Homework refers to all assignments that students are expected to complete outside of school hours, such as reading assignments, problem sets, papers, and work on larger or long-term projects, or studying for tests, quizzes and other assessments.
The Howard County Public School System supports students in maintaining and extending their learning. The appropriate design, use, and evaluation of homework assignments, used to inform progress and provide opportunities for independent practice, are part of achieving that goal. We welcome continued feedback on the Homework Guidelines from all stakeholders.
Features of Homework
- Motivational: Teachers will provide homework that is meaningful and motivating and is grounded in and expands upon skills and knowledge students have learned in the classroom.
- Purposeful: Students should understand the purpose of all homework assignments and, as is appropriate for their grade level, be included in the design of assignments to reflect their own interests and experiences.
- Appropriate: Homework should be able to be individualized or differentiated so that all students can experience success in independent completion of assignments. No assignments will require assistance from adult family members. Students with disabilities will be given homework that is appropriate for their present level of performance. Accommodations will be provided as outlined in students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans on homework.
- Informational: Homework is one tool schools have available to them that allows parents to be included in their child’s day-to-day school experiences.
- Flexible: Assignments can be successfully completed with resources that are readily available within flexible timeframes to accommodate differing student schedules and pace.
Homework will incorporate the following criteria:
- Schools will provide information to parents on the school’s homework procedures, the purpose(s) of homework, and how parents can help monitor, assist, and discuss homework. Each school will communicate this information to parents at the beginning of every school year and make this information readily available throughout the school year.
- Students, parents, and teachers should communicate about scheduled and actual homework completion times to ensure realistic expectations for the completion of assignments.
- Homework will be planned so students see the relationship of their homework to intended learning targets, see meaning in their assignments, have a clear understanding of the procedures and due dates, understand how their homework is evaluated, and understand how they can use feedback on homework to improve understanding. Teaching staff will ensure that students understand the purpose of assignments and how they connect to classroom learning.
- Teachers are legally required to ensure that homework is accommodated/modified as necessary in accordance with students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Classwork and homework accommodations must be provided per students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Students should not be penalized for failure to complete classwork or homework when accommodations are not provided. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) best practices should be used when assigning homework.
- Teachers will check homework, provide feedback on assignments, and return homework to students in order to ensure feedback can be implemented. All homework assignments that are graded will be returned no later than three weeks from due date with the understanding that feedback to students is more meaningful for learning the sooner it is provided. Each school’s administrators will support teachers in the development of clear guidelines for late or missing homework, as well as determine the percentage of students’ grades that can be derived from homework assignments. Homework may be reviewed or evaluated as part of class activities, briefly, but class time should not be used for the completion of homework.
- Students may have more than one teacher. Therefore, teams of teachers will discuss homework activities and projects in order to follow grade level homework duration guidelines. Canvas tools will be made available as one option to help teachers coordinate major projects and exams. Teachers will be understanding of student circumstances and should tailor homework assignments with flexible due dates when possible so that students can complete homework tasks throughout the week based on their individual schedules.
- All students may not have access to electronic communications outside their school building. Therefore, no mandatory assignments are to be given to students electronically when schools are not in session, including during emergency closings. All homework assignments are to be given during the class period and no assignments are to be due before the next time the class meets. In addition, students are not to be required to submit previously assigned work electronically if the due dates occur during emergency closings. Technology may be available to increase efficiency and flexibility in submitting assignments, but will not be required for successful completion. All efforts will be made to give students access to school computers for the completion of assignments.
- County- and state-mandated testing is a legitimate reason for reducing homework assignments.
- There will be no mandatory homework given over the summer nor religious holidays for all grade levels, nor winter or spring breaks for students in grades Pre-K–8. Any work assigned over breaks will be voluntary and non-graded enrichment activities.
- Reading lists and additional resources will be available during the breaks, as well as throughout the school year, as a service to students who want an opportunity to improve reading and mathematics skills. Families will be provided with access to resources to supplement reading and mathematics instruction for students.
Grades Pre-K – 2
- Amount of Homework: No more than 20 minutes of homework per night will be assigned. In Pre-K and Kindergarten there will be no assignments that must be submitted to the teacher.
- Purpose of Homework: Homework provides practice opportunities for skill development.
- Families are encouraged to read to or with their children nightly.
- Families are encouraged to practice grade appropriate math facts or related activities on a nightly basis.
Grades 3 – 5
- Amount of Homework: The benefits of homework increase as students age. For homework duration, approximately one to four hours of homework per week is suggested for each student in Grades 3 – 5, with no more than 30 minutes required per night in grade 3, 40 minutes in grade 4, and 50 minutes in grade 5.
- Purpose of Homework: Homework assignments usually reinforce previously taught skills and may prepare students for future lessons, promote creativity, and/or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
Grades 6 – 8
- Amount of Homework: Approximately five to eight hours of homework a week are suggested for each middle school student across their class schedule. Each instructor assigns an average of, at most, one hour of homework per week. There may be weeks where less homework is assigned.
