Superintendent: No ban on homework

When the national media reaches out to grab a local angle to hype a high-profile issue -- such as homework -- sometimes they get it wrong.

That's what happened last week, according to the superintendent of the Menlo Park City School District.

Contrary to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and other television and newspaper reports, "neither the district nor Oak Knoll School has banned homework," said Superintendent Ken Ranella. "These media reports have unfortunately misrepresented the district and the school."

School board President Terry Thygesen also weighed in, charging that the news coverage "completely misrepresents what's going on at Oak Knoll in the district."

The district has a homework policy, said Ms. Thygesen, and homework is an essential part of a well-developed instructional program. The district's current homework policy is available on the district's Web site. To see the PDF document, click here:

Why the confusion?

A Sept. 5, 2006, letter from Oak Knoll Principal David Ackerman to parents titled "The Future of Homework" apparently was seized upon on by advocates in the school community's pro-homework and anti-homework camps and spread through the e-mail grapevine to authenticate their differing views.

(To see a copy of the letter, go to )

Shortly after Mr. Ackerman's letter went out, Newsweek magazine came out with a cover story about kids' having too much homework and being stressed, Ms. Thygesen said.

Mr. Ackerman's letter, after a philosophical introduction, focuses on how teachers and parents will work to support the district's homework policies.

Some of the priorities at Oak Knoll, according to the letter, are: promote reading of the child's choice, provide only weekly homework packets that are based on individual student's needs, keep homework time within the district's maximum time set for each grade, and assign homework other than reading when a specific need arises or when it's necessary to practice a skill or complete important work.

Several years ago, trustees took a long look at the district's homework policy, held several public meetings about it, and revised the policy; the revised policy has been in place since January 2004.

The current policy discusses the purposes of homework, sets maximum amounts of homework by grade-level, and encourages teachers to meet their instructional goals with less than the maximum minutes.

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