Weeks into the 2022-23 school year, students in the Los Alamitos Unified School District are likely already tackling their first homework.
But this year, the workload could be lighter than in previous years. That’s because the district adopted a new homework policy over the summer that aims to strike a balance between student welfare and academic rigor.
After months of reviewing the research, reviewing student and staff feedback, and consulting with Challenge Success, a program affiliated with Stanford University, the district has concluded that students in grades 6-12 spent between 3.5 and 5 hours a night on homework. This resulted in students experiencing more academic stress and a lack of balance between school and other aspects of their lives.
Spotlight Schools previously reported on the new policy in June, but new details emerged at the August 16 meeting of the Los Alamitos Unified School District school board.
Deputy Superintendent Ondrea Reed gave an overview of the new policy at the meeting. (See the 39-minute presentation at 1 hour and 18 minutes.)
“We’re not eliminating homework,” Reed said. “We really follow the research to make sure our students maintain a competitive edge, gain all the knowledge from the courses we offer…all while keeping student well-being, learning and engagement at the forefront of our thinking. . ”
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Los Al USD Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver said at the meeting. “We need to bust these myths that more homework means smarter kids…the research just doesn’t support that.”
Here are some notable changes in the new policy:
- No assigned weekend homework for TK – Grade 8.
- No assigned homework during school holidays or projects due the week after a school break for all grade levels.
- Guidelines on the maximum number of minutes of student homework are assigned each evening. For grades 1-8, this translates to approximately ten minutes per grade level per night. Thus, the limit for a first-grader is between 0 and 10 minutes per night of homework. By the time a student is in eighth grade, it’s between 0 and 80 minutes per night.
- High school homework minutes are based on the type of class students enroll in, but research suggests the optimal time is 1.5 to 2.5 hours per night.
- Jiji, the online math program, will need to be part of calculating the total number of minutes for a student’s evening homework.
- Middle school teachers strive to create a “conflict schedule” to ensure that students are not tasked with tests or projects at around the same time.
- Parents of high school students enrolled in two or more advanced placement classes will receive a letter advising them to review the schedule to ensure it is a manageable workload for their student.
Reed stressed the importance of students doing their homework in an environment free of distractions. This means students are disconnecting from things like TikTok, Minecraft, and YouTube.
“So that’s where we really call on our parents as partners, to really help us provide that learning space at home, where a child can be free from the television, be free from their phone,” said said Reed and suggested setting a timer. divide a 60-minute assignment into 20-minute increments.
Reed also pointed out that the district realizes that every student is different, and what may work for one person may not work for another child. “We know there is no one size fits all approach and we rely on parents to guide the process,” Reed said.
Reed said the overall goal of the homework policy isn’t just to create consistency across classrooms and campuses in terms of how much time students spend on homework.
“More than minutes, it’s about reframing how we think about options for our children and their schedules,” Reed said in a phone interview and later added that parents need to “be realistic about what we want for our children to thrive”.
Reed expects the homework policy to grow and change with input from parents, students, and staff. “We’re in the first year,” she said. “It will be an evolutionary process.”
For more local education information, visit SpotlightSchools.com.