According to Palo Alto Unified School District Board President Camille Townsend, the goal of test and project balancing, which focuses on balancing homework load, was dropped because of the new district homework policy adopted June 12.
“It [student workload] is not being taken off the plate,” she said. “I would see this as being put directly on the plate.”
Townsend said that the homework policy is more significant than the Focused Goal because policy can be seen as the implementation of the goal.
The Annual Focused Goals are a list of goals created by the School Board every year to help guide its actions and decisions.
“It is our intent to try to make homework more manageable,” Townsend said. “That’s why we passed the new policy on homework. [We have] implemented a much more concrete action into School Board policy.”
School Board candidate Ken Dauber tells a different story. Dauber urged the Board to adopt a goal that would address test and project stacking-related stress for the 2012-2013 year, just as he did for the 2011-2012 school year. The board adopted such a goal last year, Goal #A3b: “Examine the system of distributing test and project deadlines,” according to a public record available on the school district’s website. However, the goal was dropped this year.
“There was little progress last year — in part because staff were occupied with other important goals such as homework and A-G [graduation requirements] for all students,” Dauber said. “The solution, though, is not to drop an important goal that is intended to address a large source of stress in our teens’ lives but to renew the goal and make progress on it this year.”
Dauber cites the 2008 Strategic Plan survey data to back his assertion that swells of tests and project deadlines cause undue student stress.
The new homework policy is a one-page document available on the school district website that does not include the words “test” or “project” at any point, nor does it mention teacher collaboration. It does address student stress, stating that, “Effective homework practices do not place an undue burden on students.” No definition of “undue burden” is provided.
Dauber acknowledges that not all stress is a result of test and project stacking, but says that the school board would make progress in addressing the high rates of stress by working to avoid student work overloads through scheduling conflicts.
“I hope that the board will reconsider its decision to drop addressing the problem of test and project stacking from its focused goals,” he said. “This is a straightforward improvement that can make a big difference for our students.”