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Calif. school district reviews homework policy in lieu of ban

When an iconoclastic School Board member proposed abolishing homework for students in this coastal community south of San Francisco, the board president jokingly accused him of trying to become the patron saint of all high school students.

A ban on homework, they reasoned, sounded like the answer to every young person's prayer.

But in the two weeks since the board member, Garrett Redmond, touched off a national debate on the value of homework, many of the school district's 3,500 students have expressed a conclusion sure to delight their teachers: Homework is essential to their education, and they do not want it taken away.

Redmond withdrew his proposal at a Cabrillo Unified School District, meeting on Thursday night. The board did agree, however, to establish a parent-student-teacher study group to review the district's homework policy and to examine ways to restructure the students' school work.

The homework policy, adopted in 1991, calls for a time commitment ranging from an average of two hours a week for elementary students to nine hours a week for high school students.

Redmond, a 65-year-old farmer, said he believed there was no link between homework and academic achievement. His remarks unexpectedly placed his community, which had been famous only for its annual pumpkin festival, under the glare of widespread attention from news organizations.

"It was not my objective to create a media event," said Redmond, who is retiring from the board this year. But, he said at the meeting, "We should take out this sacred cow and slaughter the critter."

Redmond contends most homework is busy work that can turn students sour on learning and rob them of valuable family time. He also said it was unfair to grade students on homework when some had a computer and helpful parents, while others went home to an environment that was less conducive to learning.

Many students at Half Moon Bay High School said they were embarrassed that Redmond's proposal had earned their district the ridicule of editorial writers.

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