Montclair schools talk homework policy
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair is going to be taking a look at its homework policy this spring.
The district’s homework policy was scheduled to come up for discussion at the April 12 board of education meeting.
“There are a lot of conflicting points of view,” Board President Jessica de Koninck said on Monday. Some of the concerns from parents, she said, have included whether children in lower grades are getting too much homework, as well as whether the homework itself is meaningful or just busywork.
The board’s policy committee has been reviewing the homework policy for several months. At the suggestion of then-Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi, the district put together a focus group of Montclair High School students to ask for their recommendations on a homework policy. As of Monday, de Koninck said, the board was still awaiting the findings from the focus group.
She said the discussion of the homework policy on April 12 would proceed as other presentations do, with findings from the policy committee and a public comment period. After the meeting, she said, the board would start the process of crafting an official policy, a process that could take two or three months.
Montclair has had a homework policy in place in some form for several years, de Koninck said.
The version that is currently in the district’s policy database was last updated in December.
“We want to have something in place by September,” de Koninck said.
A draft version of the revised policy includes a tiered scale for the recommended amount of homework per grade level: teacher’s discretion in kindergarten; up to 30 minutes for first through third grade; up to 50 minutes for fourth and fifth grades; up to 75 minutes for middle school students and up to two hours for high school students.
“The Board of Education believes that homework assignments at all grade levels provide a meaningful extension of student learning experiences and help students develop initiative, independence and learning responsibility,” the draft says.
One rule often cited in homework guidelines, including those endorsed by the National PTA and the National Education Association, is the 10-minute rule: that a child should spend no more than 10 minutes per grade level on their homework, which works out to 10 minutes for a first-grader, 20 minutes for a second-grader, and so on.
“I think the thing that people are talking about the most is how homework is impacting the quality of family life,” says parent Colleen Daly Martinez. Some of the recurring concerns among many families, she said, include whether children are getting too much homework, as well as whether the homework is developmentally appropriate for the child.
One issue, she claimed, is that there is a lack of consistency among the schools about how much homework a teacher should assign; one teacher may assign very little homework, while another teacher in the same grade level may assign large amounts.
There was also the issue of equity, Daly Martinez said: wealthier families in the district are more likely to be able to help their children with homework, and provide additional resources and supplies for projects, than are families with more modest incomes. “It’s something that [the district] should really look into,” she said.
Martinez urged that Montclair’s policy be based on research on how much homework is beneficial for students. “Even to have some guidelines that are followed consistently throughout the district,” she said.
“These kids are kids,” she said. “Where is their time to be a kid? Where is their time to enjoy being with their parents?”