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LA Students to Have Less Homework this Year

Will less homework have a positive or detrimental impact on student learning in the Los Angeles area?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

June 29, 2011

LA Students to Have Less Homework this Year
Yesterday, TIME reported that one of the country’s largest school districts will be placing less emphasis on homework, beginning July 1. A new school district policy in Los Angeles, officially called the Lausd Homework Policy, states that homework will account for no more than 10% of a student’s total grade. To summarize, the policy paper defines the purpose of homework as being fourfold: • It is a chance for students to independently practice, therefore helping students further learn and master certain skills.

• It is a means of preparation so that students can get a taste of what’s to come in future lessons.

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• It is a way for students to extend the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to new situations.

• And finally, it is a way to integrate what is learned in and outside of the classroom into larger projects such as book reports and presentations. The paper goes on to state exactly why it is unreasonable to put so much weight on homework: “It is unfair to penalize or reward students for their home academic environment. While some students do not have the opportunity to do homework while away from school thus failing to return assignments, for others, it is difficult to be sure that it was the student who actually did the work.”
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To justify the shift in importance on homework in LA school districts, the policy paper claims that “studies have shown that by limiting the weight of homework towards a student’s academic grade, a truer picture of the student’s knowledge will be reflected in the achievement grade.” And experts in the field admit that students now are spending way too much time after school on homework, which they say can actually be detrimental to learning. To point to what is happening now, TIME dug up the most recent results comparing time spent on homework in 1997 to 1981, which revealed that “in 1981 students ages 6 to 8 did an average of 52 minutes of homework a week, but by 1997 they were doing 128 minutes.” Harris Cooper, a professor at Duke University, was also interviewed for the report stated that “a general rule of thumb for the amount of time students should be expected to spend on homework is 10 minutes per day multiplied by the grade of the student.”

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While experts and the Lausd Homework Policy paint a rosy picture of the de-emphasis of homework, there are some opponents to the new policy, particularly teachers in the LA area. According to TIME, teachers believe that “the policy is essentially a reward for those students who are already disregarding their homework assignments and will encourage them to slack off further.” LA teachers also point to research that shows a direct correlation between doing homework and performing better in the classroom. For the Los Angeles Unified School District, the next school year is sure to be a test to determine whether or not homework is an unfair way to gauge academic success or if, as LA teachers suggest, it helps students perform better in the classroom.

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