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Holiday Homework Break to Be Implemented

Task force recommendations put in action as district hopes to encourage family bonding with 'no homework night.'

will begin integrating a number of guideline changes before the upcoming school year.

The homework task force, which to examine the effects of homework on students and make recommendations, provided Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried with a list of more than a dozen suggestions that he read during the board’s meeting Tuesday.

“Since many of the recommendations are guidelines, not policy changes, I feel like we can begin the school year with some of these in place,” Fried said.

Fried said the first recommendation he would like to integrate is teachers discussing homework and distributing written homework guidelines with parents during back-to-school nights. To do this, he will begin meeting with principals and department heads in August.

“Communication between parents and teachers is crucial,” Fried said. “And I’m sure most of [the teachers] already do this.”

Board Member Jon Alin agreed that, based on every back-to-school night experience he has had, communication about homework expectations is already a precedent.

“Every teacher has always been very clear about what the homework is, what their expectations are and the weight of the homework,” Alin said.

Alin said he believes establishing written guidelines is more for the parents who are not able to attend or choose not to attend back-to-school nights.

Fried said he will also begin speaking with school administrators about a number of the other suggestions, including establishing workshops for parents on how to support their child’s homework and making sure the weight of homework in a particular course is equal across all schools.

“If I’m in one social studies course and you’re in the same course with a different teacher, homework shouldn’t be weighted in one class as 10 percent and in the other as 25 percent,” Fried said.

The district will also move away from giving homework over holiday breaks unless the assignment is deemed necessary and approved by a principal or department head. About 70 percent of parents opposed holiday homework assignments, according to a .

The district will also explore establishing one universal homework-free night per quarter. Fried said that other communities that have established similar nights even reach out to local merchants to host special activities for families to do together.

“Perhaps you are encouraged to have dinner together out in the community,” he said.

Board member Jackie Ritschel said that, even though she no longer has any children in the district, she is very excited about getting the community involved in a no homework night.

A few of the other recommendations Fried read during the meeting included:

  • Establishing a philosophy of homework in the district that states the importance of quality over quantity
  • Setting up guidelines for the length of homework assignments
  • Allowing homework choices for middle school and high school students
  • Incorporating technology into homework assignments when appropriate
  • Creating testing schedules in the middle school and high school so that there are no more than two tests per day and four tests per week
  • Establishing an after-school homework help center in the high school

“I don’t think any of these are monumental changes,” Fried said. “Some of them will have a very positive impact on teachers and student expectations.”

One recommendation that was not included in the list but was discussed during the board’s June 5 meeting and brought up again by Alin was making the dismissal time at earlier.

“[Board Administrator Jim Tevis] and I have spoken of that as being one of our goals for next year,” Fried said.

In addition to passing information about the guidelines through administrators, Fried said the district will also post information in the school faculty rooms and on the website.

The homework task force was made up of administrators, teachers, parents and students across multiple schools. Fried said he would like to invite the task force back to a future board meeting for a more formal presentation of its recommendations.

Do you agree with the homework task force's recommendations? Participate in our poll below and tell us your thoughts in the comments.

lexih August 05, 2012 at 01:28 PM
As a student who has been in classes with a rush to get material covered, I'm not sure how I feel about the general rule of "no homework over holidays." For one, it is a model that absolutely does not work in Advanced Placement classes, where students in NJ schools that start in September are already at a disadvantage compared to schools in other states that start in August to finish by the exams in May. Secondly, while I believe family-time is important during holidays that are commonly celebrated, such as the High Holy Days, Easter and Passover, and Thanksgiving, I don't think it's beneficial to give students a break on the small holidays where they are generally sitting at home anyway, such as Columbus Day or President's Day. Furthermore, the length of break should be considered--while time must be spent over winter break with family, students do lose information in even just a week so homework still should be assigned to combat that. I do agree with the recommendation decreasing the number of tests per day--this is more characteristic of a college atmosphere. However, when students are in college, it is entirely likely that they will be experiencing more than four tests a week--and tests in college count way more than tests in high school--so I do not recommend implementing that aspect of the measure as that would hinder college preparedness.
Tom August 05, 2012 at 09:24 PM
If the bottom line here is to prepare kids for college why are they given less work to do over breaks? I never had a break in college where there was nothing to be done...

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