New York State Guidelines on Summer Homework Put Serious Restrictions On Summer Homework

(Even if you’re not a New Yorker, please read today’s post. I suspect that many other states have similar guidelines.)

Yesterday, I suggested finding out your school, district, or state guidelines on summer homework. A few months ago, I followed the very steps I suggested yesterday for my own state (New York) and I discovered that in May, 2009, the New York State Board of Education sent a memorandum to all District Superintendents, all Principals, and all Chairs of the English Language Arts Departments throughout the state. Titled, “Guidance on Locally Required Summer Reading Assignments,” the memo set forth guidance and suggestions for developing acceptable required summer reading assignments.

Here’s what the guidelines state:

Where a district/school chooses to require a summer reading assignment, it must comply with the following:

    * If books are to be used as part of a mandatory assignment, a school district must ensure that they are reasonably available to all students at no cost. Although a school district may indicate that books may be purchased, students cannot be required to purchase any books.

    * Class grades should reflect work done under a teacher’s direction and supervision. There must be sufficient opportunity for students to obtain teacher guidance and instruction before completing a graded assignment.

There are several other requirements including that if students are unable to reach teachers by phone, by email, or in person, then students should be permitted to complete the assignment upon returning to school.

You can read the guidelines here.

What interests me about my discovery is that if schools were to follow the guidelines, it is unlikely that they would assign summer homework. It would just be too difficult, too costly, and teachers would have to be on hand to provide “guidance and instruction.” But as long as no one knows about the guidelines, and no one asks that the school enforce them, schools will continue to assign summer homework. In fact, even though the guidelines were issued over a year ago, every New York State student I heard from got homework last summer.

Tomorrow: How to get schools to follow the guidelines.

15 Comments on “New York State Guidelines on Summer Homework Put Serious Restrictions On Summer Homework”

  1. Erica says:

    Very interesting. When we contact school administration about our opposition to summer homework, the three items we request is that books are provided (we are told to get them from the public library), that teachers are available and that students get some kind of school credit for doing work outside the school year. We’re going to send these guidelines to our principal/superintendent. Thanks!

    June 3rd, 2010 at 6:29 am
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  2. Erin says:

    My child is very conscientious and can’t ignore summer homework. Every fall, he is angry because the teachers don’t ask for it, or if they do ask, they collect it but never go over it, correct it or turn it back. Why do they bother? So frustrating.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 7:32 am
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  3. HomeworkBlues says:

    Isn’t that awful, Erin? The kids slave over it, give up precious summer hours, and then it’s all for naught. If only school understood how valuable family time is. Sadly, they just don’t seem to.

    The worst part is when no one benefits and it’s assigned anyway. All for the grade book. Is it any wonder more and more families are fleeing this nonsense to homeschool? Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:27 am
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  4. Erica says:

    My husband spoke with our high school principal today and was told that teachers can’t be required to be available to students during the summer because it’s not in their contract. So, teachers can assign work for students to do when they are off contract. Interesting.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 1:29 pm
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  5. Sara Bennett says:

    Erica–That’s why I think that if NY parents were aware of the guidelines and asked that they be followed, summer homework would be abolished. I don’t think teachers would want to make themselves available without pay and their contract wouldn’t allow it either.

    I’m glad you showed them to your principal although I can’t say I’m thrilled with his response. As far as having the books be available, I think if the local libraries had them, that would meet the guidelines. It’s just that in a place like NYC, for example, where there can be up to 1,000 kids in the same grade, it’s unlikely that there are enough books available for everyone. And then, summer assignments would be too costly for the schools if they had to provide books for each student.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 4:38 pm
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  6. Erica says:

    Sara – when I wrote that the principal said to get the books from the libraries, I was just trying to show how naive he is. We have a fairly small school district, but there is no way our library can provide every student with the required books. I think there are seven copies of one of the required books in the county library system and probably 100-150 kids were assigned the book. My husband pointed this out to the principal and he said he would look into it.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 5:00 pm
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  7. Diane Lowrie says:

