Davis homework policy change targets children in achievement gap

Thursday evening, the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Board of Education decided to approve changes to the current homework policy affecting kindergarten through sixth-grade children. A 2-3 vote accepted the 10-minute addition to homework time.

“Our kids in the achievement gap need to be doing homework and they need to be reading more, and so we need to find ways in supporting them in doing that successfully,” said Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School Principal Sally Plicka.

The board’s policy subcommittee said that after discussing the homework policy with teachers and staff, they came to the conclusion that the smallest time increment that would make a difference would be 10 minutes.

According to the subcommittee, the extra 10 minutes need to be added to accommodate more reading, with the main concern being children in the achievement gap who don’t do extra work at home.

Board of Education member Nancy Peterson said she has concerns that children in the achievement gap could fall further behind because of the 10-minute increase.

“I have received letters from parents, 99 percent [of whom are] saying please don’t increase the work my child brings home,” Peterson said.

Holmes Junior High School English Language Development and Reading Intervention teacher Teresa Delgadillo said she believes that if homework impacts a child’s confidence and family life, then it becomes a problem.

“Even if it’s limited time, a child that can’t finish their homework without help and then gets penalized the next day for not having it finished — the implications are huge,” Delgadillo said.

Delgadillo, whose work is targeted at students in the achievement gap, said she doesn’t believe the extra 10 minutes will benefit them. From her experience, she said that many of the students in the gap lack resources to aid with homework as well as having extra responsibilities that can infringe on homework time.

“How do we put a time limit on learning?” Delgadillo said.

Hiram Jackson, a parent, volunteers with the Bridge Program at Marguerite Montgomery in South Davis, which aims to help kids with their homework. Jackson said that many of the children he works with at the Bridge Program are children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds as well as English-language learners who don’t have the resources at home to adequately complete homework.

“I see a number of students that are slow workers in getting homework done,” Jackson said. “My concern was that although they’re saying it’s only 10 minutes, that ends up being for some students 20 or 30 minutes.”

Jackson, who is also involved with the music program in the Davis schools, said he worries that students who work slower will have less time to spend on practicing their instruments because of the additional homework time.

“For a lot of kids that find themselves to be slow workers in math or English, sometimes it’s nice to have access to these other activities like music or sports because [it makes them feel] like [they’re] good at something,” Jackson said.

Although many parents, including Jackson, voiced their opinions against the change in the homework policy at the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday, the new policy will be implemented this upcoming school year.

SYDNEY COHEN can be reached at city@theaggie.com.

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