There's a big debate raging in education circles about homework. How much is too much?
Even though school is out for the summer, the Moffat County School District Board of Education is mulling the issue with an eye on developing some consistency for the coming school year.
The School Accountability Committee administered a survey of teachers in the district and found a variety of inconsistencies in philosophies and practices.
Why is that a problem? Because parents and students need to understand expectations. For example, if a third-grader is getting little to no homework at East Elementary and his third-grade cousin at Sunset is getting a couple of hours worth, parents are going to wonder what's going on. Is one child getting shortchanged, or is the other overburdened?
The simple act of administering the survey already has accomplished some meaningful goals. It raised teacher-awareness and forced them to reflect on their current practices. It also led to a best-practices white paper, "Hallmarks of Excellence for Homework," which will be distributed to teachers and administrators.
Superintendent Pete Bergmann said the survey was important because the district is always trying to evaluate its "current reality" against what research confirms are best practices.
Without a benchmark or some guidance that defines the purpose of homework, teachers are left to their own devices. Bergmann supports the work of the SAC but says a homework policy needs "balance, consistency and flexibility."
"There is a link between high student achievement and homework -- that's what the research does show," Bergmann said Friday.
"The homework needs to be meaningful in order for there to be a corresponding increase in student achievement. I believe we need to get away from homework for homework's sake. I also believe our primary goal should be student learning; not doing homework."
That said, homework will always play an important role in reinforcing and augmenting classroom instruction and the school board seems more interested in developing some general guidelines than a rigid policy.
The work of the SAC is a preliminary step in addressing the homework issue in a little more detail in 2004-05.
The fact that Bergmann and the board were willing to delve into the issue, support the work of the SAC and involve parents and teachers in the discussion is another sign that we have enlightened and responsive leaders who have our children's best interests at heart.