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Area school district to try no homework policy

Susan Notes:

Kudos to a principal who's willing to stand up for children's needs.

Visit the Stop Homework website for lots more information and advice. And buy the book The Case Against Home­work: How Home­work Is Hurt­ing Our Chil­dren and What We Can Do About It by Sara Ben­nett and Nancy Kalish .

By Corey Noles

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- A recent change in Bloomfield Middle School policy will mean "little or no homework" for BMS students.

The move, announced in a letter dated Dec. 1 from BMS Principal Dr. Kelly Renfroe, comes following a trend that she says she found to be "rather troubling."

In recent years, administrators have noticed a continued increase in the number of struggling or even failing students, Renfro says. Following some investigation and study, it was determined that a large portion of those poor grades were a result of either low homework scores or failure to turn in their homework assignments.

While it was acknowledged that responsibility does lie with the student, officials hope the new move will serve to help students.

When a student begins to struggle, it can be a slippery slope, according to Superintendent Dr. Nick Thiele.

"When a student gets behind, they dig themselves into a hole that just gets deeper and deeper," he said. "When they get in that position, sometimes we can't help them."

That, both Thiele and Renfroe agreed, is what they are trying to avoid.

While many students do their homework and turn it in as they are supposed to, many others do not.

The administration's goal now is to decrease the amount of lecture time in class and increase the amount of hands-on instruction time. That instruction time will be used for students to work on their "homework" and have the teacher on hand to help if they have trouble.

As it is, Thiele said, if students receive instruction and then do 8-10 problems and still don't get it, doing 10 more problems won't help.

"At the point we need to re-teach," he said, "more help at the classroom level will really benefit those students who don't finish their work at home."

Renfroe said that she hopes this will give students a better set of study skills to carry with them into eighth or ninth grade, placing them in a better position to succeed at the high school level.

She also added that they expect the move will increase the teacher's responsibility as well, giving them more hands-on time with their students than some currently have.

A letter sent home with students this week lists the following four goals they hope to achieve:

* Gain an accurate assessment of the students' academic ability and knowledge.

* Provide all students with work that is appropriate and challenging.

* Provide students with immediate feedback as they complete assignments.

* Provide rewards (when appropriate) to those working above and beyond.

Administration did acknowledge that this is a trial move and they will learn as they go because not all situations can be foreseen.

If anyone has any questions or concerns, they are encouraged to call the school.

"Student success is the main goal in all we do," Renfroe said.

A drop-in has been scheduled for between 4-7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12. The community is both invited and encouraged to come out to meet the administration and share their thoughts and concerns. Several things to be discussed include the elementary roof problems, maintenance, the proposed safe room to be built on the Bloomfield campus, and any other topics that may come up.

— Corey Noles
South East Missourian



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