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Jonathan Kelly
Jonathan Kelly

Homework Policy Guidelines

A Homework Committee was established during the 2017-18 school year. The charge of the committee was to consider the current homework policy and practices as well as collect current data from faculty, students, and families with the goal of proposing an updated policy for school committee consideration that outlines the most effective and beneficial experiences for our students.

homework policy guidelines


The Howard County Public School System supports students in maintaining and extending their learning. The appropriate design, use, and evaluation of homework assignments, used to inform progress and provide opportunities for independent practice, are part of achieving that goal. Some courses or instructors may choose not to assign homework.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

Homework is an integral part of our educational program at Vallejo Mill School as well as District policy. Out of-class assignments are provided to extend and reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom, enhance study skills, and help students develop independent work habits.

Last April, Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Texas, sent a short note to her students' parents informing them that she would not assign any homework for the remainder of the school year. An approving parent posted the letter on her Facebook page and it quickly went viral, eliciting scores of supportive comments from parents, educators, and, of course, students. There were a few dissenters, but the buzz the letter generated was the latest and perhaps strongest sign yet that homework - a stalwart tradition of K-12 education in the United States - was in the doghouse.

Long before Young's letter, however, many schools had already begun to question the assumptions behind homework, namely its academic value and overall appropriateness for students in elementary school.

A 2015 study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy suggested that elementary students were being assigned significantly more homework than what is recommended. (The National Education Association and the National Parent Teachers Association endorse the "10-minute rule," which states that that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level.) Other studies have identified homework as a major source of stress for all students - a repercussion educators and parents have been calling attention to for years.

As to its impact on student achievement, the research is at best mixed. Evidence that homework is beneficial to elementary school students is virtually non-existent. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents," says homework can lead to improvements in student learning in higher grades if it is designed and implemented properly. But too much can do more harm than good.

"We really need more work on subject matter, on homework quality, on the level of inquisitiveness that it engenders and the way it motivates," says Cooper, who believes high school students need some homework because it can help them learn how to study independently if they move onto college.

Many high schools are getting the message about student stress and are looking for ways to lighten the homework load. The so-called "no homework" movement is focused on elementary grades, but framing the choice as "no homework vs. homework" is misguided, according to Maurice Elias of Rutgers University and co-author of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and The Joys and Oys of Parenting.

"Ideally, we want children to understand that they are always learners. In school, we refer to them as 'students,' but outside of school, as children, they are still learners," Elias explains. "So advertising a 'no homework' policy in a school sends the wrong message. The policy should be something like, 'no time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks with no clear instructional or learning purpose will be assigned.'"

Whether it's called "homework," "continued learning," or something else altogether, the key is to make reading, writing, and performing arithmetic a part of everyday family interactions. "Educators can and should provide developmental guidance to parents on how to to do this," says Elias.

The lack of research supporting formal homework in lower grades gave Jake Toomey, principal of Discovery School at Four Corners in Gilbert, Mass., the confidence to move forward with new homework guidelines in October. The change grew out of discussions between Toomey and two other elementary school principals in the district.

In October, Four Corners implemented new guidelines that permitted teachers to end formally assigned homework, along with the tracking, logging, and accountability procedures that went with it. The task was to design a new approach that engaged parents and reinforced student learning without this baggage. No more homework? Not strictly-speaking, but definitely "less drama and tears," Toomey says.

"We give suggestions to parents on enrichment activities they can do with their kids," explains second grade teacher Bharati Winston. "They can be fun. I'll suggest apps on smartphones or tablets that are educational. There are guidelines and expectations. There should, for example, be some level of reading, some sort of math, but there's no homework log and much less pressure."

If a student is struggling with a particular lesson, "we still might provide an enrichment activity for home practice," says Winston. "We always take the academic pulse of each child so a more formal style of homework may be necessary. It's a case-by-case basis."

The new guidelines have been in place only for a few months, but the feedback from parents and educators has so far been very positive. At the end of the school year, educators will take a more formal look at how the new guidelines affected student learning.

"In education, we tend put a lot of clout in the data for academics," Winston cautions. "But I can tell you I have seen no tears or anxiety in my students this year, compared to last year when I would see it maybe once a month over a missed or incomplete homework assignment. So my students are coming to school feeling way more positive about what they able to accomplish at home with their parents. There's valuable data in that as well."

Set a regular time for homework - one that works for you, your child, and your family. Research shows a correlation between successful students and parents who create and maintain family routines.

At Hoover School, we adhere to the guidelines set forth in the district Homework Policy. The BSD Homework Policy is the result of a two-year journey that started at our middle school and is now being implemented in all six elementary schools in our district. Parents, teachers and administrators representing all schools spent a year working with Denise Pope from Challenge Success to review current research, analyze the needs of our school community and write a plan that provides balance and meaning for students.

Students who are absent, regardless of the cause, shall be given a reasonable opportunity to complete missed assignments, including homework. A reasonable make-up schedule, viewed as the number of days of absence, shall be given to make-up the work (i.e. two days of absence results in two days to complete work, including homework assignments).

Recognizing that the education of children is a cooperative enterprise between the home and the school, the Governing Board values the assignment of homework as an integral part of the learning process. Therefore, every school will develop homework procedures and expectations consistent with the following guidelines:

At Cary Elementary we believe homework is an important part of the educational program. Homework should be purposeful and an extension of the classroom instruction. Homework is a tool for practicing taught skills, reinforces responsibility, and can serve as a method of communicating learning to parents. Wake County policy 5510 is followed.Homework is assigned on a regular basis with the exception of weekends unless it is a long-term project with which a time line has previously been established. Regular completion of homework is expected and those having difficulty with submitting completed work in a timely manner will have it documented in the work habits section of the progress report. Following standards based grading procedures, homework is not graded for the purpose of adding to a subject grade on the progress report, but can contain feedback for the student and parent. Students develop and work at different rates and a variety of activities are conducted to accommodate this. Established times are a guide and represent average nightly completion times for an on-task student. Consistent independent reading is important and is included in the times below.


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