Pine Belt school district ditches traditional homework practice

Pine Belt school district ditches traditional homework practice
Third graders at Clara Elementary have a folder for parents to check-in every week. Source: WDAM.

WAYNE COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Wayne County School District is trying out a new homework practice this year and so far, administrators say it is making the grade.

"I think sometimes 'homework,' the term is misleading," said Clara Elementary teacher Loria Newsome.  "We've got single parents, we've got grandparents involved, often it's a stress to go home and do an hour or two of homework."

Principal Donna Hopkins said administrators from across the district suggested the new practice, after teachers were seeing a trend at schools — a student's approach on homework was impacting his or her overall grade.

"They could do well in the classroom, but because of extra-curricular activities, they didn't choose to do the homework or have someone help them do the homework," Hopkins said.  "So, they were making D's, maybe F's and maybe not passing a grade."

Hopkins said the new practice is focused on having parents or family members reinforce what students are learning at school without requiring assignments or "busy" work.

"We expect a parent of a kindergarten student to ask while driving down the street, 'what does that sign say?'  For a high school student, just asking a question, 'what did you learn today?'" said Hopkins.

Superintendent Bob Jones said teachers ask students to give their best all day long, so he didn't feel like they should have to do that when they leave for the day.  Newsome, a third grade teacher, said the focus on reading has her asking parents or family members to read with their student at night.

"For us, homework now has become engagement through reading. We feel like time at home is well spent," Newsome said.  "It encourages conversation, it encourages vocabulary, it encourages parents to talk to their students and to have those good conversations at home which leads to good conversations at school."

"It makes the teachers more accountable, it makes the parents more accountable and the students have to listen and pay attention in class," Hopkins said.

The practice is a trial across the district this year and administrators will see if it's something they will continue this summer.