By Dr. Brett Geithman, Executive Director, MBUSD Educational Services
I’m a parent of a Kindergartener and 2nd Grader. On those nights when we have dance, followed by soccer practice, while also trying to fit in homework, dinner and a bath before the 7:45 bedtime (if I’m being honest) the first homework assignment we cut out is reading. Many of you can probably relate, as you don’t have to turn in anything for reading and you can “make it up” on the weekend, right? Even though I understand the research behind the importance of reading, and should probably skip spelling that evening instead of reading, I have this guilt of sending my kid to school the next day without that spelling sheet completed.
Last year MBUSD formed a committee to examine our current state of elementary homework, examine what the research recommends, and create guidelines for all schools to use. What we uncovered was that MBUSD has set homework expectations that align to the PTA recommendations; however, it has been a while since we’ve revisited these expectations or guidelines with teachers. We also found that there was a variance amongst teachers as to whether or not they included homework in a student’s grade, how they responded to missing assignments, and the type of homework given. Finally, upon examination of a meta-analysis (consisting of over 800 studies on homework) we found that some state homework should be assigned to establish good learning habits and keep families informed about their child’s learning (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Gorges & Elliot, 1999). Others argue (Kohn, A., 2012) that homework shows only an association, not causational relationship, with academic achievement. Still, there are some who see that homework can be useful and worthwhile, but that it has not been useful in many cases (Vatterott, C., 2009). Allington (2012) indicates that volume of reading is linked to attaining higher-order literacy proficiencies, and that being able to read at grade level by the 3rd grade is a significant predictor of future student achievement.
So now what? After much reading, surveying teachers, and meeting as a committee, we decided to revive the MBUSD/National PTA recommendations for homework, with an increased emphasis on reading. Below are the MBUSD Homework Guidelines:
Grades K-2: 20 minutes (15 minutes daily reading; 5 minutes at teacher discretion) Example: Read 15 minutes daily; one night count a collection at home and record what you counted (accumulation of 20 minutes from the week).
Grades 3-5: 30, 40, and 50 minutes per night, respectively with 20 minutes reserved for reading and the remaining minutes at teacher discretion.
Homework should be meaningful, not count towards student grades. Missing homework should initiate communication with the student/parent rather than consequences, and it should be a means to develop work and study habits. We understand that you’re raising a “whole child” and that includes academics, sports, the arts, play dates, family excursions, and simply time to be a kid and play. Raising a whole child isn’t only for elementary students, in fact, MBUSD Board Goal #3 addresses homework in stating, “Examine the amount and types of homework assigned and develop a plan to ensure that homework is effective, meaningful, manageable, and relevant.” Our goal is to align our homework practices to research, focus on what is essential for your elementary child’s academic future (literacy), and also create time for those meaningful experiences you provide for your children outside of school.