Thursday, 14 June 2012

"Race to Nowhere" Team To Seek PTA Support on National "Healthy Homework" Guidelines

Race to Nowhere  

On June 21, the National PTA will meet at their 116th Annual National PTA Convention and Exhibition in San Jose. The team behind the critically acclaimed documentary film "Race to Nowhere," along with nationally recognized education experts, will be in attendance, petitioning the association to adopt—for the first time—homework guidelines that will help schools nationwide better support student engagement, health and learning.

At the center of a growing movement to revolutionize American schools, "Race to Nowhere" has been screened in more than 5,000 communities to over 1 million teachers, parents, administrators and students. The team's presentation of the proposed healthy homework guidelines to the National PTA's resolutions committee will take place on Wednesday, June 20, at 8 am. It represents the first time the association will hear a proposal from an outside body at its annual convention.

Two weeks ago, "Race to Nowhere" director Vicki Abeles joined with education and homework experts Alfie Kohn (author, The Homework Myth), Dr. Etta Kralovec (Associate Professor, Univ. of Arizona and co-author, The End of Homework) and Sara Bennett (co-author, The Case Against Homework) in launching a national online petition on, which urges the PTA to adopt a set of homework guidelines that schools across the country can implement locally in an effort to realign homework policy and practice with the best research on student learning, health and engagement.

In two weeks, the petition has been signed by more than 15,000 educators, parents and policymakers across the country.

Homework—how much, for whom, and to what end—has long been a focus of discussion and concern among parents, teachers and PTA associations across the country. But since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001 and Obama's more recent Race to the Top incentive program, the homework debate has intensified. Educators are under increasing pressure to meet state standards and churn out high test scores in exchange for federal support. Inundating students with homework in this fraught and numbers-focused climate is often seen as a logical response to anxieties about funding, international competitiveness and performance.

But Abeles says that "unexamined homework practices are taking a toll on students, teachers and families." Far from enhancing student engagement, learning or development, she says, homework is too often diminishing their learning and contributing to widespread stress, burnout and unpreparedness among American students.

The petition, "Urge the National PTA: Support Healthy Homework Guidelines", forwards a set of homework guidelines that would provide local districts, school boards, administrators and teachers with a national policy framework to use as a reference and model for decision making at the district and school level. Among the goals of the guidelines are increased educational equity and a narrowing of the achievement gap between students at well funded and poorly funded schools; enhanced parental and family influence on and engagement with homework practices; and a rebalancing of student's academic lives with their extra-curricular, family and community commitments and their developmental needs as children and adolescents.

Dr. Etta Kralovec, director of teacher education at the University of Arizona, says "I have been writing and speaking out about homework for 20 years. The introduction of these national guidelines to the ongoing debate about homework is a game-changer and the push needed to create a lasting change. Adopting these guidelines will not only give American parents relief from the unnecessary burden of homework, it will also help teachers think differently about how to support student learning."

Abeles adds that "The groundswell of support that our petition has garnered from homework experts, education leaders, and thousands of parents and teachers on the frontlines of the American education system is testament to the need for a set of national homework guidelines that keep student health, learning and engagement at the center of all decision making about homework policy and practice."

The petition's more than 15,000 signatories urge the National PTA to use the forum of its 116th Annual National PTA Convention and Exhibition, June 21–24, 2012 to formally adopt the guidelines drafted by Abeles, Sara Bennett, Alfie Kohn and Etta Kralovec on behalf of the "Race to Nowhere" community. |

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