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Despite progress on homework goals, majority of Paly students say they're still given too much

Original post made on Apr 21, 2021

Palo Alto Unified found an unexplained disparity between Gunn and Palo Alto high school students who felt they are being given "too much" homework, based on a survey conducted this past year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 9:49 AM

Comments (12)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I would imagine that this past year and a half is a bad time to judge the "too much homework" mantra.

With most students doing most of their schoolwork at home, it must be hard to judge what is homework and what is classwork.

I would suggest delaying any type of decision based on information from what has been happening since schools closed in March 2020.


Posted by Maris Janes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2021 at 1:21 pm

Maris Janes is a registered user.

Homework is absolutely unnecessary as one's time is better spent elsewhere

And teachers who assign weekend homework should be FIRED.

Use the college model...lectures/labs + a reading list + tests (a midterm and final).

That is all that is needed.


Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

Just some quick thoughts to maybe jump start a discussion or two.

1) Here's a quote from the last night's board docs: "Homework, based on results of research, is intended to be a formative assessment... Formative assessments are not graded and should only be used to guide next steps in learning." So what the district is saying is homework should not be graded. How would you parents and students feel about homework, which often is used to pad students' grades, not being included in the semester grade?

2) Teachers don't give homework because we like to waste students' time. We give it because it helps students develop skills, helps them perform tasks on their own. Does someone get good at sports or musical instruments without practice? Of course not. And a rebuttal to the typical argument of "well those are optional" is the amount of homework students have to do is often optional, too. Families opt in to have students take more APs and honors classes than is healthy for them and thus they have more homework to complete.

3) How is "how long a homework assignment should take" going to be quantified? Should it be the median about of time? 80th percentile? Either way, there will be students who take longer than the advertised amount of time. Students are diverse and take varying amounts of time to complete tasks.

4) How is time spent doing homework defined? Are we talking about time without distractions and uninterrupted by push notifications and phones vibrating? My suspicion is that this is not the case, and thus if students actually fully focus when completing homework, they'll take less time than they do now.

Bottom line: teachers give homework to help students learn and perform tasks independently. If you feel like your student is spending too much time on homework, let them take easier classes. They'll be happier for it.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2021 at 4:14 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

I want to echo "Bystander"'s comment. This survey is all about the strange Covid-era homeschool experiment. It's essentially meaningless and incomparable to the broader trend.

Time and again, this district only uses data to drive and justify whatever agendas are already in place. Data/surveys/input become a Rorschach Test onto will everyone projects whatever they were already going to see. JBD will say parents need to chill out, Austin will say we are repeating the same conversations proving the need for his singularly steady-handed wisdom, teachers will make reasonable comments (like the one above) that go largely ignored, folks like me will write posts like this, and on and on it goes.

My Rorschach Test projection is that our homework "ramp" makes no sense. We go from zero to zero to zero to 100 when you hit high school. I don't know if we have a target for that ramp, or if so what it is, but what we are doing in reality is quite silly.


Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2021 at 4:18 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

Ah, the perennial "teachers suck" homework article. Anything new or actually constructive to add to the same tired discourse pitting teachers and students against each other? Any actual solution to the diametrically opposed and incompatible, yet equally strong demands voiced by the community? Anything more than saber-rattling or anti-teacher fueling commentary from the board?


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2021 at 7:07 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

I do not understand how a student opinion survey about student feelings regarding how much homework they are getting prove that teachers are/aren’t following the mandated homework policy? Some students are taking more advanced courses than others. Some students think any homework is too much, some students may always want more homework than they are getting. There is too much variance to draw conclusions from this data and I don’t even think the survey connects to teacher adherence to the district homework policy anyway. The district has to come up with another metric to measure this. If the homework survey was strictly for the purpose of checking in with students as part of a bigger push to check in with their mental health then that’s what the survey should be used to measure.
@Maris-What teachers assigned homework on the weekends? What are you talking about? The article does not say teachers assigned weekend homework. Also, teachers can’t follow the “college lecture and lab” model unless it is approved by the district or else they can actually get fired for not giving homework and following the homework policy of the school board. This seems like the typical “fire PAUSD teachers” nonsense. How can you blame the teachers when they are trying to do their best to follow a district board homework policy that currently has no identifiable metric to measure if they are following it correctly?
Finally, when I was in school kids weren’t given a survey which allowed them to voice their opinions. Back in my day, students just did or didn’t do their assignments. I am not exactly sure why student opinion would shift everything around unless the kids are completely overwhelmed with a ridiculous amount of work. Their current jobs are to go to school, learn, and do homework. You can’t tell your boss on the job, “sorry boss this is just too much.” I wouldn’t want too much homework to effect a child’s mental health, but it should be homework, chores, then bedtime.


