Maryland’s largest school district is reviewing its homework policies through the lens of so-called anti-racism.
Montgomery County Public Schools will reevaluate its homework policies, last updated in 1986, “with an antiracism lens” to determine how homework affects “social-emotional learning” and whether it negatively impacts “marginalized communities,” according to a Daily Signal review of a March 16 Board of Education meeting.
Proponents of anti-racism say that America is systemically racist and that racism is built into nearly every institution. They say that just being against racism is not enough—one must be anti-racist and actively work to tear down these institutions.
The homework policy review follows the release of Montgomery County’s “anti-racist” audit results in October 2022. The audit raised concerns about “inequitable expectations, practices, and transparency” in terms of homework policy, according to a slideshow on the policy revision framework.
One parent who participated in the audit complained that “[Montgomery County Public Schools] talks a good game about inclusivity” but “rarely does listen.” Another audit participant from the NAACP said math instruction for black male students requires a “different cultural approach or a different pedagogical approach.”
Director of Curriculum and Instructional Programs Maria Tarasuk said at the Board of Education meeting that revising the policy will address the “social-emotional” needs of children, which have “increased exponentially during the pandemic.”
“The antiracist audit clearly showed the educational experience for our Hispanic students, our African American students, multi-lingual education students, special education, and others is different and varied than it is for our other students, and some of the practices have actually been damaging to them,” Tarasuk said.
The homework policy review comes as new mid-year Evidence of Learning standards in the district show that less than half of sixth grade students met math standards and only 52.6% of third graders met literacy standards.
Guiding questions for the review will look at the impact of homework in “historically marginalized communities,” the “social-emotional impact of homework practices,” and which homework practices are “inclusive, culturally responsive, and antiracist.”
While claiming to equip children with the ability to manage emotions, feel empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships, social-emotional learning integrates critical race theory throughout the education system.
The school district outside Washington, D.C., says it will adjust its homework policies in accord with those of comparable Maryland districts, including Howard County Public Schools, which has “flexible deadlines” for homework assignments, and Frederick County Public Schools, which instructs teachers not to grade all homework assignments to avoid “reveal[ing] biases.”
“We need to carefully consider all that we are asking of students and their families,” Tarasuk said. “We can’t just do what we have always done because it’s clear it doesn’t result in equitable outcomes.”
A mom of a Montgomery County kindergartener and middle schooler told The Daily Signal on the condition of anonymity that the homework policy review itself is racist because of critical race theory’s influence on it.
“Our scores are going down—reading, mathematics, science,” she said. “But they’re spending money and wasting money on something absurd like this.”
Montgomery County Public Schools will release a full draft of the policy after seeking additional stakeholder feedback.
The school district did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
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