Is new homework policy working?

Published 8:41 pm Friday, January 4, 2019

Suffolk Public Schools has now gone a calendar year since the School Board enacted a new policy that limited homework for younger students, but some elementary school parents say they haven’t seen much change.

The policy, approved in November 2017 and effective at the beginning of January 2018, recommends that elementary students receive an amount of homework based on their grade level. Kindergarten students could get up to 10 minutes of homework, while first-graders could get 10 to 20 minutes. Second- through fifth-graders could get an amount of homework that would take them their grade level times 10, in minutes, to complete.

Prior to the policy change, Suffolk allowed up to 30 minutes for kindergarten students, up to 45 minutes for first-graders, up to 60 minutes for second-graders and up to 90 minutes for third- through fifth-graders.

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But some parents say their children are still receiving a lot of homework. Some have boycotted doing any work that is sent home.

Jen Mayer Kulp has two children at Northern Shores Elementary School, and she has only sat down with her children to do any kind of homework a few times.

“I can maybe count on one hand the times I’ve sat down and reinforced the information with her,” Kulp said. “If her grades were falling or struggling, we would put in the extra effort.”

Kulp and her husband, a well-known parent blogger and author, would rather put their focus on imaginative play and other extra-curricular activities. She believes that since she doesn’t come home and immediately do her work, then her children shouldn’t have to.

“To me, it doesn’t look like the workload has changed,” Kulp said.

Other parents agree with Kulp and believe their students are coming home with much more than the recommended amount of homework.

“I feel as though my third-grader still gets more than the recommended 30 minutes,” Nicola Smith-Wilson said.

Some parents, including Kulp, are working toward a complete homework ban.

“Childhood is fleeting, and our children have just a few short years to be kids,” Kulp said. “We spend an awful lot of time preparing to prepare.”

School administrators believe the current policy is going well and say they haven’t received many complaints regarding the current homework load.

“It is important to keep in mind that when teachers assign homework, they are assigning it based on their best estimate of how long it might take a student to complete it. However, this may vary from student to student based on many factors,” Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. LaToya Harrison said in an email. “It is important for parents to communicate with teachers if it is taking their child longer to complete the assigned work.”

Harrison said the administration can do little to enforce the policy, because the workload is individual to each student, but they have added questions regarding homework to the annual parent perception survey.

“We also ask principals to reinforce this expectation with their teachers,” Harrison said.