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LI school superintendents' viewpoints on homework

Educators emphasize the importance of reading, whatever their

Educators emphasize the importance of reading, whatever their viewpoints on the pros and cons of homework. Photo Credit: Getty Images / iStock

Debate about assigning homework to elementary school students arose after the Long Beach district announced it would eliminate traditional homework for those in kindergarten through fifth grade this fall and instead encourage children to read at home and devote more after-school time to play. Research and opinions vary on the value of homework for younger students. Newsday asked Long Island superintendents for their viewpoint and whether their district is considering revising a traditional approach to homework in elementary school.

TONIE MCDONALD
Levittown Union Free School District

It is the belief of the Levittown school district that homework can be a useful extension of the classroom and helps to teach students to manage their time well. We do not believe it should be onerous or burdensome to young children and their families.

Throughout this past year and continuing into the 2018-19 school year, we are engaging all stakeholders in what we believe will be a comprehensive look at this highly debated topic. Approaching from the broad premise that the younger a child is, the less homework they should have, we plan to develop guidelines for use throughout our district by the end of this school year.

All research points to engagement as the key to a meaningful education, and it is always our goal to provide the most effective and joyful education to our students. We want them to play and laugh and learn. We do not want "homework for the sake of homework," but rather to seek a balance between home and school.

KISHORE KUNCHAM

Freeport Union Free School District

Our current viewpoint is that homework is valuable for our elementary students. It aids in developing good study habits and responsibility. Assignments are not meant to be long or too taxing for our students, but are meant to allow for review, practice and as a follow-up assessment for instructors to guide each student’s learning. Homework assignments should be differentiated for students, similar to instruction.

The homework also allows our parents to become a partner in their child’s learning. Our homework assignments are clearly connected to classroom instruction, making the assignments both purposeful and meaningful as an extension of the school day. Reading and writing in a journal allows our students to practice and build their skills.

While research does vary on the pros and cons of homework on an elementary level, we still believe in the importance of short, targeted homework assignments on an elementary level. There are important skills to be gained from homework, including time management, practice and review, and self-accountability. It is not a question of eliminating homework, but how effective we are in making sure the assignments are meaningful. As a matter of best practice, this is something worth evaluating on a regular basis.

CHERYL PEDISICH
Three Village Central School District

The Three Village Central School District recognizes the myriad issues and concerns surrounding the topic of homework. Our district will be reconvening a “Homework Committee” early this fall to explore, review and re-evaluate current practices and, subsequently, depending on the outcome of discussion and feedback, revise our district policy on this salient issue. We will then be making a report to the Board of Education sometime in the fall of 2018.

Our review will include a multidisciplinary team of staff and administrators, as well as the incorporation of parent focus groups.

JAMES W. POLANSKY
Huntington Union Free School District

Homework has been a staple part of the education process for centuries. That, of course, doesn’t mean its application shouldn’t be reviewed, even scrutinized, in the context of how well it is helping students to grow. I don’t believe any educator would advocate for the assignment of meaningless busy work that would take students hours to complete on a given evening. With that said, simply declaring that homework should never be assigned takes the judgment of a classroom teacher, one who is in the best position to identify student strengths and deficiencies, completely out of the equation. Homework that is thoughtfully considered in terms of individual student needs and interests can serve a meaningful purpose. (It may be as simple as asking a student to read a short book to a family member.)

In Huntington, elementary students and parents have become accustomed to receiving communications from their principals and/or teachers prior to evenings on which formal homework assignments are expressly avoided; evenings on which, instead, students and parents are offered ideas and/or themes crafted to promote family dialogue (e.g. on topics of social and emotional importance). In sum, educators should continue to engage in professional conversations on how to best use (or not use) homework in an age-appropriate manner that considers the needs and learning styles of individual students; however, its blanket removal may lead to missed opportunities for student progress.

JOSEPH C. BOND
Bay Shore Union Free School District

I have always believed in the efficacy of homework.

Study after study has shown a positive correlation between the amount of homework a student completes and his or her level of academic success.

In Bay Shore, we believe that a moderate amount of homework given for the right reasons is beneficial. As a ground rule, I suggest approximately 10 minutes per grade level each night. It helps to establish routines and builds good habits, which is important when educating the whole child. Having to complete homework assignments at the elementary level builds a foundation for the secondary level.

I see every day the pressures placed upon the modern family. Parents work hard to provide the highest quality of life possible for their children. Sometimes this means they have less time to assist students with homework. One way to overcome this is to provide information on how parents can help students on assignments that require assistance.

Homework must be more than busy work meant to give the illusion of learning. It must reinforce the lessons already taught in the classroom as a way of ensuring learning sticks.

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