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School Board Discusses Changes to Homework, Recess Policies

by on January 09, 2018 10:28 AM

State College Area School Board on Monday delayed a vote on changes to elementary school, opting instead to continue discussion.

Superintendent Bob O'Donnell said additional feedback from the board and the district's Culture, Climate and Learning Committee would be helpful before finalizing the policies.

Revisions to the policies were discussed throughout the fall at the same time as the new school day schedule was being developed. Changes to the school day, beginning in 2018-19, were approved in December and extend the elementary day by 44 minutes, starting at 8:10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. 

The school day proposal set an increase in recess time, and board members and administrators said revisions to the homework policy would not increase, and could decrease homework time.

"As indicated by research findings, District homework regulations for elementary should emphasize the value of daily reading at home, indicate that required daily homework for classes in the K-5 level be kept to a minimum and that required daily homework increase slightly from primary (K-2) to intermediate grades (3-5)," according to the proposal.

The proposed policy sets 10 minutes of nightly reading and no other homework, except review of the communication folder, for kindergarten through second grade. 

For third grade, homework would include 20 minutes of nightly reading and a maximum of 10 minutes daily or 40 minutes weekly of other homework. Fourth and fifth grade homework would be 20 minutes of nightly reading and a maximum of 20 minutes daily or 80 minutes weekly for other homework. 

The policy includes a number of guidelines for teachers and families, including that teachers should communicate through newsletters and the Seesaw social media program what is being learned in the classroom.

Board member David Hutchinson said the district needs to be "communicating with parents and making them true partners in educating their children," and help them understand their role, though he added that would likely be outside the scope of the homework policy.

Missing recess may not be used as a punishment for not completing homework under the proposal.

The policy states that “the purpose of homework is to nurture an appreciation of learning outside of school by providing authentic, purposeful, and differentiated experiences that extend and reinforce classroom instruction.”

Board member Laurel Zydney said she appreciated that emphasis as opposed to giving children busy work, such as a list of spelling words the child already knows.

“Our intent here is to say that’s not how we envision homework, and I think that’s a good thing to include,” she said.

The proposed recess policy, meanwhile, calls for each elementary school to have at least 30 minutes of recess per day.

Temperature guidelines suggest full recess outside when the temperature is 15 degrees or above. Vernon Bock, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said the current guideline is 20 degrees, but that 15 degrees on a sunny day is different than on a cloudy day. The policy would allow flexibility for principals to communicate with teachers about how to handle recess on a given day.

If temperatures are 10 to 14 degrees, there would be 15 minutes, and at 5 to 9 degrees a "brisk walk" is possible at the principal's discretion. Other factors such as wind gusts and blacktop and playground conditions would give the principal discretion on whether there should be outdoor recess.

In the event of inclement weather, students would have indoor physical activity.

The policy also states that recess should be scheduled before lunch and should be in addition to scheduled physical education classes.

The board could vote on the policies at its meeting next week, but no date was scheduled.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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