Seven months after Deputy Superintendent Kirk Black announced the creation of the district’s homework committee, the Board of Trustees was presented with a summation of the committee’s findings and a draft homework policy.
The committee, which was formed last fall to combat student stress and anxiety, is comprised of 23 individuals that represent each district campus and various stakeholder groups, such as the black and asian parent associations. During several meetings and discussions, the committee reviewed the policies of other districts, academic literature and the current function of homework within the SMUHSD. Committee members also drafted and distributed three surveys: one for teachers, one for students, and one for parents. As of March 29, the committee received survey responses from 2,268 students, 187 teachers and 385 parents. The survey’s results were largely expected, confirming the committees original belief that students perceived the current homework load as overbearing and a contributor to their stress levels.
During the presentation on March 29, the committee representative claimed that the district’s homework policy was drafted with consideration of student’s mental health, school life balance and the quality of instructional practices. A key point made by the committee was homework should be focused on quality over quantity.
The revisions proposed by the committee to the existing district homework policy include regulations regarding the grading and administration of homework. According to the proposed policy, no more than 15% of a student's grade could be based on homework and teachers are encouraged to solicit feedback from students on the type and scheduling of homework. Additionally, the district is mandating that homework is not assigned during break periods, a policy that has been in place at Burlingame throughout this year. Administrators will be tasked with ensuring compliance with the proposed regulation.
Although the committee has garnered support from many board members and administrators, some teachers have expressed concern with the current proposals.
“It isn’t possible to codify this issue,” History teacher Peter Medine said. “There are so many factors and every individual situation is different.”
Additionally Medine expressed concern that the policy does not attack the root of the student-stress issue.
“The issue is students taking five or even six AP classes,” he said. “The students that are saying they are stressed don’t have to be taking so many classes where the teachers say there will be homework.”
Although the proposed policy does not include restrictions on enrollment in AP courses, the presentation did recommend that administrators and counselors communicate with students regarding the increased workload associated with advanced placement and honors courses.
While no timeline has been formally presented regarding the committees work, English teacher Michael Ferguson told the Burlingame B in December that the committee work “will be slow going, probably one to two years.”