Elementary School Homework Policy Research - Essay for you

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Elementary School Homework Policy Research

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Stop Homework - Interviews

Archive for Interviews

(This is the latest in a series of interviews I’ve conducted with educators and activists around the country who are on my radar as people who are doing their best to change policy and practice in their communities.)

Alan Shusterman, who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with his wife and three children, is the founder of School for Tomorrow (SFT). an independent nonprofit secondary school (grades 6-12) located in Rockville, Maryland which opened this Fall with 18 students, 3 full-time teachers and 6 part-time teachers. Its website describes the school as a “one-of-a-kind, cutting edge, student-centered education model designed in and fit for the 21st century.”

I was intrigued by that description, and by the fact that the school stated up front that research shows little value to homework, so I interviewed him to find out more about SFT and his inspiration for starting it.

Interview with Alan Shusterman
by Sara Bennett

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and why you decided to start a school?
I was a public school kid, always a good student but never particularly engaged in school. I was able to get As despite myself. Growing up I loved hanging out with kids younger than me, I set up school for my younger sister and taught her how to read, and I always had the teaching bug.

But because I was a good student, I ended up at the University of Pennsylvania, and becoming a teacher was never on the horizon. Back then, before Teach for America, it wasn’t culturally acceptable for someone graduating from an Ivy League school to go into teaching. So, instead, I went to Harvard Law School. As history would have it, Barack Obama was in my class at Harvard; as luck would have it, I didn’t befriend him.

Every little aspect of my life story has informed my philosophy of education, including having gone to Penn and Harvard and seeing firsthand what the best and brightest secondary school graduates are like and do. Of course this is an over-generalization, but, in general, the students who succeed in high school arrive to college narrow-minded, conformist, and supporters of the status quo. That President Obama, for one, has turned out to be a rather conventional politician, especially with respect to education, has not surprised me, given his educational pedigree.

Last June, I ran a series of interviews I had conducted with activists and educators who were on my radar as people trying to do something to change policy and practice in their communities. Today, I’m running an interview I conducted with one of the most interesting school heads I’ve ever encountered, Dominic Randolph, who is in his third year as Head of Riverdale Country School, an independent K-12 school in New York City. Before that, he was the assistant headmaster at a four-year co-educational boarding school. Randolph’s wife is also an educator; their daughter is a junior in college. Randolph’s blog. is always fascinating and full of interesting references and ideas.

Interview with Dominic Randolph
by Sara Bennett

“Schools tend to be high stress but not intellectually challenging. We need to understand this generation of students and allow learning to be meaningful.

–Dominic Randolph, head of Riverdale Country School, New York,

What are you thinking about these days?
I’m interested in how we keep schools focused on developing people who are creative and great critical thinkers. You can’t be a good thinker if you have to constantly shift from one thing to the next. If a school were to be built around effective thinking, that school and its schedule might look very different from the traditional models we have.

Today’s interview is with Kerry Dickinson, who has written many times for this blog including here. here. here. and here. Kerry, who has a M.A. in Reading, was a part-time teacher in Michigan before she had children. She now lives in Danville, California, with her husband and 9th and 7th grade sons and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed California teacher. In 2007-2008, she helped convince her local school district to rewrite its homework policy. She just started her own blog .

Interview with Kerry Dickinson
by Sara Bennett

“I encourage parents to be respectfully vocal”

–Kerry Dickinson, parent, Danville, California

What prompted you to try to change homework policy in your community?
Last year, when my older son started eighth grade, he had a really bad experience with an algebra class and he started saying he hated middle school. He had always had a great outlook on life and had always loved school, so I felt sad that he was suddenly saying he hated it. I started looking back on his schooling, and I realized that each year he liked it less and less. At the same time, I had a sixth grader who had been struggling since second grade with tests, school and homework. I focused on homework because I was sick of helping them with their projects and feeling like the homework wasn’t turning them on to school but, in fact, was having the opposite effect.

Today’s interviewee is Paul Richards. who is in his fifth year as principal of Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts. During his tenure, he has studied and surveyed student stress and tried a variety of measures aimed at reducing it. The father of a kindergartner and first grader, Richards is leaving Needham high at the end of the 2008-2009 school year to become the high school principal at the American School in London. (Take a look at the school’s web site where you can read the Needham Stress Reduction Committee’s materials. They have compiled a very comprehensive resource list.)

