BOE approves new district homework policy

Months of dedication by parents, teachers and administrators in tackling the always challenging issue of homework has paid off.

The Board of Education Monday approved a new, more streamlined district policy on homework that reinforces the importance of homework while offering recommended guidelines for time spent on homework for each grade while also instituting homework-free periods — time frames during certain months in which students will receive no homework so, as the presenters stated, students can have more “family time” in a “stress-free environment.”

The new policy calls for suggested maximum time guidelines, which are as follows — kindergarten and first grade, 20 minutes; second grade, 30 minutes; third grade, 45 minutes; fourth and fifth grade, 60 minutes; sixth grade, 90 minutes; seventh and eighth grade, 120 minutes; and high school grades, course-dependent (the high school program of studies will specify homework expectations based on course levels).

The policy states that homework is an important part of the instructional program, allowing students to follow through on their commitment to academic work and their personal interests. The committee determined that the homework assigned should be meaningful. The policy states that homework should be purposeful, well-planned and clearly understood by students, supporting and extending classroom instruction.

According to the new policy, the creation of homework-free periods is being done in an effort to recognize the importance of family time and to encourage students to explore their own interests and read independently. During these times, the draft policy states, teachers will not assign daily homework or long-term projects. Any projects cannot be due until at least three days after the end of the homework-free period. Tests cannot be administered until two days after the end of the homework-free period.

Homework-free periods will be in October (high school seniors will have a homework-free weekend in October to support completion of college applications as determined by the high school principal); Thanksgiving recess in November; winter recess in December; mid-winter recess in February; and spring recess in April, except for Advanced Placement classes.

The new policy also calls for teachers to plan homework consistent with the grade and subject matter being taught; assign the homework, giving the necessary directions and guidance for its completion; clarify who may provide support to students if they have questions or difficulty with an assignment; tell the students the purpose of the homework; differentiate homework assignments to meet the individual needs of students; acknowledge the proper completion of the assignment; and post homework assignments online.

The guidelines spell out student and parent responsibilities in a concise manner. Students are asked to be responsible for recording and understanding assignments before leaving the classroom each day. “They are responsible for completing their own work, unless given explicit instructions from the teacher. If they are having difficulty with a specific assignment, they should communicate their questions to their teachers,” states the draft policy, and take advantage of homework supports offered.

Parents are asked to be “partners” with teachers in “developing responsibility for completing homework independently. If a child is spending an inordinate amount of time on homework or is having too much difficulty, the parent should contact the teacher to help determine the nature of the difficulty.”

The guidelines call for parents to contact the instructor if their child claims there was no homework or does not bring books home.

“Parent should encourage students to read independently to support their classroom learning or to further their own interests,” states the policy. “In case of extended absence, the teacher should be contacted to arrange makeup work. Parents should request work when the student is absent more than three days.”

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