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Kids’ well-being guided homework study

By May 5, 2010

Special to The Enterprise

In early 2009, Davis schools Superintendent James Hammond appointed a 12-person advisory committee to evaluate the districtÕs homework policy. The committee was composed of teachers, administrators and parents.

After more than a year of research examination, a districtwide survey and thoughtful deliberations, our committee has completed its work. Our report will be presented to the Davis Board of Education on Thursday. The community may view the report in the current board agenda at http://www.djusd.net.

No recommendation regarding this multidimensional topic will ever be perfect because research provides few clear guidelines. Classrooms are dynamic environments, and homes are even more complex. Quality research is frequently contradictory as a result of the variables inherent in the study questions. ItÕs no wonder studying the impact of schoolwork that takes place in diverse home settings is fraught with complications.

We found more questions than answers about the benefits of homework. Studies do not encompass the total child. For example, researchers target achievement in the absence of methodologies that adequately assess learning. Unfortunately, the love of learning can be forgotten in the debate.

One major area lacking research had to do with the differences in performance between children who come from more advantaged homes and those who were less advantaged, but attended schools that provided options to support them, such as after-school tutoring and study halls, etc.

We must consider how we provide resources to level the opportunities of Davis children. We have an ethical responsibility to support less advantaged students whenever possible, as homework has not been shown to have a positive influence on students who fall into the achievement gap.

Each of us approached this task with a central focus: the well-being of kids. Yet even with that inspiration, our work does not reflect complete consensus on all issues.

However, it is safe to say that among us, there is more agreement than disagreement.

We have attempted to improve current homework practices, and balance them by carefully considering studentsÕ lives outside of school. Family time, friendships, home-based responsibilities, fitness activities, pleasure reading, religious practices, music, art and self-guided time to relax are precious and necessary. In short: Kids need time to explore their worlds.

Sadly, we discovered many kids are stressed-out, exhausted and overscheduled. ThatÕs why educators and families alike should thoroughly consider the various demands on studentsÕ time, and the consequent negative effects on their well-being.

Excessive homework has been shown to be a cause, though not the only cause. While it will take thoughtful examination, ignoring the issue comes at a high cost Ñ childhood.

Ñ Heidy Kellison is co-chair of the SuperintendentÕs Homework Policy Review Committee.

Heidy Kellison

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