- Purpose of Homework: Homework assignments will reinforce curriculum through tasks that contribute to learning and understanding. These may reinforce previously taught skills, prepare students for future lessons, extend learning, promote creativity, and/or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
- Expectations of Homework: Students will provide input on the best ways to demonstrate or articulate learning and apply skills. Teachers will tailor assignments with flexible due dates when possible so that students can complete homework tasks throughout the week based on their individual schedules.
Grades 9 – 12
- Amount of Homework: An upper limit of seven to fourteen hours of homework a week is suggested for each high school student. Some classes might require students to spend more or less time on homework than is typical.
- Purpose of Homework: Homework will be designed as an extension of classroom learning. Students will be told the purpose(s) of homework assignments. Homework should be reflective, preparatory, reinforcing, and instructive.
- Expectations of Homework: The goals and expectations for homework will be clear and include opportunities for student input. Choice will be a consideration in the assignment of homework duration, rigor, product, and weight in grading. A syllabus is recommended for distribution at the beginning of every semester outlining each course’s requirements, including regular assignments, projects, possible due dates, and procedures for requesting feedback on assignments.
Future Actions on the Homework Guidelines
These guidelines will be effective for the 2017–18 school year, and will be evaluated and refined throughout the year in collaboration with teachers, parents, and students for inclusion in the revisions of Policies 8010 and 8020, Grading and Reporting: PreK–12.
Provide feedback to about homework guidelines the policy committees→
William Kirk, a senior at Highland High School, spends nearly an hour each night doing homework on average. That's too much, he said.
"I think it just has to be done to get a grade in class," Kirk said. "It doesn't teach me anything."
Chris Gilmer and Jaime Perea, also seniors there, find homework essential. They take college prep and Advanced Placement classes, so usually have several hours of homework each night.
"It's not a problem with me," Gilmer said. "It's preparing me for college and for the long run."
"People complain about homework," Perea said. "Most of those people are just lazy."
How much homework is too much? And are there policies that address how much time should be devoted to homework?
We sampled homework policies in several local school districts and schools to see how much they recommend.
POLICIES AS GUIDELINES
Earlier this month, the Davis Joint Unified School District in northern California decided to ask parents if they think teachers overload their kids with homework.
The district plans to use the survey results to reshape homework policies, which currently allow its teachers to assign 10 minutes of homework each day beginning in kindergarten, and increase it by 10 minutes for each grade level, capping at three hours for high schoolers.
Those guidelines are not too far off from what districts here ask.
Among districts with elementary and middle schools, the recommended homework dose in kindergarten ranges from 15 minutes to 20 minutes per day for four days. Kindergarten policies ask parents to also put in work by reading to their children.
As a student graduates to higher grades, that time goes up to roughly 30 minutes in third grade, 45 minutes in grade six, and about an hour in junior high.
The Kern High School District recommends one hour for each class per week, while college preparatory students should expect two hours.
Students can take a handful of college prep or AP classes at one time.
Some districts, like Fruitvale and Rosedale Union school districts, leave it up to school sites to police homework. Others use a general board policy, which isn't strictly policed.
The policies, school officials say, are instead used as a guide.
"Ours are just guidelines for teachers to follow," said Bakersfield City School District spokesman Steve Gabbitas. "It's up to the principal to see how it's being implemented."
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
Homework should be relevant and purposeful, said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer in Stanford University's School of Education and director of Challenge Success, a project with schools to counter the causes of adolescent academic stress.
The most valuable homework is that which is perceived by students to be meaningful, while simply providing "busy work" does nothing, she said. A research paper she co-authored, "Hazardous Homework?," analyzes the effects of homework on students. Among the findings:
"Any student who is doing more than 3 1/2 hours of homework a night is actually at risk for higher stress levels and poor mental and physical health," Pope said.
In elementary schools, "homework is overrated and over-assigned," she said. In general, more homework is being assigned today than years before.
Pope's study attributes studies from Harris Cooper, whose research has had an impact on policies and practices nationwide.
All homework policies in districts address some form of parent participation, whether it's reading to kindergartners or having parents act as a resource.
Throughout the years, Pope said, there's been a change in mindset at schools, where the thought is that more assigned homework results in students getting up to state standards.
"What we see is that parents expect more homework, and districts expect it," Pope said.
For Lisa Anderson, helping Audrey, her third-grade Gifted and Talented Education student at Downtown Elementary, can be daunting, she said.
They've had nights where they spent nearly three hours on work, she said.
"It's overwhelming," Anderson said.
Leslie Painter finds homework sometimes cuts into family time. She helps her eighth-grader, Tristan, with algebra.
"Sometimes homework is too much," said Painter, whose son also goes to Downtown. "But I know there are standards to keep up with."
Jillian and Ronny Acosta spend about 15 minutes a day reading to Donnie, their second-grader at Thorner Elementary School. Then there's a weekly packet of math and spelling problems Donnie has to complete.
"It's been a while since I've been in the second grade, but I don't remember having as much work as they get today," Jillian Acosta said.
However, little Donnie doesn't seem to mind.
"It's good," he said. "It helps me learn."