More than 15,000 city pupils in grades 3 through 8 went on winter break today with homework assignments modeled after state English assessment tests in content and format.
Teachers urged the children to tackle the mock tests over vacation, have their parents sign them and bring them back to class when school resumes on Jan. 2.
While homework is not unheard of over school holidays, the scope and focused purpose of these assignments are highly unusual. They are designed to better prepare pupils for the assessment tests facing them in January, and also to prevent them from regressing in their studies over the next 12 days.
The assignments were spurred by concern over unacceptably low test scores and six days of instruction lost to the October storm.
The work will be corrected and reviewed with pupils before the actual state tests, and individual schools are offering incentives -- anything from additional points on report card grades to pizza parties -- for pupils who complete the work.
The homework assignment is part of the district's "43-day plan" -- a structured, day-to-day instructional blitz covering the day pupils returned after the storm to Jan. 8, when the state testing begins.
"We want to be sure students know what a good answer looks like," said Linda Smolen, the district's director of reading.