Above: A parent and child spend time reading together. In the district’s new approach to homework, which modifies homework guidelines for children in kindergarten through third grade, 20 minutes of daily reading is encouraged.

New homework guidelines for Vancouver Public Schools will allow time for younger students to enjoy family learning activities after the school day is over.

The guidelines align with the learning needs of students. Said Layne Manning, director of curriculum, “We are supportive of assignments that directly connect to classroom learning so students are set up for success. We are asking teachers to consider the needs of each student.”

The guidelines modify homework assignments for children in kindergarten through third grade. Teachers can still provide practice sheets and recommend after-school activities to reinforce lessons, and 20 minutes of daily reading is encouraged. Students at these grade levels will not be penalized for unfinished homework assignments, however.

Guidelines for older students are focused on the amount of time students should be expected to spend on homework.

“We encourage families to spend their time together in creative, fun and interactive activities,” said Manning. “Reading, cooking or taking a walk together are activities that lead to conversation and learning. We also encourage teachers to recommend activities that will help parents help their children in reinforcing specific skills that relate directly to what they’re learning in the classroom.”

The changes reflect current research, which shows that homework assignments given to children in primary grades offer few, if any, educational benefits. For some students, homework can create stress and anxiety if the assignments are time-consuming; difficult; and take them away from opportunities for physical and creative activities such as sports, the arts and reading.

“VPS teachers are committed to educating the whole child and creating a healthy balance for children and their families,” said Debra Hale, executive director of teaching and learning.

Specific revisions to Policy 2420 concerning homework aim to improve instruction and enhance achievement. Homework assignments should be a constructive tool for teaching and learning and be geared to the needs and abilities of students. The guidelines will be rolled out in the fall.

Guidelines for assigning homework

The frequency and duration of assignments:

  1. Kindergarten through third grade—students will not be penalized for unfinished homework assignments. Encouragement should be provided to engage in family home learning activities such as reading to and with their child, outside play, puzzles and games, etc.
  2. Fourth and fifth grades—two to four homework assignments per week, each lasting not more than 15 to 45 minutes, that will take into account the student’s developmental age, learning goals and program of studies
  3. Sixth through eighth grades—three to five assignments per week per student, each lasting 45 to 75 minutes
  4. Ninth through 12th grades—three to five assignments per week per student, each lasting 75 to 120 minutes
  5. Students enrolled in special K-12 programs, including language immersion, Highly Capable, Honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and College in the High School, may have additional assignments in accordance with program goals and requirements.