Challenge Success in Action at LCHS 7/8
By LCHS 7-8 Principal, Dr. Jarrett Gold
In September, our Challenge Success Team traveled to Stanford to learn more about the program in preparation for our work in the 2017-18 school year. Our team included Allison Risha, an 8th-grade student, Shelby Loder Gray, a parent who has been involved in multiple capacities over the years, Paul Kim, 7th-grade math teacher, and me. The team was in a great mood as we flew out of Burbank airport mid-afternoon on September 15th.
Our first activity at Stanford was hearing a Keynote presentation from Madeline Levine and Denise Pope, co-founders of Challenge Success. Their presentation was meaningful, inspirational and set the stage for a motivating weekend. The first afternoon was dedicated to roundtable conversations facilitated by other school representatives who had implemented something significant in recent years. I had the opportunity attend two great sessions, one about homework and homework policy, and the other about the creation of school schedules to promote student wellness. I was very glad that LCUSD had already initiated discussions and taken steps advancing these domains.
With the change of daily schedule to a later start at LCHS 7/8, we have already seen some improvements in student attention and performance in the morning. In the first two periods of the day, the students seem more engaged and demonstrate increased participation in discussions. With regard to homework, we have taken significant steps to make homework less stressful for our students. All of our 7/8 teachers have committed to conducting quarterly homework calibration activities in their classrooms to evaluate the effectiveness of homework with regard to the time used to complete it, the ability of students to do it independently and the learning outcome gained from the homework assignment. This has been an eye-opening experience since some of our parent feedback over the years has been that there was too much homework assigned to students and that it took a significant amount of time to complete. Based on our Stanford survey, many students report multitasking (texting, tv, music, eating, surfing the web, etc.) while doing homework. They may think that it helps them complete tasks more quickly, but studies show that when multitasking more time is spent on an individual task than if they focused on one task at a time.
Later in the day, I was able to attend a 2-hour session with Denise Pope on the topic of “Making Homework Work.” Studies show that over 50% of students believe that the homework they are assigned is not useful and consider it busy work. She raised the question, “What is the purpose of homework?” This led to a great discussion. Responses to her question were: practicing/reviewing skills learned in class, preview/preparation for the next class, repetition, to complete work not finished in class, differentiation, individual assessment, extension of classwork, and the opportunity to involve family in schoolwork. Then we discussed the characteristics of effective homework. Homework should have clear directions, be differentiated, allow for student choice and voice, be authentic, be completed independently, relate to a learning objective, and not take more than a prescribed number of minutes.
We returned from Stanford with great ideas and excited to start our Challenge Success work. We created a Homework Study Team to review our current homework policy and practices and will be recommending some revisions to make it more effective for our students and staff. We encourage our community to check out the meeting minutes posted on the LCUSD website to learn about our work and offer input.