Head of School Blog

All Saints Parents Weigh in on the Homework Debate

Jill Singleton

At the end of the first trimester, we sent a survey to all parents to solicit feedback about the homework policies and practices at All Saints. One hundred and twenty parents responded to the brief survey, providing us with a fair amount of data and a number of recommendations for consideration.

The numbers
In response to a question about whether the level of homework assigned is appropriate, 54% of the respondents “agree” or “strongly agree” that their child is assigned an appropriate amount of homework. When those who at least “somewhat agree” are added to the mix, the percentage climbs to 80%.

Seventy three percent of parents taking the survey “agree” or “strongly agree” that homework appears to be a meaningful way to reinforce their child’s classroom learning. When adding the parents who responded “somewhat agree” to this question, the number increases to 94%.
When asked whether homework appears to be a meaningful way to develop life skills such as independence, 57% of the respondents “agree” or “strongly agree,” and the percentage including the group that “somewhat agrees” brings the response to 90%.

Sixty percent of parents surveyed “agree” or “strongly agree” that their child is able to complete his/her homework independently. When adding the “somewhat agree” responses to the group, the number climbs to 88%.
When asked whether parental support is needed to complete homework, 35% of parents “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement. When considering the “somewhat agree” selections, the response rate is 66%.
When asked about their child’s overall experience with homework, 40% of parents indicate the experience is “positive;” 51% feel it is “neutral;” and 9% indicate that the overall experience is “negative.”

Beyond the numbers
While the numbers are fairly clear, the comments received by parents were less conclusive. A wide variety of sentiments were offered on the survey. For example, some parents said homework is too easy, others report it is too hard; some parents want to see more homework assigned, others want less, and some would like homework abolished altogether. For some parents, the experience of doing homework was characterized as “torture,” and for others, it was reported to be a well-established routine that is helping their child develop important skills related to independence. Some view homework as “meaningless busywork” while others reported that assignments are well thought out and supplement the overall school experience. Some parents have to “nag” or “police” their child to do the work, while others report that their child won’t let them help. Finally, some parents shared that homework boosts their child’s confidence, while others reported a feeling that homework hinders their child’s ability to think deeply and creatively about each subject.

So what’s a school to do?
Faculty and staff have begun the process of analyzing the survey results and a number of considerations are being discussed and reviewed. We will continue to study this data with the goal of implementing improvement in the 2014-2015 school year. Some of the items being considered are:

1. Create a three-tiered system whereby

• parental support is welcome and expected at the lower grade levels, when children are not yet able to read fluently and follow directions independently;
• parents are expected to ease off their support in the elementary years in order to let children complete their work independently;
• and parental support is discouraged in the middle school years when children are expected to work independently and advocate for support from their teachers if needed.

2. Provide the week’s homework on Monday (wherever possible) so that parents can pace their child’s homework schedule according to other family considerations. (Note: this practice currently exists in some grades, and we received positive feedback about it.)

3. Rather than having “optional” work, assign tasks that are more differentiated and open-ended so that children can do varying levels of work and still meet the requirements.

4. Vary the type of homework assigned and broaden the subject areas covered.

5. Ensure that homework independence expectations for each grade level are clearly defined, effectively communicated, and consistent. Our aim is to work in partnership with families to help students reach age appropriate independence benchmarks over the course of their academic careers.

The biggest take-away
Homework remains a controversial issue in our school and across the country. No one policy is going to meet everyone’s needs and make everyone happy. Indeed, if we could come up with a solution that worked for everyone, we might just be recognized as national heroes! Despite the many challenges, however, we are committed to doing everything we can to assign homework that maximizes our students’ academic and personal success. If you did not have a chance to complete the survey but would like to share your thoughts and ideas, please send us an email letting us know how you
think our homework policy can be improved.

Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com