Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #40

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over homework
  • In your district: philosophy of education
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Campaign for initiative to allow municipalities to create school districts submits signatures in Nevada
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over homework

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

Does homework help?

Geoff Johnson writes that homework is ineffective. Johnson says homework is not equitable because only some students can work in positive learning environments. He also says homework often causes students to practice problems incorrectly and can cause students to become overworked, unhealthy, and stressed.

Eva Moskowitz writes that homework can reduce educational inequity and help students understand that they don’t need an adult to help them learn. Moskovitz says homework assignments communicate to students that they should be learning outside of school and are capable of learning independently. 

Geoff Johnson: Piling homework on kids is a mistake that undermines work/life balance | Geoff Johnson, Times Columnist

“Even before I realized years ago that my students were not deriving much, if ­anything, of educational value from ­homework, I could never grade homework assignments equitably, because each ­student’s homework was being attempted in home environments that could be vastly ­different. As we discovered during the pandemic shutdowns, and the subsequent reliance on online lessons, education at home is not ­conducted on an even playing field. Some parents simply did not have space available at home to set up quiet spaces where students could focus on their work uninterrupted by the distractions common to every household. Even if that was possible, homework that was intended to facilitate practice, such as working on solutions to math ­problems or reviewing a poem or prose piece, could result in a student simply practising ­mistakes over and over again. In other words, class work being extended into a non-learning environment with no support from the teacher who assigned the work was defeating the gains accomplished in class that day. Then class time needs to be devoted to correcting individual homework mistakes before progress can be made on that day’s lesson. If work/life balance is important for adults, it’s just as important for kids from kindergarten to Grade 12.”

Why homework matters | Eva Moskowitz, The Fordham Institute

“It is important to remember that kids only spend a fraction of their time in school. The learning that does or does not take place in the many hours outside of school has a monumental effect on children’s academic success and is a root cause of educational inequity. The pandemic gave us a stark demonstration of this reality. Achievement gaps widened between affluent and low-income children not only because low-income students received less in-person or high-quality online instruction during the years of disrupted school, but also because children of college-educated and affluent parents were already less dependent on schools for learning. Affluent children are far more likely to have the privilege of tutors or other types of supplementary instruction, as well as a family culture of reading, and opportunities to travel, visit museums, and more. Homework is a powerful tool to help narrow these inequities, giving children from all backgrounds the opportunity to keep learning when they are not in school. … Homework cultivates these mindsets and habits. Indeed, when teachers don’t assign homework, it reflects an unconscious conviction that kids can’t learn without adults. Kids internalize this message and come to believe they need their teacher to gain knowledge. In reality, they are more than capable of learning all sorts of things on their own. Discovering this fact can be both incredibly exciting and deeply empowering for them.”

In your district: philosophy of education

We recently asked readers the following question:

What book or essay best reflects your philosophy of education? 

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses. If you have ideas for a question you’d like to see us ask, reply to this email to let us know!

A community member in Indiana wrote: 

“New to all this but in my limited research I like the book The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education.”

A school board member in Illinois wrote:

“Classical and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education.”

A school board member in New York wrote:

“Out of The Box: How Innovative Learning Models Can Transform K-12 Education.”

School board update: filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications

Ballotpedia has historically covered school board elections in about 500 of the country’s largest districts. We’re gradually expanding the number we cover with our eye on the more than 13,000 districts with elected school boards.

Louisiana school board elections on Dec. 10 

Most states held school board general elections on Nov. 8, and won’t hold elections again until 2023. In Louisiana, however, school board primaries took place on Nov. 8, and general elections will take place Dec. 10. Under Louisiana’s unique majority-vote system, all candidates running for local, state, or federal office appear on the same primary ballot regardless of their partisan affiliations. If no candidate wins a simple majority of the votes cast, the top-two finishers advance to a general election (what other states might refer to as a runoff). 

We’re covering the following elections on Dec. 10:

Campaign for initiative to allow municipalities to create school districts submits signatures in Nevada

In Nevada, a campaign supporting an initiative that would allow municipalities to opt-out of county school districts filed about 220,000 signatures for verification. If enacted, the initiative would amend state statute to allow municipalities to opt-out of a county school district to create a new community school district.

The Community Schools Initiative PAC filed the initiative. County clerks will verify the signatures. The initiative needs 140,777 valid signatures to proceed to the legislature. If the legislature approves the initiative, and the governor signs it into law, the initiative is enacted. If no action is taken in 40 days, the initiative will go before voters on the 2024 ballot. 

Republican Joe Lombardo won the Nov. 8 Nevada gubernatorial election, defeating incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak. As a result, Nevada will, in January, change from a Democratic trifecta to a divided government. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature. 

Supporters say Nevada school districts, which are mostly county-based, have become too large. On its website, the Community Schools Initiative PAC says: “Nevada school districts are currently dictated by county boundaries, not the community or population demand. This has resulted in disproportionately large school districts and our students, parents, families, and teachers have had to pay the price.”

The initiative says: “Individual municipalities or municipalities working together may, in some instances, prefer to form more appropriately-sized school districts, because communities may determine that they can better represent and serve children, parents, and families in smaller administrative units.”

Opponents say the initiative would not resolve underlying issues hampering Nevada’s education system. Clark County School District Jess Jara said: “Educating our students adequately requires an honest, reasoned, equitable, accountable, and sustainable strategy supported with optimal funding for the new pupil-centered funding formula to produce outcomes other than Nevada’s current 49th in the nation funding levels. This initiative achieves none of these.” 

The Clark County School District, which has over 300,000 students, is the largest in the state and the fifth-largest in the nation.

The number of school districts in Nevada tumbled following the passage of Assembly Bill 1 in 1956. According to University of Las Vegas Professors Magdalena Martinez and David Damore, “During a 1956 Special Session of the Nevada Legislature, 208 legally active local school districts were eliminated and consolidated into 17 county-based districts.” 

Nevada counties have until Dec. 23 to certify the submitted signatures. 

Nationally, from 2010 and 2020, the average number of statewide ballot measures in an even-numbered year was 164. 

Louisiana voters will decide the last three statewide measures of 2022 on Dec. 10.

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

We’re featuring survey responses from school board candidates who won their races on Nov. 8. 

Today, we’re looking at responses from Derek Tisinger, who defeated incumbent Cynthia Brakeman in the general election for Kern High Board of Trustees Trustee Area 1, and incumbent Beverly Slough, who defeated Racheal Hand in the general election for St. Johns County School Board District 1. 

Here’s how Tisinger answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“Individual rights and personal choice. Keep politics and social agendas out of our classrooms. Children belong to their parents and not the government. I am strongly Pro Life. I believe school choice is important for holding or schools accountable in quality education for our children, and also empower our under served communities.”

Click here to read the rest of Tisinger’s answers.

Here’s how Slough answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“Providing an excellent education to every student in our county is the focus of my service and candidacy.

Recruiting and retaining the most qualified teachers possible to accomplish this goal is a major focus.

Safety and security of our students is always top of mind.”

Click here to read the rest of Slough’s answers.

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. And if you’re not running for school board, but there is an election in your community this year, share the link with the candidates and urge them to take the survey!