The value of homework is suddenly under the microscope, and leaders of the Lafayette Parish school district have decided it should no longer be graded.
School districts around the state also are studying the issue and watching the experience in Lafayette.
Under a policy that took effect this school year, Lafayette students in grades two through 12 can still have after-school assignments. But that work will not be graded, like it was for generations.
"Homework should be practice," Kathy Aloisio, director of elementary schools for the district, which has about 31,000 students.
Lafayette is not alone in rethinking the merits of sending work home after school and how much it should count when final grades are calculated.
Michael Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said officials in Central were looking for ways to reduce homework when he left the system last year.
Computer technology, 90-minute classes in block schedules and other changes have raised questions about the value of sending work home.
"I think people are trying to pay more attention to the needs of students, especially away from school," Faulk said.
After a flap in the Central Community School District, a bid to toughen residency rules was shelved Wednesday and may be finished for the session.
"And I also think there is a move to cut back," he said. "But complete elimination, that is an individual district decision."
Individual schools typically have a big say in how much work is sent home.
Some districts, like the highly rated Ascension Parish school system, do not have districtwide homework policies.
Others wrestle with the issue regularly.
"I hear both sides of it," said Rick Wentzel, superintendent of the Livingston Parish school district. "I hear some say that there is too much homework and some say that there is not enough."
The Livingston Parish School Board believes homework should be for well-defined purposes, understood by both students and teachers, and able to be done independently.
But officials also know that, in some cases, students cannot get the help they need to finish the assignment. "So they are careful on what they send," Wentzel said of teachers.
The fact that lots of students are unable to get help from parents after school helped drive the change in Lafayette, Aloisio said.
One student can take work home, get help from mom and make an A. Another student got no such help. "That kid would get an F on his homework, but that kid had no one helping him," she said.
Aloisio said the change followed lots of research on grading.
"Grading should reflect the standards being taught and should also reflect the ability of the kiddo taking the test," she said.
The East Baton Rouge Parish school district spells out six reasons why homework should be given, including drills on skills introduced in class and finishing classroom assignments or long-term projects.
"It shall never be given as busywork or as punishment," according to the policy.
Public schools in West Baton Rouge Parish spell out how much homework should count on final grades, said Superintendent Wesley Watts.
"It is something that has come up in teacher meetings, something for us to continue to look at to see how do we make this better," Watts said.
Homework is not a burning issue among charter schools, said Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
After years of bitter battles, high-profile debates over public schools have all but disappeared from the Louisiana Legislature this year.
Louisiana's 156 charter charters are supposed to offer innovative methods compared with traditional public schools.
Roemer said officials in some schools have the philosophy that, when students are with their families and away from the school site, homework should not be an obligation.
"Even some studies have said that kids doing homework doesn't improve outcomes," she said.
The first hint of how changes are working in Lafayette will happen in November when state report cards come out.
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Aloisio said the new rules have sparked more confusion than resistance.
"In the beginning, it was a little controversial because of not understanding what we are doing," she said. "The greatest misconception is that we are not doing homework in our schools anymore. That is the biggest misconception.
"We don't have this policy that there is no homework. It is the grading. So that is where we delineate it. We want kiddos to do homework."