    In Scotland, school starts around August 20th and ends around July 1. There are about 7 weeks of summer vacation, 2 weeks off in each of the Spring, Winter, and Fall. This way, there is more of a continuum between school years and less of a likelihood that students lose knowledge, applications, and skills from the year before. It seems so much more sensible than the endless summer that we have here in the USA … If there’s not enough time to teach everything in the existing school year (one of the arguments for tons of homework), then lose three weeks of summer vacation, add a week of vacation in the Fall (when weather is gorgeous), teach at a less stressful pace and assign less homework. As far as I know, the demand for farm labor has dropped dramatically and some schools are even equipped with air-conditioning 😉 [passive solar technology would be even better, of course!]

    June 3rd, 2010 at 6:32 pm
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  8. HomeworkBlues says:

    “So, teachers can assign work for students to do when they are off contract. Interesting.”

    It’s like those old crock posts of the 80s. The food cooks all night while you sleep. Or our children become the little workers of The Elves and the Shoemaker.

    Erin, that’s your hook. And no, this isn’t a diatribe against teachers. But teachers. Please pause and consider what you are asking your students to do. You have the summer off but make the kids work. Your smarter kids will figure out quickly the injustice to this and will become depressed. Why risk it?

    Some of you will counter that you may in fact, not have the entire summer off. But when you are asked to work, you get paid! These are children. They desperately need down time. Think of it this way: Less is more.

    Summer slide? So it takes a few weeks to brush up. I would advocate for a longer school year to make up for that but I’m already concerned that time isn’t used wisely in class now. What guarantee is there that time would be used better if there was more of it?

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:07 pm
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  9. HomeworkBlues says:

    Diane, I completely agree with you and have advocated that model for years. I’d love two weeks off in the fall so I can take my daughter to fall foliage in Vermont. My concern is that homework would bleed into all the off weeks too. Done correctly, your vision makes perfect sense. But again, we already have a problem with too much time wasted in class and teachers doing too much of the wrong things (like state standardized test prep to gifted kids). I’d need to see a reform of that before committing to a longer school year.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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  10. stephencrity says:

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    ????? ?????? ????? ??????????? ? ??????? ???????. ??????? ?????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ???. ??? ????? ????? ?????? ???????? ??? ????????????? ?????????? ? ????? ??????????.
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    June 4th, 2010 at 6:03 am
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  11. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction. Crock POTS. Not posts. Ooops, typo.

    June 4th, 2010 at 6:41 am
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  12. ödev says:

    Sara – when I wrote that the principal said to get the books from the libraries, I was just trying to show how naive he is. We have a fairly small school district, but there is no way our library can provide every student with the required books. I think there are seven copies of one of the required books in the county library system and probably 100-150 kids were assigned the book. My husband pointed this out to the principal and he said he would look into it.

    June 15th, 2011 at 1:35 pm
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  13. Sara Bennett says:

    Ddev–Good for you for asking the principal. If there are only 7 copies of the book for 150 students, then the books may not be considered “reasonably available to all students at no cost.”

    June 17th, 2011 at 5:22 pm
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  14. FedUpMom says:

    Sara — you should be aware that all the comments from “odev” are actually just copies of previous comments on the same thread. Compare comment #12 on this thread to comment #6 on this thread.

    June 18th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
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  15. Studentlance says:

    I do not think so…The reason I imagine that if NY folks were mindful of the rules and asked that they be emulated, summer homework would be abrogated. I don’t think educators would need to make themselves accessible without pay and their agreement wouldn’t permit it either.
    I’m happy you demonstrated to them to your vital albeit I can’t say I’m excited with his reaction. The extent that having the books is accessible, I think if the neighborhood libraries had them that would meet the rules. It’s only that in a spot like NYC, for instance, where there can be dependent upon 1,000 children in the same evaluation, it’s impossible that there are sufficient books accessible for everybody. And after that, midyear assignments would be too expensive for the schools on the off chance that they needed to give books to every student.

    February 9th, 2015 at 5:43 am
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