Interview with Paul Richards, Principal of Needham High
by Sara Bennett

” Schools need to look at their own practices.They need to educate teachers, parents and students on the culture of stress.”

–Paul Richards, principal, Needham High, Needham, Massachusetts

Today’s interview is with Anthony, who has been teaching for five years at a New York City public school where he is a fourth-grade teacher. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Childhood Education from New York University. This year, he was accepted into Teachers Network Leadership Institute. a “professional community of teachers and educators working together to improve student achievement.” The Institute advocates for changes in policy and gives teachers an active voice in policy-making decisions. His research project for the Institute is homework in elementary school.

Later this month, he is sitting down with the administration at his school to look to develop a meaningful policy. So far, they have all agreed that the research does not support a policy that focuses on ‘time in each subject’ per night. “We want to lessen the load and create more teacher independence in decision-making regarding homework.”

Interview with Anthony
by Sara Bennett

“As a teacher, there’s a tension between what I want to do and what I’m supposed to do. I have to take small steps before I can take big ones. I have to go through the channels, go about it the right way.”

–Anthony, New York City fourth grade teacher

Why did you decide to research homework?
I teach in a very diverse school with a wide range of ethnicities and family economic statuses. Most of my students qualify for free lunch. Homework in elementary grades was a no-brainer of a topic for me. I hear so much about homework: stories from my parents of kids up too late, guidelines for how much to give each night from “above”, my “higher achieving” students asking me “why” they have to do homework, the lack of quality of the assignments, the time to check it taking away from my time in preparing better lessons, and mostly to me, how I’m not seeing its positive effects.

Today’s interviewee, Mike Falick, a lawyer, is a current member and past-president of the Spring Branch Independent School Board of Trustees in Texas. Falick, who grew up in this 32,000-student district in Houston, moved back when he had his own children (now in 9th and 6th grades) so they could go to the same schools he went to. Falick’s wife also grew up in the District. His blog was the 2008 weblog awards winner for best education blog.

Interview with Mike Falick
by Sara Bennett

“I drive my 6th grade son and his friends to and from Boy Scouts. One of his friends said, “Homework’s killing me. I’m working 3 hours a night. When are you going to get rid of it?”

–Mike Falick, School Board Member, Spring Branch, Texas

Why did you get involved in the School Board?
I wanted to have a meaningful impact on school policy. I had been on a number of parent committees over the years, and I had been president of the PTA council, but I knew the only way I’d have systemic impact was if I became a School Board member. I ran and lost in 2002 and ran again and won in 2004. I ran unopposed and was reelected in 2007. There are 7 people on the Board.

What kind of positions do you take?
I’m a school reformer, but I’m not a grenade thrower. I try to bring everyone
Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s interview is with Jodie Leidecker. a native Kentuckian and a graduate of Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Leidecker lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband and their two children, a 9th grader and her currently home-schooled 10-year-old. She pushed her local elementary school to institute daily recess and is now working on a state-wide initiative to do the same. She is also trying to get her local schools to reduce homework loads.

Interview with Jodie Leidecker
by Sara Bennett

“I made a vow that I wouldn’t stop until every kid in the state gets recess”
-Jodie Leidecker, parent, Berea, Kentucky

How is it that elementary schoolchildren don’t get recess?
In 1990, Kentucky passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act, which put a lot more pressure on teachers to meet test scores. As a way of getting in a little more academics, a lot of schools eliminated recess. My own daughter didn’t get recess regularly in elementary school at all–maybe a discretionary recess here and there, but there was no guarantee. Kentucky isn’t the only state where kids don’t get recess. This is a problem nation-wide.

Over the last few months, I’ve conducted interviews with educators and activists around the country who’ve been on my radar as people who are doing their best to change policy and practice in their communities. I’m going to run the interviews this week.

To kick off this series, I’m thrilled to introduce Christine Hendricks. the principal of a K-4 school in Glenrock, Wyoming, which implemented a no-homework practice in the Fall of 2007. Hendricks, who started out teaching 24 years ago and has been a principal for the past 12, is the single mother of a college-age daughter, a 7th-grade son, and a fifth-grade daughter. This coming Fall, she is moving to a new school in Fort Collins, Colorado, where the staff is “eager to learn more about her no-homework practices.”

Interview with Christine Hendricks
by Sara Bennett

“So many of our students are coming to school in survival mode, and I think, as a school, we need to help let kids be kids.”

