Do you think that homework is not consistently issued by Wake County schools or that some assignments are unfair to low-income students?
That’s what Wake County school board member Jim Martin maintained, as noted in today’s article, at Tuesday’s school board policy committee meeting. Martin, the policy committee chairman, said the professional learning teams at each school should look a how they handle homework to provide more consistency.
Martin was a critic of standardizing grading practices across the district. But he said there’s a difference between mandating uniformity and having consistent homework practices.
Martin’s son attends Enloe High School, which is the only one in the school system which doesn’t use a form of the block schedule.
"There are issues out there with respect to homework that I know I as a board member get contacted about, and I'm sure others do as well — issues of consistency,” Martin said. “There are schools where kids are doing ridiculous amount of homework and there are schools where kids are almost doing no homework.
The block schedule has aggravated the no homework because no one can have solid instruction for 90 minutes. So oftentimes, what otherwise would have been done in homework is done during the block schedule time.
What that does is you’re doing the work in a group with everybody else around. And don't get me wrong, group learning can be very valuable. But there also, for effective learning, you've got to go out learn to fail on your own. Figure out what's going on, struggle with it, and that's one of the real values of homework is okay try it and then come back and let's see how it works. That's not happening in all of our classrooms.
We do have situations where there's a lot of busywork given as homework, and how do we get some of that in line?”
Martin said he knows about the problems of trying to teach a 90-minute class as a professor at N.C. State.
Martin also said the homework policy R&P doesn’t effectively differentiate between homework used for formative assessment and when it’s used for summative assessment.
But a repeated focus for Martin on Tuesday was the equity issue of out-of-school assignments that are given.
“A lot of the group projects that are being assigned could not be done by folks with more limited resources and so we're to a degree creating a structure in the way that group projects are often done that is very biased between those with and without additional resources,” Martin said. “So do we need any limitation on the number of these outside-of-class projects? We talk about limits for appropriate amounts of homework. Do we need to put limits that the group projects assigned need to be able to be accomplished with school-based resources?
These are open-ended questions. But these are things I'm hearing from constituents and I'm observing myself. I'm a little concerned that we'’re not making any strides to address a variety of these issues.”
Martin hit on the equity issue again later in the meeting.
“I've see what my son has had to do with homework and I know that a student without their own laptop, without their own software or other technology that he has, could not do the project that he does,” Martin said. “There's an equity issue there. I'm not saying that we shouldn't challenge every child to do the best that they can.
But what we've done is created a system where some kids can not perform at the highest level of work. I think there are real issues there that we're going to have to struggle with and I don't know the perfect answer.”