This school year Piedmont teachers are beginning the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Literacy and Mathematics. The scope and sequence of the Common Core Standards was designed with the intention of allowing teachers more time to focus on fewer concepts and build students’ deep conceptual understanding. This approach is different than the design of the 1997 California Standards, which emphasized “covering” the standards and, therefore, has been referred to as the mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum.
Homework assignments sometimes mirrored this approach. The purpose of homework assignments often was to provide students with ample opportunity to practice what was taught that day, which often included assignments such as solving a page of math problems, completing a book report, or responding to questions after reading. The implementation of Common Core provides a wonderful opportunity for teachers to reflect on past homework policies and practices, reevaluate their relevance to Common Core, and try out new approaches to homework that support students’ deep, conceptual understanding.
The decision to reevaluate our homework policies is timely. In the past 2 years, the Tri-School Site Council members and elementary teachers have been in conversation about homework, and twice in this time, senior lecturer at Stanford University and cofounder of Challenge Success, Denise Pope, has come to Piedmont to speak on the subject of homework. Dr. Pope shared that years of research show that, with the exception of time spent reading, there is little to no relationship between homework and student achievement. She claims that students need more down time, play time, and family time, not more homework. Dr. Pope’s message resonated with many teachers, administrators, and parents who heard her speak. For more information about this topic, For more information about this topic, here is a link to a resource guide written by the team at Challenge for Success.
In light of what we have learned about the stress of homework and what we understand to be true about the demands of implementing more focused, coherent, and rigorous math and literacy standards, teachers will be altering their homework practices during the 2014-15 school year. No set policy is in place; however, teachers are being encouraged to try new approaches that align with a variety of instructional methods that support Common Core. For example, students may have fewer homework assignments–perhaps only reading from a book of their choice and a problem of the month (POM)–but be asked to think more about about their reading and math and be prepared to “argue” their point of view in a small group discussion in class the next day. They may be asked to grow in procedural fluency by playing math games rather than completing math worksheets. At Back-to-School Night, your child’s teacher will share more specifics about his or her grade-level team’s approach to homework this year.
Finally, there is much being written about homework and Common Core. It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and become alarmed when your child brings home an assignment that looks unfamiliar or requires an approach to showing their mathematical thinking and reasoning that is different from the method you were taught. We ask that you be patient. Trust that your child’s teacher has provided this homework for a thoughtful reason, even if it is not apparent in the moment. If you have questions about a homework assignment, check in with your child’s teacher. Enter the dialogue with an open mind and an enthusiastic desire to hear how your child’s teacher thoughtfully selected the assignment and ask how you can best support your child in completing it.
Thank you for all you do to support the students and staff! Have a wonderful school year!
Director of Curriculum and Instruction