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Niskayuna to limit homework in elementary grades

Niskayuna to limit homework in elementary grades

'These are guidelines, they don’t start to proscribe what we assign for homework'
Niskayuna to limit homework in elementary grades
Students arrive for the first day of school at Craig Elementary in Niskayuna on Sept. 6, 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Niskayuna elementary school students can expect to receive less homework starting next month as district officials roll out new homework guidelines, limiting time on homework for young students.

The new guidelines, the response to recommendations from a committee of teachers and parents, limit homework time to no more than 15 minutes daily for students in kindergarten through second grade and between 15 and 30 minutes each days for students in third through fifth grades.

The current guidelines are set for each grade level and allow for as much as 30 minutes of homework in second grade -- twice what will be allowed under the new rules -- and 45 minutes in fifth grade.

In a presentation to the school board Tuesday night, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill said she hoped the new guidelines would spark a broader discussion about the role of homework and whether what teachers were assigning was the most effective way to reinforce classroom lessons.

She also emphasized that the new guidelines did not spell out what kind of homework teachers assigned to students and noted that it would take time to transition to the new policy – particularly since the new rules come in the middle of a school year.

“These are guidelines, they don’t start to proscribe what we assign for homework,” Gemmill said.

Gemmill said the district is working to encourage elementary students to spend time reading each night and that that was a key factor in deciding to lessen other homework assignments.

“It’s about the importance of time for students to read nightly,” Gemmill said after the meeting. “You have to look at what that is in addition to the homework.

Homework guidelines in other districts in the region allow for more homework than Niskayuna’s new policy. In Shenendehowa, for example, a formal regulation spells out guidelines for each grade: starting with 10 minutes in kindergarten and first grade and adding 10 minutes for each grade, with up to 2 hours of total homework allowed by senior year of high school.

The homework rules appear to mirror a standard recommended by the National PTA and other organizations: 10 minutes of total homework starting in first grade and an additional 10 minutes for each year a student progresses through school.

“The quality of the homework assignment shall be the driving factor versus the quantity of assignments,” according to the Shenendehowa rule.

Fifth-graders at Stevens Elementary School in Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake can expect to have as much as four hours of homework a week – 48 minutes a night -- not including independent reading or “the practice of math facts and the like,” according to the school website. The description of the school’s homework expectations said students were also expected to finish work not completed in class and that students receiving remedial support in reading or other subjects may have extra work or practice.

During the Niskayuna board meeting, Gemmill said homework has its benefits -- especially for older students -- and said it was important students in fifth grade prepared for the higher expectations, and increased homework load, they will face in sixth grade.

“It’s important we think of these guidelines as a foothold, … so when our kids transition to sixth grade, they are able to handle that,” she said.

 

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