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SMMUSD Seeks Homework Input From Parents

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 26, 2015 -- Nearly a third of Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District teens do two hours or more homework each school day.  Is that enough? Or should they be cracking the books more?

Those are among the questions SMMUSD is asking parents in a new survey conducted annually the district announced.

It is anonymous and takes about 10 minutes to complete, said SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker. Parents with more than one child in the district are encouraged to fill out a survey for each student.

Pinsker said the district and its principals use the information to help determine if what they’re doing now is right, and to shape how much -- and what kind of -- homework the future will hold.

“We appreciate all parents taking ten minutes to complete this important annual survey that will help the district and principals evaluate current practices and formulate future homework plans, said Evan Bartelheim, the district’s director of assessment, research and evaluation.

In last year’s survey, parents seemed torn on the homework question. Of the 557 parents who took the online survey, 38 percent overall thought their children were assigned too much homework; a third thought their youngsters got about the right amount.

Nearly half of the respondents were parents of Santa Monica High School students. About 14 percent were parents of Malibu High School students; the rest were parents who represented children in the district’s elementary and middle schools.

At the elementary school level, sixteen percent of the students sometimes or always had homework assigned for the weekends, their parents said; at the middle school and high school levels that jumped to 52 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

How the amount of homework SMMUSD students tackle compares to other districts, locally and elsewhere, is hard to determine. A 2012 Brookings Institution study, using National Assessment of Educational Progress data, found 13 percent of 17-year-olds questioned studied two or more hours, while 23 percent reported doing one to two hours of homework each school day.

The National PTA recommends 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter, according to its website.  That is, 20 minutes for second graders, rolling until reaching 120 minutes for twelfth graders.

In other findings from last year’s survey:

More than half parents said their students spend 60 minutes or more on homework.; Twenty-eight percent of students always had homework assigned on weekends and 32 percent sometimes did; another 18 percent said “yes,” but rarely; Large percentages of parents thought their youngsters had too much homework. At the elementary level, about half thought the level was about right but another third percent thought there was too much homework.

At the middle schools, 30 percent of parents thought the amount was appropriate, but 41 percent thought the level was too high. And at the high school level, 26 percent of parents thought the right amount of homework was given but 37 percent said there was too much.

More than half of parents with youngsters at all grade levels said their students needed assistance with homework sometimes. Almost 90 percent of the time that came from parents, but about a quarter did use tutors. About the same percent relied on friends or classmates and slightly fewer relied on teachers.

Math accounted for the greatest amount of homework – 92 percent. That was followed by writing and reading assignments.  Studying for tests and quizzes accounted for 72 percent of the time spent doing homework.

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