To homework or not to homework?
As part of Monitoring Report E-40 Effective Learning Environment, the assigment of homework will become homework for the district itself.
A previously discussed management goal for the district stated that "as a follow-up to Race to Nowhere, the district will be examining research on homework and its relationship to student achievement."
To that end, the district delved into Education Researcher John Hattie's meta-analyses on homework, one of which states that the "effects are highest when homework involves rote learning, practice, or rehearsal of subject matter."
According to the report, Hattie spent "15 years reviewing thousands of studies involving millions of students and teachers on the impact of different influences on student achievement." Hattie compiled his findings in the book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.
It's More About The Teacher
If the goal is to raise student achievement, many believe that it does not necessarily mean the assignment of more homework. To increase the learning success, Greenwich has made a concerted effort to improve the quality of overall instruction through the rollout of TEPL (Teacher Evaluation and Professional Learning), the use of data teams and extensive professional development for teachers.
There has also been an effort to create more innovative ways of delivering content to students, for example, the creation of the new Integrated Science class for 9th graders.
Taking A Deeper Look
The district will now embark on forming a "Homework Review Committee" comprised of administrators, teachers and parents from both the elementary and secondary level. The committee will be charged with further exploring the research between homework and student achievement and report to the Superintendent.
Greenwich Education Aassociation President Cathy Delhanty is wholly on board with the formation of a review committee calling it a "great idea."
Delhanty, who speaks at every board business meeting on behalf of the teachers' union, often speaks of the pressures and expectations placed on our teachers. During the school day "there is way too much to accomplish," she said, "some of it has to be done through homework."
There seems to be wide range of anecdotal examples of the varying amounts of homework that Greenwich teachers assign. This is prevalent throughout the district and Delhanty reminds parents that some teachers with some classes are able to move through the curriculum more quickly while others are not able to do so because of a variety of reasons.
How Much Homework Is Enough or Too Much?
When asked via the Harris Survey about how much time Greenwich students spend on homework, the percentages have remained stable through the last 3 surveys in regards to the percentage who spend more than 2 hours per night on homework:
- 2006 - 25.6%
- 2008 - 25.3%
- 2010 - 26.6%
The targeted range in Greenwich for time allotment for homework is 1 to 3 1/2 hours for high school students and 1 to 2 1/2 hours for students in middle school.
It Might Be Necessary, But Is It Interesting?
Students were asked if the lack of interesting homework is a problem and the results, 48.9% said it was, are higher than any other comparable district. For example, in 2010, an alarming, but possibly not surprising, 50.8% of secondary students felt that their math homework was not interesting. While this is down about 7% from 2006 and 2008, it still is over half of all students. Other core curricula such as science and social studies are also "trending down" but are still at 36.2% and 35% respectively. English (37%) and foreign language (55.1%) improved from the 2008 survey administration, but were not as low as 2006.
Among the many findings in Hattie's research was that homework had little impact on elementary students' achievement but the effects of homework are twice as large for high school students as for middle school students and twice as large for middle school students as for elementary school students. How the research and survey results will combine with the district's focus on achievement will make for interesting work for the new committee to take on.
Will Everyday Math Be Yesterday's Math?
Trig and calculus may not be "interesting" to some secondary students, but the math curriculum for elementary students and their teachers may get very interesting - as in new - and soon.
As a follow-up to the Core Curriculum State Standards dicussion at the board meeting last month, the board discussed how to address a possible curriculum review and resultant change.
Superintendent Roger Lulow reminded that board that the "genesis of the item" is embedded in the District's transition to the common core and that "expediting the process of the Math Review irrespective of when it would be implemented" will impact who is selected as the new Math Program Coordinator once Tuck Southworth retires at the end of this school year. Lulow commented that it is important that the "math coordinator has the right amount of time" to conduct a review.
As the board continues to their work on Policy E-001-Programs, Services and Curriculum, which is expected to come before the board at its May 24 Business Meeting, they took a "sense of the meeting" at last week's work session on proceeding forward with a Math Monitoring Report which is due to the Board in the fall.
Full Court Press
Several board members expressed an interest in moving away from the current curriculum, Everyday Math. Asking for a "full curriculum review" and stating that it would be "short sighted just to focus on common core," Barbara O'Neill said, "we need a good solid math program."
Fellow board member Jennifer Dayton concurred, "given the date of our last curriculum review, why wouldn’t we?" she asked. Board member Peter Sherr's input was "deeper, more complete and sooner."
Two At The Same Time?
Based on his experience and what he is hearing from staff, Lulow said that implementing two new "curricula at same time in the elementary schools is a serious problem."
A review of the Language Arts curriculum is scheduled to begin in next school year. During the board discussion, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Stacey Gross suggested that "if the math curriculum review is moved from the 2014-2015 start date to 2012-2013, that we move the Language Arts review out to a later date so that they would not be occurring at the same time."
Gross said that moving the language arts review out "should not have a negative impact on the district Language Arts/English program as they have been consistently moving forward creating revised Units of Instruction that are better tied to current instructional expectations, contain more trans-disciplinary aspects, and are aligned to the direction of the Common Core State Standards."
O'Neill cautioned that to jump to another math curricula should be done thoughtfully stating that the nationwide shift to Common Core would surely result in textbooks and curricula being "lemon-scented."
After listening to the board discussion, Delhanty said that Everyday Math is a program that "itself isn't enough to ensure success on the CMTs" and that "supplementation on lessons are needed to prepare students."
Delhanty, like O'Neill hinted at, feels that the district should land on a "proven package" when it comes to a new math curricula. However, she stated her concern that once something is implemented, immediate success will be expected implying that patience will be needed as the impact on student achievement is seen.
The Board is meeting again this week at starting at 7 p.m.