In highschool, two-three hours should be sufficient. If the student wants to do anything else, like sports or band or club activities, that is enough! Homework on vacations and weekends is ridiculous!! The family time should come first.

If more time is needed, then let that student take summer school. Better yet, why not have the school year broken up into quarters, like college, and let the family decide when they want vacation time!







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Posted by Start Afresh
a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm

By the way, why does Teachers Union president Trevor Knaggs get to jump up and interject himself right into the Board of Trustees discussion without a card, without asking for permission? Granted his comments had merit, but does this now mean anyone in the community can jump up and take the podium anytime they want? Cool.


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Posted by Glenn Wohltmann
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Start Afresh:

Mr. Knaggs was invited by the board to provide his input.


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Posted by Start Afresh
a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Glenn - When watching the video, there is no verbal request by Mr. Knaggs, or a verbal invitation from the board/cabinet. So maybe the camera didn't catch body language or hand signals between them?


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Posted by AVHS Parent
a resident of Del Prado
on Jun 24, 2011 at 7:36 am

The policy recommends just 20 minutes of homework per class even for high school students and homework is defined to include study time. I don't think this policy is supportive of students who want to go on to college. These students need to develop time management and study skills while in high school and have the sense to work longer periods of time when needed. With this policy, are the students going to think they're stupid if they can't get an assignment completed within 20 minutes and end up feeling even more stress and self-doubt? This policy, although well-intended, misses the mark. I'm very disappointed in the Trustees who voted for this policy and appreciate Ms. Hintzke's dissenting vote.


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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

I am glad there is a conversation about this, but not sure this proposal is the right solution, and only partly addresses what I think are main issues:
- a few teachers use "funding cuts" as an excuse to give massive amounts of homework, that in their world should take only 30 minutes but in practice take up to 3 hours -- with severe penalties for non-completion.
- elementary school teachers that send long-term, multi-step projects home for parents to deal with. These should be broken up into manageable steps and deadlines by the TEACHER, with the parents providing support for each step to be done at home. The parents should not have to project-manage a major undertaking at home.
- I disagree with the weekend comments. Weekend time provides many busy kids with the time they need to catch up on homework; for elementary school kids with working parents, weekends are often the only time they have to help their kids with homework. One could argue that extracurricular activities are the problem here, but for some reason sports, music, etc. also want kids to do everything M-Th. Getting homework caught up on weekends is often much more effective and less stressful.

Just my two cents....


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Posted by new mom
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

We entered the school district this year in the late fall. This is the third distict I have had school aged children in. Part of the problem here is that there is NO means of communication between the parents and the teachers. I agree 100% that the students need to take charge for their assignments. But, there is no way for the parents to know what the expectations are. Most of my children's teachers send an update (via paper or email) with an update about what is going on in class and what to expect through eigth grade. We also had ...gasp....teacher conferences (yes...all the way through high school). These occurred once a semester where parents could discuss things such as this with the teacher. Please don't tell me to email the teachers.... I emailed two of my son's teachers this year to get feedback on how long his homework should take and didn't get a response. There needs to be more options for parent/teacher communication. This is the best way to manage our children's education...as partners. Some kids need this more than others.


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Posted by Yet Another Teacher
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

Time management and self-discipline are skills that students of all ages need to learn, but this is especially true at the high school level.

College professors aren't going to post homework assignments online for parents to peruse, nor are they going to coordinate their assignments with other instructors. A senior in our high schools will have all of that, and a few months later, he/she will be in a college without those restrictions. It's going to be quite a rough transition.

Teachers only have one prep period per day. All of the classroom teachers I know already spend 3-4 hours a day outside the classroom (at a minimum) grading papers, updating their websites, updating Zangle, etc. Every year, it seems that the demands on our time go up while our teaching load increases (I am teaching 42 more kids next year than I did just three years ago).

Do teachers also get weekends free of schoolwork? I'd love that! Because as it stands now, during the school year, I'm bound for at least 10-12 hours of my own "homework" in grading papers, lesson preps, parent communication, etc.

But what's that you say? School is not a 35- or 40-hour a week job? You're right, it's not, not for teachers and not for students. That's why I grade papers and prepare lessons on weekends, and why I expect students to do some homework on weekends, too.

I believe that teachers should post homework assignments online with due dates (and in fact I have done so for years), but I strongly disagree that teachers should not be able to assign homework over weekends (I never assign anything over Christmas holidays, since in my experience students usually don't do those, anyway!).

