Worcester Schools Consider 'No Homework Days'

The Worcester School Committee is discussing a proposal meant to lighten students' workload and keep education consistent across the city's public schools

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No homework days are an idea being considered to lighten the load for students in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Worcester School Committee will review the district's homework policy at the request of committee member Molly McCullough, who says parents report a wide variance in afterschool workloads.

"I have some parents that say that their child has minimal homework each night, and they feel that that really does relieve some of those stressors at home. But then I have some that feel like their child is getting too much and they have hours of it each night, and the tension that it can cause within the family," said McCullough. "I want to make sure that if one third grade class at a school in the city is getting, you know, an hour of homework a night, that there isn't another school in the city where there's no homework that's given each night — making sure that there's a balance and equity throughout the district, but also making sure that the work that is being assigned is tying in with the lesson at hand and that it has its purpose surrounding what our educators are working on."

Worcester Public Schools' current homework policy provides guidelines that outline a gradual increase in the amount of homework a student may be assigned so that students are not overloaded with homework on any particular night. The policy handbook says students are introduced to homework in kindergarten through second grade, when they might be asked to finish papers that were started in school or rehearse early reading skills and math skills.

Formal homework is introduced in the third grade, where students are assigned between 15 and 30 minutes of homework on a daily basis. In the fourth grade, homework may increase to between 45 and 60 minutes on a daily basis. In fifth and sixth grades, students are assigned between an hour and 90 minutes of homework on a daily basis.

The combined minimum daily homework for academic assignments from middle school teachers should be 120 minutes. The average minimum daily homework assignment from the high school teachers should be 45 minutes per academic subject, and up to one hour for AP classes.

As part of the discussion, McCullough says the committee could explore having no homework assigned on specific days.

"We talk a lot about social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, and we know that particularly post-pandemic, that a lot of our students are still struggling, a lot of our adults are still struggling," McCullough said. "So we'd want to make sure that it's just a time for students and their families to be able to either have some downtime, or perhaps the student is participating in extracurriculars and there's not that, you know, panicked feeling of 'I need to get to practice' and that 'I need to make sure I get home and eat dinner and then get my homework done, or how am I going to do my homework? And am I going to have time to do it tonight? Or am I going to have to get up early before school?' I think any parent can relate to that tension, right, that you have with your children when it comes to making sure they're getting their homework done."

McCullough said she decided to bring the topic up for discussion after seeing a presentation about homework by the Citywide Parent Advisory Council.

"We just want to make sure that there is a holistic approach to homework, that it's meaningful, that it's related to the content that is covered in class, and that it's not just busy work," said Nicole Caligiuri, co-chair of the council. "We also just want to make sure there's also enough time for kids to be kids and time for kids, to decompress, and time for families to come together and spend time together."

The school committee was scheduled to take up this discussion during its meeting Thursday night.

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