Broward County Schools Homework Policy Middle School

Elementary schools in Marion County will say goodbye to everyday homework in the coming school year after Superintendent Heidi Maier said research shows it does not enhance learning.

Maier, who took office in November, notified parents and teachers of the change at the district’s 31 elementary schools on Wednesday via automated phone message. The new rule will not apply to high school and middle school students.

District public information officer Kevin Christian says the district is calling on parents to replace traditional homework assignments with 20-minute reading sessions in hopes of “getting parents and students involved in something they can do together and enjoy.”

READ MORE: One Miami-Dade school says no to homework; will others follow?

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The research Maier cites was conducted by University of Tennessee professor Richard Allington, who specializes in theory and practice in teacher education. The crux of his findings? Reading to a child has more benefits than homework.

Christian summarized the research this way: “Homework for the sake of homework is not advantageous for a student. It isn’t constructive and doesn’t provide a meaningful learning experience.”

He said district leaders would instead like to see bonding time happen between students and their parents, as well as give students the freedom to consume material that genuinely interests them. When it comes to how students learn, he said, “we want them to own it.”

When asked if doing away with homework will slow the pace of learning, Christian noted that less homework should translate to more teaching time in the classroom, as teachers will not be as tied up with grading assignments.

READ MORE: Homework battle pits parents against teachers at School Board meeting

Teachers will still have the authority to assign homework, but will be encouraged to do so sparingly and only for larger projects, like the science fair, Christian said.

The district plans to use its electronic flyer service and automated voice messages to remind parents of the new initiative throughout the school year. Those who need help picking reading material can contact their child’s school media center for recommendations.

“We believe it is going to enhance what is already going on in the classroom,” he said, adding that the district has received no negative comments about the change.

READ MORE: New school year, same homework battles

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Broward County School Board is giving a new assignment to teachers for the upcoming school year: Take care when you're handing out homework.

The School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved homework guidelines that urge teachers to assign academically challenging work while also being considerate about not assigning too much homework.

While the policy doesn't stipulate time limits for homework, the district's guidelines suggest 10 minutes of work for each grade level. A first grader's assignment would take about 10 minutes to finish, while a high school junior's total homework load would take 110 minutes.

Board member Phyllis Hope said she sympathizes with overloaded students, and the parents who help them. She watched her 12-year-old grandson Tuesday night, and spent four hours helping him with a project.

The policy also requires teachers to provide "timely and appropriate feedback" on assignments, be sensitive about the costs of materials for projects, and collaborate with other teachers so projects are not assigned at the same time.

Though board members approved the policy Wednesday, it will take effect in the 2009-10 school year.

Jeanne Jusevic, chairwoman of the District Advisory Committee and parent of two Monarch High School students, said she thinks parents will find the new guidelines helpful.

Though many teachers try not to overwhelm students with too many assignments, "occasionally, parent complaints fall on deaf ears," Jusevic said. "Now we have a policy and procedures that we can point to."

Kathy Bushouse can be reached at kbushouse@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4556.

INFORMATIONAL BOX:

Balancing Act

The Broward County School Board's new homework guidelines include these suggestions:

* Middle and high school teachers should collaborate so projects aren't assigned at the same time. They also should be considerate when requiring assignments due the day after a religious holiday, district holidays and weekends.

* Students should make sure they understand their assignments. They also must complete assignments by due date.

* Parents should make sure children have sufficient time to do their homework. They also should prohibit cheating, plagiarism or other dishonest practices.

SOURCE: Broward County School Board

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