However, my biggest objection is that there is no definite prohibition of weekend/holiday homework nor anything else in this document. Everything is "discouraged", "encouraged", or "guidelines". I see this as an attempt to please both parents and teachers, and pleasing neither. Parents and students will now argue that teachers cannot assign homework on Friday that's due Monday, when in fact this new policy only "discourages" the practice, and does not prohibit it.

Can anybody besides me see this document creating yet more points of contention between teachers and parents and students?

PUSD is a high-performing school districts with stringent academic standards. Homework and "tough" assignments are part of the package. If you want PUSD kids to succeed, they're going to have to work hard.


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Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

Oh my, I actually agree with YAT on this one.
Time for the helicopter parents to butt out and let their over-privileged and entitled kids start getting prepped for the real world. If I ever had a salaried employee who said that it was not "fair" or not "approved" to expect them to complete their work over an evening, weekend or holiday they would be on the street in a heartbeat looking for a new job.
Pleasanton kids have it far too easy. Their time could better be managed for completion of homework if the parents would do the following:
1. Put away the cell phones. Period. No texting during the school week at all. Remember how we all managed to survive in those prehistoric days BEFORE cell phones even existed?
2. Put the computers in a common area, thereby eliminating the constant distractions of doing something other than homework.
3. Expect your kids to participate in family life, such as making dinner once in a while. Actually speaking in sentences at the dinner table. And NO CELL PHONES AT THE DINNER TABLE.
Time management is a skill that will last a lifetime. It is a skill that the overbearing helicopter parents are denying to their protected and entitled kids.


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

While we are changing a few things here, let create some standards for the teacher's websites. A few are great and the rest are confusing for the kids and parents. It's time to standardize the websites and improve the quality.


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Posted by kath
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I would just be happy if all of the teachers were required to have a website and that they updated it from one year to the next. Most are great, some just don't bother


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I prefer weekend/holiday homework because that way kids have more time to complete bigger projects than during the weekday.

That said, I think the homework policy is a little over the edge. I agree that some teachers give too much homework, and that a lot of them give just busy work, but there are many teachers who give very good assignments - long term projects such as reading a novel and doing an essay, or doing a video, etc and these are good for the students. These projects also require some weekend work, and for the district to say "no work on weekends" is simply ridiculous. Have they not all been through college, where you do catch up work on days off such as weekends?

I have to agree with Hintzke on this one. Teachers should not be micromanaged this way.

My child has summer homework because of AP/honors classes choices. That was my child's CHOICE, and those who do not want summer work can always enroll in the regular class!

Do not go through with this ridiculous homework policy, please! What is next? Asking parents to come into the school to make sure the little darlings get a snack and bathroom break? Let kids grow, please!


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Posted by Moved on
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 25, 2011 at 1:02 am

Gosh- you pretentious Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language!!!!! Do you honestly know how ridiculous you sound???? Do you even have a clue that these teachers pay fir these websites out of their own pockets, update them on their own time sns for YOUR convenience. I have seen so many of these websites over the years from PUSD teachers and to hear you all complaining about a convenience "it's not on zangle....whaaaa .... It's not updated enough.... Boo hoo..." honestly- how did we survive ten years ago in THE DARK AGES!!!! You People on here that are complaining ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Kids in other countries are spending more hours a day, more days a year in school and our kids are going to be competing against these kids for jobs in a global economy and are and are going to kick our a$$, and here you are complaining about a little extra homework and project. And really, if you actually monitored the time your kid spent focused and doing homework you would not be amazed at why it takes three hours! I thought I had the same problem with my oldest son, but then sure looked like an[removed] when he went to homework club and could complete it in 40 minutes!!!


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Posted by Moved on
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 25, 2011 at 1:07 am

I apologize for my misspellings above- my iPhone and autocorrect, not to mention my temper made proofreading difficult... Probably should blame my fourth grade teacher.....for not updating her website with current MLA format and grammar rules...


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Posted by ho
a resident of Del Prado
on Jun 25, 2011 at 9:19 am

It is not the amount of homework I receive, it is the monotony of it all. From the start to the end of the school year it is the same thing over and over. Even more laughable is the amount of teachers who scan your work, don't collect it for grading, but smile just because you've completed it. What a load of rubbish!!! Homework is worth while when your teachers make the effort to grade it! This shows me I have done my job and so has the teacher. When an essay is graded I look over the comments and remarks, this helps me better my next essay.
Many people will comment that homework reinforces what has been taught, but if no one is going over or correcting what has been assigned, then we're all in a hole that we can't climb out of. Give us students homework that is helpful to the curriculum, not busy work that most teachers can't be bothered to mark!


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