A parent-teacher committee charged with recommending a "homework policy" for Palo Alto schools met Monday (Dec. 12) to brainstorm ideas on the purpose of homework, and what constitutes "effective" and "ineffective" homework.
The 26-member committee, including one student representative from each high school, is scheduled to meet monthly and to submit its homework-policy recommendations to the Board of Education by the end of the school year.
The committee will present an update on its preliminary activities at the Board of Education meeting tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 13).
Committee members introduced themselves around a table Monday, then broke into small groups to discuss ideas.
Members include parents from Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, all three middle schools and an array of elementary schools, including Barron Park and Escondido. Teachers or administrators on the committee include Gunn Assistant Principal Trinity Klein, Terman Middle School math teacher Becky Rea, Addison Elementary School Principal Jocelyn Garcia-Thorne, Walter Hays fourth grade teacher Kevin Rouse, Palo Verde fourth grade teacher Paula Watson, Palo Verde third grade teacher Lisa Swagerty, Gunn physics teacher Lettie Weinmann and Paly social studies teacher Eric Bloom.
Associate Superintendent Charles Young said the committee is charged with examining the "purpose and volume" of Palo Alto's K-12 homework as well as the schools' systems of distributing test and project deadlines.
Surveys of students, parents and teachers will be part of the process, he said.
The effort is part of the school district's 2011-12 "focus goal" of working to create more supportive school environments, Young said.
"It's a little bit like talking about politics or religion -- people have a lot of opinions because it affects everybody's lives," he said.
With the goal of "transparency," all homework committee meetings will be open to the public, with information posted on the district's website. Members of the public are invited to submit their ideas and suggestions about homework policy to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young said he received nearly 60 applications for committee membership and tried to include a broad range of views.
Parent members were solicited through the PTA Council as well as an e-mail delivered through Infinite Campus, he said. Teachers were selected based on "interest, expertise and principal approval."
Young distributed the book, "Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs" by Cathy Vatterott, to be used as one of many guides for committee discussions.
In other business tonight, the Board of Education will be asked to approve major construction bid awards for work on the Paly stadium, a new two-story classroom at Fairmeadow Elementary School and major work at Terman and Jordan middle schools.
The board also will discuss a proposed schematic design for a new performing arts center at Paly.
Also tonight, a group of parents organized under the name We Can Do Better Palo Alto will propose a resolution asking the district to offer a basic "path to college" that does not exceed the minimum requirements of the California State University and University of California entrance requirements, known as the "A-G requirements."
"The standard lane in our high schools does not currently provide a full set of classes that meet but don't exceed the A-G standard, leaving many of our kids without a path to college," the group said.
The group is asking the superintendent to "conduct an audit of the curriculum and course content in the high schools and to produce a plan to provide an A-G path to college that is accessible to all students by fall 2012."
The public session of tonight's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. It will be cablecast live on Comcast Channel 28 and webcast live on communitymediacenter.net/watch/schedules.