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Potsdam elementary telling students they don’t need to spend more than 30 minutes on math homework

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POTSDAM — Lawrence Avenue Elementary Principal Larry B. Jenne told Board of Education members he has informed students and their parents that they no longer have to spend upwards of an hour attempting to struggle through math homework.

The announcement, which is designed to ease both parent and student stress, comes following weeks of complaints from parents that their children are spending sometimes as much as an hour and a half to two hours on their elementary math homework under the new Common Core curriculum.

“Students shouldn’t have to spend more than 30 minutes on their homework,” he said, adding that the 30-minute rule was meant as a per-subject guideline.

Board member Frederick C. Stone Jr. asked whether students who failed to complete their assignments were being punished for it.

“Have we gotten away from some of the penal things if homework is not being completed?” he asked, to which Mr. Jenne nodded “yes.”

The Lawrence Avenue principal declined to comment when asked whether the changes had anything to do with a parents meeting Oct. 3 that ended with the fiance of a student’s mother being charged with second-degree criminal nuisance after making statements that were perceived to be threatening. That meeting originally was set up to discuss the concerns of the mother and her fiance with the impact the Common Core was having on her daughter, a student with special needs.

Brittany Lozano has alleged her daughter’s teacher was punishing the second-grader by making her walk during recess if she didn’t have her homework completed.

“She came home and told us she can’t bring in incomplete homework anymore, because she was being forced to walk for 10 minutes during recess,” Ms. Lozano said.

She said she was livid when she learned her daughter was being compelled to walk during recess.

“That wouldn’t be so bad, but my daughter is physically handicapped. She has a neurological disorder that affects her from the waist down,” she said earlier this month. “She has braces on her legs and walking is incredibly hard for her. To make her do that is cruel and unusual punishment. We were extremely livid.”

Mr. Jenne said that as a rule of thumb, many studies overthe years have suggested first-graders spend 10 minutes on their homework, with second-graders spending 20 minutes, third-graders spending 30 minutes and fourth-graders spending 40 minutes.

The change in amount of time students are spending on homework has been attributed to the newly implemented Common Core curriculum, which also has increased the amount of time teachers spend preparing for lessons.

Board of Education President Christopher C. Cowen, who has young children in the district, said the 30-minute rule was news to him, noting he has seen his children spend as much as two or three hours on math assignments.

“It’s probably in a folder or something somewhere,” he said.

Mr. Jenne said that if a student is unable to complete his or her homework in 30 minutes, the parents or guardians should simply send a note in with the assignment the next day.

“If they don’t complete it, send in a note saying ‘we worked on it, but were unable to complete it,’” he said.

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