Schools won’t revise homework policies
February 4, 2014
By Neil Pierson
After an 18-month process that included many discussions with parents, teachers and students, the Issaquah School District has decided not to make any changes to existing policies and procedures about homework.
Superintendent Ron Thiele announced the decision at the Issaquah School Board’s Jan. 29 meeting. While no changes are coming, Thiele said the process sparked an important discussion throughout the district, and administrators reserve the right to make changes when they are deemed necessary.
Thiele also admitted the decision may not satisfy everyone.
“Many people are still divided,” he said. “It’s not something where there’s a universal belief: ‘This is the way it should be.’”
Scrutiny of the homework policy began in August 2012, when leaders of the district’s Parent Teacher Student Association approached Thiele, then serving as Issaquah’s assistant superintendent. Thiele invited them to solicit input from parents and students.
An online survey was offered in June 2013, and nearly 1,500 people responded; about 75 percent of them were parents.
Highly capable program changes
There were a wide variety of complaints and suggestions, and PTSA leaders made three broad conclusions: The district should “encourage professional development and collaboration among teachers to ensure homework is reasonably consistent, well-designed and meaningful,” teachers should be empowered to give “timely and meaningful feedback on assignments” and students should have better opportunities to manage their workload, perhaps by giving a week’s advance notice for all homework assignments.
School board member Brian Deagle said he felt the district’s policy was strong when he first read it, and he said Issaquah should highlight the policy on its website to stress teachers’ commitment to students.
“When there’s more awareness about it, it’ll be easier to have the conversation,” Deagle said.
Two Skyline High School students — Jake Barokas and Gabe Pitasky — attended the meeting and spoke about their observations of homework practices.
Pitasky said he was in a class last year where a teacher didn’t give clear guidelines and deadlines, which caused him to miss assignments. He spoke with the teacher, and they fixed the problem, but Pitasky considers himself more outgoing than his peers.
“For most students, I don’t think they have the idea that they can go up and talk to their teachers,” Pitasky said.
Homework procedures were last revamped in March 2011. The policy states that “the purposes of homework assignments, the basis for evaluating the work performed and the guidelines and/or rules should be made clear to the student at the time of the assignment.”
Thiele said principals have worked with teachers to make sure “best practices” are being followed in regard to homework. Because the district replaces about 10 percent of its teaching staff each year, he said, work is always ongoing to keep new employees apprised of procedures.
“Teachers are also being encouraged to discuss their homework policies during collaborative time, and department and team meetings,” Thiele said.