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Education Department to Institute Homework Policy


July 31, 2005 — Officials at the Department of Education say they want to see more students finish their homework, and towards that end they're setting up a new territorywide homework policy. Plans are underway to introduce the public to the new policy in a series of forums scheduled around the start of class in a few weeks.
The policy was developed with the help of a committee put together by Education Commissioner Dr. Noreen Michael and project director Randolph Thomas. Michael recently expressed hopes that the policy would promote stronger ties between parents and educators by putting a new focus on home-based learning.
"The mission of the Territorial Homework Policy is to enable all students to reach higher levels of achievement and to acquire the knowledge, skills and values they need to become responsible members of a democratic society. Homework provides both an expression of the state of school's seriousness of purpose as well as a window into each student's daily life at school," the commissioner said in a statement issued from the department July 28.
To introduce the details, a series of public forums are scheduled for Aug. 22, 24 and 25, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The series begins August 22 on St. John at the Julius E. Sprauve School.
On St. Thomas, the public is invited to a homework policy forum on August 24 at the Holiday Inn/Windward Passage Hotel.
The final forum is scheduled for St. Croix on Aug. 25 at the Department of Education Curriculum Center in Kingshill.
Thomas says a lot of work went into developing the policy now set to be unveiled. "We surveyed teachers and students and administrators; we did research and began to put a draft policy in place," Thomas said. The forums are being held to make sure the new homework policy is the product of many hands, he said, giving stakeholders a chance to review the policy, ask questions and add suggestions.
One of the things Thomas said the research revealed was that homework may be favored by parents and teachers as a learning tool but doesn't get the desired follow-through. "When we surveyed the school system — parents were surveyed — there was a very positive attitude about homework. But the responses from teachers about the completion of homework is not so positive," Thomas said. "This is not in the Virgin Islands alone. In many public schools, students would not return homework … We're not getting students to actually do the homework."
It's a statement that has a familiar ring to Claudine Scatliffe, an elementary school paraprofessional and mother of five from St. John. Scatliffe said she had mixed emotions about the proposed policy and hoped policy makers had done their own homework over what to expect students to do when they're at home and what they expect from parents.
"It's one good way for the parents to get involved because last year we had students who never did homework at all and the parent's excuse was they didn't know," she said.
However, in a moment of reflection she admitted she had a similar story to tell about two of her own children, one in eight grade and one in the ninth.
"I would hope they would do their homework," she said, but she didn't know for sure.
Thomas hopes parents like Scatliffe will be interested enough to attend their locally scheduled forum and share their homework experiences. The Education Department is staging a publicity drive around the meetings, and they seem to be drawing attention.
Vacationing school teacher Jana Steen teaches fourth grade back home in Texas. While picking up souvenirs at a shop in Coral Bay, she said she had heard about the homework forums and was curious about what the V.I. school system had in mind.
Like Scatliffe, Steen said homework should reinforce what's taught by day in the classroom but should not become a burden to the students.
"Research shows that students should not have more than 10 minutes a day per subject. Homework should be a reinforcement. It should not be a punishment," she said.
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