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LAUSD leader suspends new homework policy

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy suspends a new homework policy, saying that it did not receive enough public input and that it will be reworked.

July 21, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy, photographed last year, on Wednesday suspended a new homework policy. The policy limited homework's weight to 10% of a student's grade.
Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy, photographed last… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District suspended a new homework policy on Wednesday, saying it went into effect without enough public input.

The policy limited homework to 10% of a student's grade; the rest would have been based on such measures as class assignments, tests and essays.

The homework rules, which did not have to be approved by the Board of Education, went into effect July 1 by administrative order. The Los Angeles Times wrote about the policy June 27, the first public discussion about it. The policy drew nationwide attention and swift reaction: from praise to denunciation to confusion.

"While well-intentioned, I am not confident that the initial policy received sufficient comments and general input from parents, teachers and board members," L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said in a release.

"We cannot and will not implement a policy of this magnitude without actively soliciting and incorporating recommendations from our constituencies," he said.

The 10% cap was developed by Chief Academic Officer Judy Elliott under then-Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who retired in April.

In an interview earlier this month, Elliott said the homework policy was developed over 18 months with input from her staff, a review of research and a task force that examined a broad range of district issues. The task force included parents, teachers and administrators, she said. And its members reached consensus on the importance of developing a homework policy. School board members received an update in writing on its progress in February, she said.

Elliott had said additional input would be included during further development of the three-page directive, which contains few specifics other than the 10% rule.

The goal was to ensure that students' grades were based on their knowledge of the subject matter rather than completed homework. Officials said they were troubled by discovering, for example, that students with strong test scores were failing classes.

It also was aimed at helping students who have family commitments or impediments, such as jobs that keep them from completing homework assignments. District officials also wanted to account for situations in which parents are unable to help students at home.

Homework has been a topic of contention nationwide, with many parents asserting that their children were overwhelmed, leaving little time for family and other activities.

Deasy decided that L.A. needed to slow down on its policy.

"The superintendent did the right thing," said board member Tamar Galatzan. "Policy changes like this not only need to be brought to the board first, but they need proper input from teachers, parents and students."

Board member Steve Zimmer said he "looked forward to discussing the revised homework policy and voting on it instead of finding out about it by reading the newspaper."

Some other cities have developed homework policies through a public process. In Davis, Calif., for example, officials established a public homework committee that met over a year's span. The committee's website included published meeting agendas and minutes, a 144-page report, relevant board policies and administrative regulations.

Deasy said the Los Angeles policy would be revised under the leadership of Jaime Aquino, the newly hired deputy superintendent of instruction, "in close consultation with parents, teachers, administrators, and board members."

The goal is to develop a draft policy by January, with a later vote by the Board of Education that would put the policy in effect for the 2012-13 school year.

howard.blume@latimes.com

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