No Homework Movement

No Homework Movement-68
When David Douglas School District’s Cherry Park Elementary School announced last fall it was banning homework, the news made headlines (“Portland Elementary School Bans Homework! Other schools that have adopted no-homework policies after the Cherry Park announcement include David Douglas’ Gilbert Park Elementary, Portland Public Schools’ Alameda Elementary, Sue Buel in Mc Minnville, and Canby’s Philander Lee Elementary. It was seemingly a slam dunk for families beleaguered with both little time and exhausted children who had neither the will, nor the stamina to wade through pages of math problems while the last hours of daylight dwindled outside their window. If the number of schools and teachers that have subsequently adopted no-homework policies is any indication, this once-radical idea could soon become the Portland area’s new normal.

When David Douglas School District’s Cherry Park Elementary School announced last fall it was banning homework, the news made headlines (“Portland Elementary School Bans Homework! Other schools that have adopted no-homework policies after the Cherry Park announcement include David Douglas’ Gilbert Park Elementary, Portland Public Schools’ Alameda Elementary, Sue Buel in Mc Minnville, and Canby’s Philander Lee Elementary.

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Eighty-one percent of its school district population is white, with less than 24 percent living in poverty.

It might be expected that the majority of Willamette Primary parents can afford the time to help their kids with homework, but Brandel says her son has been loving his year of no homework — and so has she.

Tiffany Brandel is the mother of a fourth grader at one such school: Willamette Primary in West Linn.

West Linn, a westside suburb, is a world away from both Gilbert Park and Cherry Park.

“There have been a few parents who have come and requested that they’d want to have homework for their children,” she says.

“We offer at the beginning, that if you do want your children to have homework, we would be happy to provide those resources.” Given the enthusiastic reception of parents and administrators alike after a year-long test drive, Oregonians shouldn’t necessarily be surprised if more schools next year look into giving homework the heave-ho.Patty Utz, a student-achievement specialist and former fifth-grade teacher at Gilbert Park Elementary, about 3 miles south of Cherry Park, agrees a no-homework policy makes sense in a district like David Douglas, with families speaking more than 30 different languages.“I think it relieves family stress both for parents that end up having to fight with their kids about doing homework and our families that don’t speak English,” she says.“It’s great for us as parents to focus on other activities — dinner, getting the kids ready for bed at a reasonable time,” she says.However, she’s concerned about what will happen if her son gets a teacher next year that does believe in homework: “It worries us that once he gets into the next grade level, if he has to go back into the homework mode, he’s going to get frustrated because he hasn’t had to do it for a year.” In fact, few — if any — districts in the area maintain a formal policy regarding homework.“We had a conversation about being thoughtful about homework and not ever using homework as a punishable offense,” said Lincoln Park Elementary principal Rebecca Chase.“However, we have not gone away from homework completely.homework can be a good thing if the dose is appropriate to the student’s age or developmental level.” He argues that homework is not only crucial in helping kids develop good study habits, independence and personal responsibility, but it’s a rare opportunity for parents to see what’s being taught in the classroom and provide further context or supplementation if necessary.Further, some parents worry that the absence of practice time will put their children at a competitive disadvantage, or mask potential difficulties their children may be having in the classroom.“My feeling,” Cooper says in the op-ed, “is that the effects of homework depend on how well, or poorly, it is used. All children can benefit from homework, but it is a very rare child who will benefit from hours and hours of homework.” Sara Davis is the mother of both a kindergartener and third grader at Philander Lee Elementary in Canby, which is also experimenting with no-homework policies.Like Brandel, she agrees having no homework has been a great experience for her family. “It makes evening time much more peaceful and reduces stress on my kids.” However, she admits that sometimes she’d like to know a little more about what her kindergartener has been up to in the classroom. “Sometimes I would like a couple little sheets to come home so I know what we need to do to help him.” Barker says she’s dealt with this issue at Cherry Park as well, and, like at Alameda Elementary in Portland — which formally describes its policy as “homework optional” — is more than willing to provide homework for parents who feel it’s necessary.

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