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Working to Find the Right Balance for Homework

Say the word "homework," and more than likely a chorus of groans will be heard in many households across the nation – from students and parents alike.

School Officials in the Milford Public Schools have started to tackle this controversial topic by beginning a series of forums meant to outline homework expectations at each grade level and engage parents and teachers on the topic.

"I see this as a first step in an ongoing conversation with a goal of continuous improvement," said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kevin McIntyre during the forum held on February 22, which brought out over 100 parents, students, teachers, and administrators.

McIntyre opened with a presentation about the theories educators have had on homework over the past century. "We have seen the pendulum swing back and forth over the past 100 years," said McIntyre expounding on the idea that homework was being used purposely as a learning tool.

In the Milford Public Schools, McIntyre said that they are in the process of "critically examining" homework, including its purpose, amount, and timing.

After McIntyre's presentation, he turned the forum over to a four administrators who held a panel discussion on homework expectations in each of the different schools.

At Memorial Elementary School, Principal Lisa Burns said that the general rule on homework for students in grades K-2 is approximately 10 minutes per night per grade level. Students are also encouraged to read or be read-to on a nightly basis. "We don't have a formal homework policy at Memorial, it's more of a general philosophy," said Burns.

At Woodland Elementary School, Principal Craig Consigli said that although homework is a time to reflect on what is happening in the classroom, he understands that it can be a challenging to find a reasonable balance. Consigli said that homework at the 3rd and 4th grade levels should be focused on reading fluency and practicing math facts. "After that I am not sure what we are sending home that couldn't be accomplished in class," he said.

Assistant Principal Noah Collins for Stacy Middle School said that although it can fluctuate, they also follow the general rule of 10 minutes per grade level, where 5th graders would have approximately 50 minutes of homework per night; 6th graders, 60 minutes; and so on. The difference with the elementary schools, said Collins, was that homework in the middle school starts to come into play with students' grades. "Homework is a huge part of success in middle school," said Collins.

At the high school level, Principal Carolyn Banach said that the "fair amount" of homework is one of the ways the school is preparing students for college and careers, especially homework that is given over a period of time. "Students have to schedule their time accordingly, which helps them to develop their executive function skills; a very important element of what we instruct," she said.

Banach also said that when they talk to students about the time it takes them to complete homework assignments, they have found that a number of distractions including social media and texting can be a contributing factor to how long it takes.

After the panel discussions, a number of parents spoke out about concerns they had over homework including making sure that the tasks are individualized for students and questioning the reasons for giving homework over weekends and vacations. "When do they get a break?" commented one parent. "When a kid gets homework every night, they should get weekends and vacations off."


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