The California State PTA adopted a resolution this month that stems from work developed by parents at John Burroughs High School who examined how homework has affected fellow parents’ and their children’s lives.
When the John Burroughs High PTA asked parents to take a survey on how they felt about their children’s homework, about 60 parents indicated homework was a valuable tool, but one that often creates stress and takes away from family time.
The school’s PTA created the survey after seeing a screening of “Race to Nowhere,” a film about the pressure on students to achieve.
The survey led the Burbank School District to create a homework task force made up of parents, teachers and administrators who meet regularly to offer their viewpoints on what homework should entail.
About a year ago, the task force caught the eye of California State PTA, which awarded the John Burroughs High PTA a Spotlight Award for its advocacy work at its annual statewide convention. That’s when the state PTA officials asked the Burroughs parents to draft a resolution for the state to adopt.
The resolution was also supported by First District PTA, encompassing PTA councils from Glendale to Pomona.
Two parents at the helm of the resolution, titled “Homework: Quality Over Quantity,” were Suzanne Weerts and Tina McDermott, who wrote the research-based document after hearing parents’ personal stories of tantrums, tensions and stress over hours spent on homework.
Just last week, at this year’s state convention in Los Angeles, Weerts and McDermott learned their resolution was adopted by the California State PTA, which will submit it to the National PTA for its consideration next year.
They are pleased they’ve helped usher in discussions about homework and balanced lives for students.
“I’ve heard so many parents talk to me with really deep emotion about how they’ve spent an entire weekend on a poster,” McDermott said. “And after working all week, they would rather spend their time differently very often.”
The newly adopted resolution empowers local PTA groups across the state to urge school districts to create homework policies or review them if they already exist.
Both McDermott and Weerts are hopeful the Burbank Unified school board will eventually adopt a homework policy for the district, and agree the resolution is timely with the implementation of Common Core State Standards that strive for more critical thinking among students.
“Parents need the school districts to help define what homework is worthwhile, how much time should be spent on it and what [a parent’s] role is,” McDermott said.
Weerts said many parents approached her and McDermott after the resolution passed at the convention last week.
“A lot of parents came up and shared their stories of the challenges that they’ve faced and the stress in their home or the stress with their children and how grateful they are that this is opening up a dialogue,” she said.
“We want children’s lives to be well balanced,” and for students to be excited by learning but not overburdened by it, she added.
At a local school board meeting this week, board members voiced their support and gratitude for the resolution’s success. Burbank Unified Supt. Jan Britz said the homework task force will continue to meet during the next academic year.
“That certainly is something to be proud of,” Britz said of the resolution. “And our PTA and Burbank has made their mark.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.
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