–Christine Hendricks, principal, Grant Elementary, Glenrock, Wyoming

What motivated you to eliminate homework at your school?
We had been struggling with the concept of homework for awhile. There was a lot of conflict between teachers and students and students and parents over homework, we had parents asking for homework clubs, and I’d experienced the problem first-hand with my son, who’d been fighting me for years on doing his homework.

In the Fall of 2007, Kim Bevill of Brain Basics in Colorado came and did a workshop and she talked about how the research shows that homework doesn’t work. We went to a break and about 10 of my teachers came and said to me that we need to get rid of homework. And we just decided to try it.

Did you have the support of all of the teachers?
There are 25 teachers in my school, and most of them bought into it from
Read the rest of this entry »

  • Opt-Out of Homework
  • A Conversation with Sara in Encounter Magazine
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    Papers - Essays

    Today both adults and children live in a busy world; however, we don't often stop and think about why we engage in certain activities every day. I realized homework was one of such activity when I heard the news that a "No Homework" policy had been introduced at my son's elementary school in the beginning of the new school year in August 2009. Why do children do homework?

    My son, who completed the 4 th grade in May 2011, has been attending the elementary school of the American School in New Delhi since he was a kindergartener. The School, known for its excellence, consists of an education center that provides early childhood (age 3-4) to high school (grade 12) education. The "No Homework" policy was introduced for the elementary school i which accommodates approximately 740 students from all over the world. The school is based on an American curriculum, incorporating a number of multicultural elements that enrich children's experiences to become responsible global citizens.

    Prior to August 2009, elementary school children had to do homework, ranging from a couple of worksheets and reading logs to an experiment or project to be explored at home. Although my son was still in the lower grades at the time and the content and amount of his homework were manageable, I still had to nag him to do his homework every night after dinner. Since quite a few parents had warned me that the homework amount would increase drastically starting from the third grade, the No Homework announcement upon my son's promotion to the third grade came as an unexpected surprise to me. In a way, I was relieved. At the same time, I became anxious.

    The rationale behind Home Learning and its background

    The official name of the policy introduced is called Home Learning as opposed to Homework. Unlike the one-size-fits-all homework packets given from the school, Home Learning encourages children to 1) read for leisure, 2) play, 3) spend time with their families, and 4) pursue one's interests and passions after 3:30 pm.

    The school, confident that children were being provided a quality learning experience during school hours (Monday through Friday, 7 hours a day from 8:30-15:30), made the decision based on the following research findings, according to a handout from the school to the parents.

    • - Reading has the single greatest impact on student achievement.
    • - Students often sacrifice time for authentic reading in order to complete their homework.
    • - Unstructured, imaginative, child-centered play and physical activity enhance student performance and lead to better behavioral choices.
    • - The brain develops in childhood through active play and exercise.
    • - There is no conclusive evidence that homework increases standardized test scores or improves academic achievement in Elementary School.

    While the announcement and the implementation of Home Learning happened out of the blue, at least for the parents, I learned that there has been a movement in the U.S. which challenges the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" that became effective in 2002 under the Bush Administration. The law emphasizes the accountability of public schools by expecting each school to bring about higher standardized test scores, while strongly supports the longtime tradition of homework. ii In turn, some scholars and stakeholders in education question the validity of the law, including that of homework, as they show concern regarding the education system that relies heavily on test scores for its assessment.

    The inception of Home Learning in the Fall 2009

    Home Learning was received with bewilderment among the parents as well as some teachers at its inception two years back. On campus, my friends particularly those of Asian origin and native English speakers (e.g. Indian-Americans, Koreans, Americans in general) shared their anxieties over how we could supplement or cope with what our children were missing by not having homework. There did, however, seem to be a few parents who welcomed the policy or simply didn't take much note of it, which reflected their homeland schooling (e.g. parents from some European countries), or their values (e.g. homework adds more stress to the life of children and parents). This appeared, though limited in number, more common among the dual income families.

    In response to many parents' reaction (e.g. "it cannot be true!"), the elementary school promptly organized an elementary school parent meeting which gave the school an opportunity to explain the rationale behind Home Learning face to face. On another front, when I attended the first parents' meeting held in my son's 3 rd grade homeroom at the beginning of the school year, most of the time was spent having the teacher defend the school position over Home Learning against a series of concerns raised by the parents. The major apprehensions addressed were a loss of connection with the child's learning (e.g. identifying the area where a child needs learning support) and a shift in burden imposed on parents for their children's academic learning. Concurrently, we also sensed that teachers were puzzled about how to adjust the curriculum so that the children could acquire the required knowledge and skills during school hours.

