SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE: Musikar-Rosner Shares Thoughts On School District’s Homework Policy

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple recently asked all six Wilmington School Committee candidates about the feelings on the district’s homework policy.

This week’s response schedule is as follows: Sabrina Hewitt (Monday), Jennifer Bryson (Tuesday), Steve Bjork (Wednesday), Kathleen O’Donoghue (Thursday), Rhonda Musikar-Rosner (Friday), Amy Largenton (Saturday), and a recap (Sunday). [Editor’s Note: These responses may run out-of-order due to an email mixup that was my fault.]

Below is the response from candidate Rhonda Musikar-Rosner.

Rhonda Musikar-Rosner

QUESTION: The School Committee “establishes and periodically reviews policies for the schools in the district.”  Policy making is one of the most important roles of the committee, but it’s often overlooked.  Let’s use a prime example… Review the district’s current policy on Homework (IKB & IKB-E).  Would you change anything?

ANSWER: The homework policy is the one policy that definitely needs to be reviewed.  According to the district,  “The term ‘homework’ refers to an assignment to be prepared during a period of supervised study in class or outside of class. The purposes of homework are to improve the learning processes, to aid in the mastery of skills, and to create and stimulate interest on the part of the student. Homework is a learning activity which should increase in complexity with the maturity of the student.”

As a parent of children in Elementary and Middle schools, and as High school counselor, I find homework to be a topic of discussion not only in my house but at work, at sports events, and many other social gatherings.  While I am not a big fan of homework, I do understand the value of the right amount of homework.  This right amount of homework needs to be dependent on each students needs.  According to the district policy: “Kindergarten Occasional assignments Grade 1 15 minutes (Mon. – Thurs.) Grade 2 30 minutes (Mon. – Thurs.) Grade 3 30-45 minutes (Mon. – Thurs.) Grade 4 45-60 minutes (4 times per week) Grade 5 60-75 minutes (4 times per week) Grade 6, 7 & 8 75-120 minutes Grades 9-12 90-180 minutes with an average of 30 minutes per course”.

The amount of time in the district policy may not be realistic.  It does not take into account the individual child.  Examples of this are children that struggle academically due to a learning disability or a child that is a honor roll student but does his or her homework slowly and carefully.  For theses children, one hour will turn into several hours.  At the elementary level, most children are exhausted after a full day of learning.  To expect a child to be able to sit for another hour after school to do homework may not be pragmatic.  Kids need some down time.  In order for children to be well rounded individuals, they should be able to play, to participate in other activities such as sports. Middle School children start school at 7:20 in the morning by the time they get home they are tired from getting up early in the morning.  It is unfair to have them do between 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours of homework.  The same goes for High School Level students.  Three hours of  homework does not prepare one for college.

There are supposed to be consistency amongst teachers in same grades, but realistically there is not.  Even in the kindergarten grades there are some teachers that give more homework than others.  In the Middle school there are houses that are known as the “homework houses”.

Homework should be enough to reinforce that a child has understood the lesson.  Having a child do 20 math problems does not benefit a child if they can’t do one.  Does a child doing hours of homework turn an average student into an above average student?  In my experience it only serves to stress them out.

There is discussion at the Woburn Street  School to eliminate homework as it would provide the kids with some time to engage in more social activities and allow teachers to focus on lesson planning instead of correcting.  It is a step in the right direction but there needs to be a way for parents/guardians to support academic learning at home.  To do this, we need to look at other districts such as Acton that already have this policy in place.

As a district, we need to look at whether the students from the homework houses are more successful.  As a parent, I questioned the homework policy and was told that it was realistic for my 6th grader to have 75-120 minutes of homework a night.  I would rather see him outside playing sports on a nice day then sitting at his desk doing hours of homework afterschool.  As School Counselor for 25 years,  I have seen students with high IQ s fail classes because they refused to do homework but got A’s on their tests.

What Wilmington needs is a fair and equitable homework policy that is consistent amongst grades and teachers.  One that does not punish a child for not doing homework but reinforces them for trying to do it.  If elected to serve as a School Committee member it will be one of my priorities to work as a team with fellow School Committee members, teachers, Administrators and parents to ratify this policy to meet the best interests of the students.

Thank you for your time,

Rhonda Musikar-Rosner

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