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Powderhorn Elementary launches reduced homework policy

A Jefferson County elementary school is testing more individualized homework.

JEFFERSON COUNTY — Starting Monday, teachers like Beth McPhee will test the old adage that less is more.

"You could potentially have less homework, but it's more individualized homework," McPhee, a learning specialist, said.

She teaches at Powderhorn Elementary School in south Jefferson County near Dakota Ridge High School. Administrators sent a letter home to parents outlining a new homework policy designed to give more parents more time with their kids by reducing the time spent on homework.

"I've got a fifth-grader who came home with a stack of worksheets this thick," the school's assistant principal C.J. Cain said.

He said teachers will stop giving blanket assignments and so-called "busy work". Instead, for example, is a student misses questions on a math test, that student will be assigned work online specifically in the area the student is struggling in.

"It's going to make it more authentic, a lot more personalized, and a lot more relevant," Cain said.

McPhee says it will be a lot less time-consuming at home and in class.

"I think instead of doing that, we can maximize instructional time," McPhee said.

Cain expects to get more from less.

"There are numerous studies out there that point to homework not having an impact on student achievement," Cain said.

The teachers have the students for six hours and 35 minutes each day. McPhee says that will be enough to time to teach instead of piling more worksheets on top of that.

"Assigning online activities or differentiated homework and differentiated school work will accelerate a student's learning," McPhee said.

It will also give more time for students to spend exercising, walking the dog, or eating dinner with family.

"Increased physical activity also increases student achievement. It increases mood. It increases their sleep patterns," McPhee said.

Cain wonders if every school should be considering this. He says the practice of piling on homework is really just a habit.

"I think this is something I think we need to look at," Cain said.

In Jefferson County, Witt Stem Elementary School has a similar homework policy. When 9NEWS asked other school districts across the Denver Metro area, only a handful of schools have a policy of reduced or no homework.

McPhee is anxious to see how it works at Powderhorn.

"I'm a parent as well as a teacher here, so it's pretty exciting for me," McPhee said.