Date: May 11, 2013 4:47 PM
Author: Domenico Rosa
Subject: Homework Debate Stiil Rages On
Twenty-one years ago, at a parent-information session for incoming 4th-graders, I was startled to learn that no homework would be assigned. The reason: Homework expected students to work on new material. The educrats were apparently clueless about assigning homework that reinforced what had been done in class.
Homework Study May Change Rules For West Hartford Teachers
By JULIE STAGIS, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant 4:25 p.m. EDT, May 8, 2013
WEST HARTFORD --
Teachers in the district may soon have stricter guidelines when it comes to giving homework as a result of new policies being developed by the school board.
Earlier this year, Director of Elementary Education Kerry Jones put together a committee of teachers, principals and department supervisors to review numerous studies on homework and discern best practices. The group came up with several conclusions and suggestions to direct district-wide homework policies and guidelines.
Jones and Nancy DePalma, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, presented the findings on the controversial topic to the school board at its meeting on Tuesday.
The committee read a wide range of studies from around the globe, which ranged from harsh criticism of homework to full support of it, said Jones. Common threads among the studies guided their recommendations.
"The main question, we said, is 'do we need it?' In the debate, there are folks saying, 'let's just not have homework at all,'" she said. "We really started there ... from a zero-sum game."
Most studies showed a positive correlation between homework and achievement, especially at the secondary level, Jones said.
The group also found strong support for the "10 minute rule" among the studies, she said. The principle says students should spend 10 minutes on homework per day for every grade level - a third grader should spend 30 minutes completing homework, while a fifth grader should spend 50 minutes, for instance. Time spent should be capped at two hours for high school students.
"Above that, there are diminishing returns," she said. "More homework does not equate to a more rigorous curriculum."
Because of these conclusions, the committee suggested establishing "very clear grade-level guidelines for time students spend on homework" and increasing the "frequency, regularity and complexity of homework through middle and high school," Jones said.
Currently, the district's elementary school handbook includes homework guidelines that describe what types of homework the students might get, and says that homework should take between 15 and 30 minutes for first, second and third graders and between 30 and 60 minutes for fourth and fifth graders.
The middle school curricula do not address homework, and the Conard and Hall high school programs of study only mention homework in a section about the summer school program.
The group also found that homework is most effective when it has a clear purpose and can easily be tied to learning goals. On that point, the committee suggested establishing teacher training "on ... effective homework practice," Jones said.
"This would be a really profound dialogue for teachers to have," she said. "To step back and say, what makes homework meaningful and effective for students?"
Members of the board said they liked the idea of homework training. Member Mark Zydanowicz suggested starting workshops to teach parents at each school level how to best help their kids with homework.
Other suggestions included making sure teachers provide "equitable access to resources" required for homework, "relevant and timely feedback" on homework and establishing clear-cut roles for teachers, students and family in the homework process, according to Jones.
The committee will seek input from students and teachers and will reconvene in the fall, she said.
The school board's policy subcommittee will consider the recommendations and develop "broad-based" policies, at least one of which will be presented for a first reading at the board's May 21 meeting. The administration will then develop guidelines that will appear in school handbooks.