Issaquah School District administrators tackle homework, grading practices

July 17, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

School may be out, but homework is on a lot of people’s minds.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen announced his plans, at the Issaquah School Board meeting June 20 to make homework and grading practices a hot topic of conversation during the 2012-13 school year.

“This is a topic that has piqued the interest of parents, and we agree,” he said. “I am confident that at the end of the year we will have a different appreciation for what homework is and how it connects to its purposes.”

Rasmussen laid out a plan for the homework conversation that is set to begin with the board’s retreat Aug. 21-22 and continue through next June. The first step in his plan is to review the district’s homework policy, look at Issaquah’s common homework practices, discuss the goal of homework and begin to make policy recommendations. Also on the list is gathering research on the topic and discussing the connection between homework and grading.

This fall, Rasmussen wants principals to start the conversation with teachers and gather input. According to his plan, he also wants to work with PTA members and the Issaquah Education Association — the teachers union. From October to March, he wants the conversation to continue among the administration, teachers and parents and at community meetings as well. By spring, he aims to have new recommendations in place for homework policy and by June to have the board approve those changes to begin in the 2013-14 school year.

“What is considered homework? And what is its value?” board member Marnie Maraldo asked. “I really want to get to what are the best practices for homework right now.”

She suggested that, along with the superintendent’s plan, the district invite experts to speak on the topic at future meetings.

Board members are not the only ones who have begun asking questions about homework. On March 1, the Issaquah Schools Foundation, Issaquah Education Association and the Issaquah PTSA Council worked together to put on a community showing of “The Race to Nowhere,” a documentary about the amount of homework and pressure that teens and children face today. Organizers estimate that about 350 parents attended the event and said since then interest has sparked in creating “healthy homework guidelines.”

“There is a growing need and growing support for this topic,” said Caroline Brown, president of the Issaquah PTSA Council. “I just think we are stressing kids out too much sometimes … As adults we are always encouraged to have the work/life balance — where do you teach people about how to do that?”

Brown also takes part in the Community Conversations Committee and said that the group wants to use its various PTSA connections to put out a survey next fall to find out how the rest of the community feels about homework. The committee is set to meet again Sept. 18. The Issaquah PTSA Council will hold its next meeting at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 18 at the district’s administrative building in Issaquah.

“This is not homework. We want the summer to run and play,” Brown said.

Lillian Tucker: 392-6434, ext. 242, or ltucker@sammamishreview.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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