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Homework quantities vary

November 08, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Homework is an activity that got its name because of where it always had been done.

But as 21st-century education continues to evolve and adapt, more and more homework is being done at school or in some cases, not being assigned in the quantities it used to be, some Tri-State area educators said.

In Berkeley County, W.Va., schools, "We have what we call a guided practice governing homework," said Frank Aliveto, deputy superintendent of schools. "The guide is 10 minutes of homework for each grade level so the kids won't be overloaded."

That would translate into approximately 40 minutes of homework a night for a fourth-grader or a maximum of two hours for a high school senior, according to Aliveto's example.

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Dave Reeder, principal of Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, said he firmly believes in the value of homework for all Washington County students, but especially for those who are bound for college.

"The old ratio of two hours of study for each hour of class in college is still the rule today," Reeder said. "Our students need the work ethic of homework to prepare them for that."

At Springfield, parents can take advantage of a "homework hot line," which allows them to call in and find out what homework has been assigned, Reeder said. In his third year as principal, Reeder said the hot line works well.

"It's a team approach," he said. All of the assignments are compiled and then recorded on the phone-in line that the parents then may access.

Reeder said he's looking forward to the day when the same result can be accomplished via links to the school's Web site.

"Approximately 85 percent of all homes now have a computer, and most of those are on the Internet," Reeder said. "We're getting there."

Barbara Rice, principal at Northern Middle School, agrees that homework is part of the expectations for all students.

"And we have some supports in place such as the hot line," she said. "After all, not all students are as excited about homework as others."

Parents overwhelmingly are the biggest users of the hot line and that is why it works, Rice said.

At Northern Middle, there is a tacit policy for teachers to try to start students working on homework before they go home each day. "That way, the teachers are there to answer questions that might arise," she said.

In some cases, students who are having a problem getting their homework done can get special attention at school, Rice said.

"We no longer have study halls, per se, but we might make such a time available after school for those students who need help with homework," Rice said. "It is still a central part of education."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are instances when parents call in to complain about too much homework, Rice said, noting that it often is a situation where three or four teachers plan a test on the same day.

"We communicate with each other here, so that doesn't happen often," Rice said.

Homework at James Buchanan High School in the Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pa., still is a big part of the educational picture, though there have been efforts to cut back a little, Principal Robert Beaumont said.

"We have an informal guideline of no more than two to three hours of homework a night, but we try to stay under that," he said.

As for testing and deadlines for papers, Beaumont said teachers coordinate those with each other so everything isn't due at the same time.

"Some teachers require papers to be typed, so we have to make sure all students have access to computers for that," Beaumont said. During the school day, students may use the computers in the activity room or the library to complete such homework assignments if they don't have computers at home.

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