Monthly Archives

January 2018

New School Year: Fresh Start Homework Solutions

-by Karen Davis and Susan Kruger




Say the word to a student, and it’s synonymous with torture.

Say the word to a parent, and it often spells b-a-t-t-l-e-g-r-o-u-n-d.

As a parent, you know just how much energy homework can drain from your child (to put it lightly) and from you!

But is there a helpful way to get homework accomplished?

The start of a new year is the perfect time to establish new routines to improve the process of doing homework.

Ask yourself this question: “If I could improve one thing about homework, what would it be?” Got your answer?

The first answer that comes to mind is probably, “Get rid of it!” Honestly, as a teacher that might be my first response, too. However, well thought-out homework assignments actually do serve beneficial purposes. So let’s try again…

After working with students for many years, some common complaints I hear include:

  • “It takes so long to do my homework assignments!”
  • “I keep losing assignments.”
  • “My parents get on me for procrastinating till the last minute.”
  • “Homework causes so much conflict at my house!”

Now that we recognize some problems, let’s create solutions!

Ironically, one of the most valuable purposes of homework is to learn to solve problems…and problems are inherent to homework. In almost every situation, a “recurring problem” can be solved by creating a system. The best solutions are simple, easy-to-follow homework systems. A homework system is simply a routine that helps you develop effective study habits that really work.

Here are some quick examples of effective “homework systems”:

  1. Distractions are the #1 reason homework takes a long time. The solution is obvious—take away distractions, e.g. the cell phone and other electronic distractions. Don’t want to be the bad guy? Believe it or not, students often share with me how much they appreciate when their parents do this. Oh, they may mutiny at first, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize how much more they get accomplished. Secondly, have your student set a timer for the amount of time they think an assignment should take, then challenge themselves to beat the timer. Not only does this help to focus on their work, but it also turns homework time into a competitive game!
  2. If losing assignments is your issue, reduce the number of notebooks and folders your child has to manage. I have students streamline all folders into one, 1” binder. Then, “Take 10” every time they sit down to do homework—2 minutes to put all loose papers into their correct folders, plus 8 minutes to review handouts or notes from the day.
  3. If your child is a victim of “Last Minute Panic Attack,” start having weekly family meetings (Sunday dinnertime often works well). Everyone discusses their schedules for the upcoming week (including parents): activity schedules, upcoming tests/projects, etc. This system works wonders because it encourages everyone to be proactive and cooperative in planning ahead together.
  4. To help eliminate conflicts, follow steps 1-3. They will eliminate at least 80% of your homework blues.

These suggestions are only examples, but they illustrate the concept of developing systems to help solve common homework problems.

Tip for Parents: Whenever possible, involve your children in brainstorming solutions. Children of all ages usually have honest and insightful ideas, especially when they feel like their input is taken seriously. The more input they have in identifying reasonable solutions, the more willing they will be to participate.

Finally, test your system. Be patient. It may take 2-4 weeks for a new homework system to settle into a routine. Be prepared to make adjustments as needed.

May Homework Hour become Happy Hour in your home this new year!


Karen Davis is the Director of Above Grade Level In-Home Tutoring service of Delaware Valley


STEM tops Pennsylvania schools in SPP

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education released its School Performance Profile (SPP) scores for the last time on Friday, with the Downingtown STEM Academy in the Downingtown Area School District topping the list of all Pennsylvania schools with a score of 104.   Although the SPPs are based on a 0 – 100 score, the Downingtown STEM Academy earned extra credit for the high number of students scoring advanced on the Math, Literature and Science Keystone Exams and on scoring 4 or higher on any IB Exam.


Six other Downingtown schools scored in the 90 – 100 range with DHS East scoring 94.2, Shamona Creek 92.1 Bradford Heights Elementary 91.6, Lionville Elementary 91.1, Pickering Valley 90.4, and DHS West 90.2.


Downingtown STEM Academy principal Art Campbell praised his students and staff.  “Our students, teachers, and staff work extremely hard everyday.  We are very pleased that the PA School Performance Profile has recognized the hard work and effort put forth by everyone.”  


“Our principals and teachers are extremely focused on student achievement and growth,” said Downingtown’s Superintendent Emilie M. Lonardi. “They have done an excellent job of preparing our students for rigorous assessments. As our leader, I am very proud of our success this year.  We will continue to strive for advancement across all levels.


