Homework PolicyQ

After two years of conducting research and meeting with teachers, administrators, parents, and students, PUSD has a new homework policy which focuses on ways to increase student learning. Central to the policy is the focus on student opportunities for reading, applying writing skills, and practicing previously taught math skills.

Homework serves to develop regular study skills and the ability to complete assignments independently. Homework guidelines emphasize that moderate assignments completed and done well are more effective than lengthy or difficult ones done poorly. 

Below you will find a collection of frequently asked questions regarding the PUSD homework policy. At the end of the questions, there are two links to the District's Board Policy and Guidelines.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Prepared by Pat Haslet, PUSD teacher, Turtleback Elementary School

QWhat is different about the new homework policy (6/27/05)? 
AThe homework policy was last revised in the early 1990’s. The former policy based homework assignments on an allocation of minutes (such as 20 minutes for first grade). We learned from the literature and research that teachers greatly underestimate the time it takes a student to complete a homework assignment. What we “thought” was 20 minutes of work was in reality 40 minutes of work. In our former policy, the focus was on the parent (planning work that the parents and child can do together, making projects with their child, etc.).

The policy focuses on the student being responsible for completing his or her homework, with the parent in a supporting role of monitoring completion of homework, encouraging student’s efforts, and providing a conducive environment for learning.
When we realized that homework should be independent work that a student can successfully complete on his or her own, we had a “shift” in our thinking. What teachers and students do together in the classrooms, the learning that takes place there – can be carefully monitored, with the teacher communicating with the student as needed. Once the student goes home, it is not possible to directly monitor the learning and therefore we need to make sure that the work is meaningful and an extension of the school day. We also realized that homework needs to be matched to the ability level and age of the student.

In a nutshell, what are the most important features of this policy? 
Central to the policy is the focus on student opportunities for reading, applying writing skills, and practicing previously taught math skills. Homework serves to develop regular study skills and the ability to complete assignments independently.

Q What are the guidelines for the homework policy? 
AHomework is defined as the time students spend outside the classroom in assigned learning activities. The PUSD Board of Education believes the purpose of homework should be to practice, reinforce, or apply acquired skills and knowledge. The Board also believes, as research supports, that moderate assignments completed and done well are more effective than lengthy or difficult ones poorly done. Homework serves to develop regular study skills and the ability to complete assignments independently. The Board further believes completing homework is the responsibility of the student, and as students mature they are more able to work independently. Therefore, parents play a supportive role through monitoring completion of assignments, encouraging students’ efforts, and providing a conducive environment for learning. Parents are encouraged to inform the teacher of any problems with the student and their homework.

Homework should be designed to: 
  • Place a strong emphasis on reading. 
  • Apply writing skills. 
  • Practice previously taught mathematics skills. 
Consider individual student needs, learning styles, and abilities in order for students to complete their homework. 
Relate to the grade level standards and learning objectives as a direct extension of classroom instruction. 
Include clear instructions and performance expectations so students can complete homework independently. 
Be assigned regularly and be assigned in reasonable amounts. 
Provide timely feedback for the student. 

Set high expectations regarding the quality of work. 

QWhat do you think sums up the purpose or essence of the new homework policy? 
A The purpose of homework should be to practice, reinforce, or apply acquired skills and knowledge. Homework serves to develop regular study skills and the ability to complete assignments independently.
Doing hours of homework will not necessarily make the student smarter, but reading, practicing skills taught by the teachers, developing regular study habits, learning to be responsible for completing assignments and turning them in on time… that’s what helps a student be successful, and that’s what it’s all about!!

Q How did this new homework policy come about? 
A Almost four years ago, PUSD teachers, principals, and administrators formed a Time & Learning Project Group where they studied the best use of time to enhance student learning in all areas. Reviewing the literature and research led to thinking about changes that could be made to increase learning. One idea brought forth was to take a look at current homework practices and see what changes could be made based on all the information collected.
Teachers wanted the same good work they are doing in the classroom being done at home. We have State and national standards that guide our teaching in the classroom. We wanted to create that same type of thing at home.
Teachers wanted a plan that gave them procedures and guidelines so that homework was consistent at each grade level. We have had a wide spectrum of homework practices across our district – from “nothing” to 25 projects a year. Same grades (next door) can have totally different homework expectations.

QWhat plan did the Time & Learning Project Group want to develop? 
AWe wanted a plan that reflected the best practices for student learning based on professional literature and research.
We wanted a plan that encouraged teacher collaboration/discussion so homework would be consistent and fair across our district.
We wanted a plan that was a reflection of teacher, parent, and student input gathered at forums and discussion groups.

Q What were some of the things that came up in the parent groups? 
A Parents also wanted clear expectations and a plan that was fair and consistent. They were concerned that some students have 3-4 hours of homework per night while others had hardly any.
Parents were concerned about “projects” – too many, too involved, etc.
Parents didn’t want homework assigned on weekends or over vacations.
The literature and research show that students need “natural breaks.” They need to be able to go on vacation and feel a sense of closure/completion and have family time. This makes sense! From a teaching standpoint, studies show that we often spend a lot of time reviewing after a vacation – better to finish the unit before the break and “start fresh” when you come back.


Q What really "stood out” in the literature and research?
A Reading was the most important factor in enhancing student learning grades K-12. Therefore we felt the new policy needed to place a strong emphasis on reading. Reading is the one thread that connects from grade K to grade 12 – and reading is something most parents can help with at home. There is no substitute for spending time reading to your child, with your child, or having them read to you.

Poway Unified School District Board Policy - 3.24 – Homework
Poway Unified Administrative Procedure

 

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