Posted by Reality Bytes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2021 at 7:07 am

Reality Bytes is a registered user.

>> Teachers don't give homework because we like to waste students' time. We give it because it helps students develop skills, helps them perform tasks on their own. Does someone get good at sports or musical instruments without practice? Of course not.

√ Your point is valid BUT using this analogy, some athletes and musicians don't particularly care about practice because they are either naturally gifted and/or indifferent about excelling in a particular endeavor.

Thus, homework and practice should be OPTIONAL and an individual choice.

This would be akin to forcing a Bill Gates to turn in computer science homework or making Jimi Hendrix practice guitar scales just for the sake of it.

It's the FINAL product that counts.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2021 at 9:11 am

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

@RealityBytes
Your premise for an optional homework policy is a big stretch. First, based on your premise for an optional homework policy, the assumption is that Palo Alto is teeming with the next Hendrix and Gates. False. There is nothing particularly special about the thousands of Palo Alto children. These children are just regular children like anywhere else. They are not all naturally gifted. They will not all be the next Gates or Hendrix.

Next, even if there was a special child or two that can potentially be the next Gates or Hendrix, you don’t make homework optional for everyone to serve the one or two very special children.

Finally, another flaw with your statement is that athletes and musicians that are naturally gifted do not practice. This is simply false. For example, you can argue Lebron James is naturally gifted and he puts hours and hours in on the court and the weight room to improve.

In summary, If you feel homework should be optional that’s fine. Your comment was based on the false analogy of hasty generalization or “the argument from small numbers.” Even if their parents think so, not all or even any Palo Alto children are so special that they will follow the life trajectory of a Gates or Hendrix and should be allowed to choose an optional homework program for themselves. As a reality check, I will also add that a student’s life usually includes going to school and doing homework. These children need to be trained for functioning on a real job in the future. The initial post from the teacher was correct.


Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2021 at 4:18 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

We are a family of public school teachers (4 generations). We all believe homework doesn't mean much when it's not graded, and returned with mistakes corrected by the student in useful timeframe.

Our high schools ALWAYS offer grades, only sometimes do they offer subject mastery to kids who don't get it on the first try. Our district is among the very best for students who get it on the first try.

Making mistakes and making corrections is learning. Ungraded homework, unreturned papers, and unreturned tests represent the system failing our kids, not the other way around.

Give only as much schoolwork as can be graded, returned, and corrected in a timely manner. That should be an easy rule to follow.


Posted by M. Blanton
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2021 at 12:44 pm

M. Blanton is a registered user.

Personally speaking, I was never a fan of homework assignments and chose not to turn them in.

In those days, homework was graded and even assigned on Fridays, like give me a break!

On the other other hand, I kept up with the reading assignments (in Social Studies and English) and that was good enough for me.

Since homework only accounted for about 25% of the final grade, if I did OK on the surprise quizzes and periodic tests I could still manage to pull off a B or B-.

Close enough for jazz as I was content to attend Foothill JC and then transfer out later.

BTW, I graduated from UCLA with a B.A. degree in architecture so the time spent away from doing homework in high school didn't matter one iota.


Posted by chini
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2021 at 12:52 pm

chini is a registered user.

>> Bottom line: teachers give homework to help students learn and perform tasks independently.

The issue is not "homework" but it is "classwork". The ratio of problems solved in class to homework problems is the fundamental issue. Due to lack of class work, most students (without tutors) find themselves learning on their own, doing research, to complete the homework problems. I find the idea behind "to help students learn..independently" self-serving, and do not understand why students should not depend on teachers to learn? Why should they go to tutors? It sucks away all their "free time".

>> If you feel like your student is spending too much time on homework, let them take easier classes. They'll be happier for it.
Yes, when teachers play "parents", telling parents what would make their child "happier", then that is an indication of a broken system of roles and responsibilities. Not learning anything at school may make the child happier at school and lousy doing homework but that's not why parents want their children to go to school.

Focus on classwork, ensuring students are well-taught well-prepared to handle their homework. Then, homework will no longer be an issue.


Posted by Lillian
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:10 am

Lillian is a registered user.

Since we are on distance learning, I haven't enough free time for my hobbies. I need to do a lot of additional work, search for info, make some projects and watch online courses. There is no wonder that the policies of homework are missing. As for me, I use some additional resources, for example, this Web Link to cope with all tasks. There is a lot of examples of articles on a different topic so that I can save some time for the rest. I don't think that studying at home can be so hard. Maybe the problems are in day planning or discipline.


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