The SPP system is a school accountability score, which replaced the previous Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measurement used under the No Child Left Behind federal law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002.  That law required schools to steadily increase the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced with a goal of 100 percent success by 2014.   As 2014 approached, President Barack Obama began to allow states to devise their own alternatives to the AYP model.  Pennsylvania adopted the SPP system which looks at standardized test results and other indicators of academic achievement and growth.  


In 2015, the government passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which gave states greater flexibility to measure school accountability.   Under that law, Pennsylvania plans to introduce the “Future Ready PA Index” in 2018.   The state’s new school rating system will have less emphasis on the PSSA and Keystone exams and include heavier weighting for schools offering advanced placement; dual enrollment classes; offering career awareness at elementary, middle, and high school levels; gauging progress among non-English speakers in learning English; and factoring in other reading and math assessments.




Downingtown Area School Board reorganizes with two new members

Four members of the Downingtown Area School Board were sworn in on December 6, 2017 by Judge Michael Cabry. The four were elected to serve a four year term in the November election.  Two new members include LeeAnn Wisdom representing the residents of Region 6 and Rebecca Britton, the new Region 4 Director.   Judge Cabry also swore in Barbara Albright (Region 8) and David Kring (Region 2) who will continue to serve on the board for another term.  

The Board unanimously elected Jane Bertone to serve as President of the Board for the 2017 – 2018 year.  Mrs. Bertone replaces outgoing president Colleen Cranney.   Carl Croft was unanimously elected to serve as vice president.   

David Kring is the owner of Conestoga Wealth Management, he is a financial planner. LeeAnn Wisdom is a graduate of Downingtown schools and is a former preschool teacher, child care provider and assistant coach. Rebecca Britton has worked in the technology industry and earned a degree in Business Management as well as a Paralegal Certificate.  Barbara Albright is a realtor and lives in West Bradford. 





Principal Ross spends night on school roof Lionville Middle School

Principal Jon Ross spent a cold night on the roof of Lionville Middle School to thank students for exceeding their fundraising goal for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.   The students raised $100 more than the $7500 goal they had set for themselves.  

Mr. Ross pitched a tent on the roof and encouraged students to check in with him from time to time on social media.   His exploits were livestreamed and those watching had the opportunity to catch him watching Netflix, reading a book and enjoying some of the snacks the students had sent up to him.   


Although many in the school suggested he wait for warmer weather, Ross felt challenged by the opportunity to spend the night in frigid temperatures.   The Daily Local News, NBC 10 and 6ABC came to cover the event.  



Secret Santa pays off negative meal balances for Downingtown Area School District

A Secret Santa walked into two Downingtown Area School District schools on Monday and paid off the outstanding meal accounts for dozens of students.   What he didn’t know at the time was that six other donors would follow his lead and pay off the negative balances at several other district schools.  The total donated by the seven anonymous donors now totals over $3,600.  


The first donor showed up at both Lionville Elementary School and Uwchlan Hills Elementary School and asked to settle all unpaid cafeteria bills.  The negative balances at both schools totaled over $300.  


Shelda Perry, principal of Lionville Elementary, said the gentleman had heard of another Secret Santa doing a similar good deed in another Pennsylvania school district and thought this would be a great way to give back to his community this holiday season.   “His two sons had graduated from our school several years ago and he remembered Lionville as a very special place. We are truly grateful.  This one act of kindness has impacted the lives of many families here at Lionville.”


Not content to help just one school, Santa then moved down the road to Uwchlan Hills, another DASD school, and paid off the negative balances of a few more families.  


“Although Chester County is one Pennsylvania’s thriving areas, there are still many families struggling to make ends meet” said the district’s superintendent, Dr. Emilie Lonardi.   “To have this gentleman “pay it forward” in such a thoughtful way will not only be remembered by the families he helped, but by our entire Downingtown family.”


In a thank you posted on the district’s website Richard Fazio, Chief Financial Officer of DASD, made mention of the fact that anyone else wishing to help could contact a district school. Six other Santas accepted that invitation and stepped forward to pay off the negative accounts at Beaver Creek Elementary, Uwchlan Hills Elementary, Springton Manor, Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center, Brandywine Wallace and DHS West High School.  DHS West received a check for $2400 from their annonymous donor.   Another $100 was donated to help out where needed most at the other 9 district schools.   The grand total of these generous gifts is now over $3600. 


“There are a lot of smiling people in the district this week”, said Fazio. 



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