Simone Wilson, L.A. Weekly Blogs, June 28, 2011
How to deal with the rude K-12 achievement gap in Los Angeles? District officials have a new solution that should be pretty popular all-around.
Based on the theory that homework is more likely to be completed by kids with a secure home life and involved parents–aka, the white middle class–LAUSD is forcing teachers to cap homework at 10 percent of a student’s grade, beginning next month.
“The policy is intended to account for the myriad urban problems facing the district’s mostly low-income, minority population,” writes the Los Angeles Times today. The LAUSD memo is more cryptic:
“Varying degrees of access to academic support at home, for whatever reason, should not penalize a student so severely that it prevents the student from passing a class, nor should it inflate the grade. . . . While some students do not have the opportunity to do homework while away from school thus failing to return assignments, for others, it is difficult to be sure that it was the student who actually did the work.”
L.A.’s decision to ease up on homework has ignited a small firestorm among educators across the country, seeing as this particular issue is at the core of America’s current K-12 reform movement.
Of course, it’s easy to say less busywork the better, and students are undoubtedly stoked to hear it. Efforts to level the playing field between the coddled middle class and minorities without the same resources (quickly becoming the majority in L.A.) is noble as well.
On the other hand, we have the young, renegade “Teach for America” mantra–one that has also rubbed off on the Bill Gates charter-school circle. If schools hold working-class minorities to a lower standard, reformers argue, they’ll continue to perform at that level.
One TFA friend immediately Tweeted to us:
“Holding low-income black and Mexican kids to a lower standard of learning (when many are already behind) is racist/classist. Also, kids may choose not to do homework, but ALL are capable and can make time to, regardless of situation, if we expect it of them.”