    I was ambivalent. By and large, I agreed with what the school believes and adheres to. Like many other parents and children, both my son and I were content with the school, including its curriculum (e.g. unit study, emphasis on skills such as creativity, problem-solving), since his enrollment in Feb. 2007. Thus, I always encouraged him to participate in various physical activities (e.g. soccer, baseball, or cricket) or have play dates with his friends once school was over at 3:30 pm. Further, one of my son's favorite activities at home had been reading since he was little. In fact, being Japanese, I was more concerned about his Japanese competencies than his academic performance at the American School. In short, as I had a series of agendas for my son while we stayed in New Delhi as expats, homework seemed to be the last thing we needed at the end of the day.

    Still, it was hard for me to let go of homework because I was raised (or brainwashed) to think that homework was something beneficial, not harmful to children. Also, I felt that my energetic and mischievous son, who had no interest in doing quality work, was at an age to start developing his good studying habits sitting at the desk at least about 15 to 30 minutes a day at home. As I never meant to neglect the importance of play, free reading and physical activities, my immediate reaction was "Why one over the other? Why not both?"

    In the end, my son continued to do what he had been doing (e.g. play dates, physical activities, kanji drills or journal writing in Japanese with me a couple of times during the week before dinner and over the weekend). One immediate change that took place at the outset of Home Learning was that we started to have the whole evening free after dinner (6:30 pm - 9:00 pm), giving us ample time and space to do what our hearts desired at the end of the day.

    Two years since Home Learning

    By now, the majority of elementary school parents, both old-timers and new parents, take Home Learning as a fact of life. While some parents continue to be weary and long for the comeback of homework, I doubt that the school would reverse the policy.

    Are children better off or worse off? While there is much literature in the U.S. or Canada that challenges the practice of homework, I am reluctant to draw a universal conclusion on the topic without looking into the details of each case, such as the content and amount of the homework, school hours, curricula and the characteristics of students and parents' bodies in a different school context. For instance, I believe that rote learning is sometimes necessary to acquire fundamental skills, such as written competencies in Japanese kanji characters, and thus may be done as a homework assignment. Also, I wonder how the children adjust or develop homework habits once they enter the middle school or transfer to another elementary school with homework.

    Considering the nature of my son's current school, however, it may be fair to argue that the children at his school are better off not having homework. Foremost, the majority of parents value the quality of teaching and their children's experiences at school. The school also provides the parents with a range of opportunities to learn about and/or observe their children's learning at school. Second, the school mainly serves for children of the expatriate parents most of whom are well-educated and affluent. Subsequently, the parents are able to make wise decisions on what they want their children to pursue after 3:30 pm. Likewise, since a large portion of children attend the school only for a few years while one of the parents is stationed in New Delhi, it makes sense to keep the children and parents free after 3:30 pm as it takes some time for them to get used to the life of New Delhi, including schooling.

    What do children have to say? The case of my son

    How do children perceive a school without homework? What could be the immediate impact on their learning? I asked my son who will be a 5 th grader from Aug. 2011. (I: the author, C: my child)

    • I. "Do you like homework?"
    • C: "Are you kidding? No children like homework except a few nerds who may show up in some fiction books."
    • I. "OK. That was a silly question. Let me put it in a different way. Do you think homework supports your learning?"
    • C: "I don't know because I am so used to not having homework for the past two years."
    • I. "Right. but think deep. For instance, don't you think you could do even more fun or exciting stuff at school if you did the basics at home?"
    • C: "Mom! I think homework would only make our learning at school chaotic because some kids forget to do it and some kids don't know how to do it, so they end up interrupting our classroom learning at school."

    I was intrigued by his insight. According to his argument, the classroom learning for the children is less chaotic, thus more meaningful, when they don't have homework. As for the teachers, perhaps it is less stressful not having to manage the homework and facilitate the children's learning based on the assumption that the whole class is on equal footing. Concurrently, unlike what many parents claim, the responsibility of the school as well as the teachers over each child's learning has increased, because now the school is more liable to be blamed for the poor child's academic performance as opposed to the school accusing the children or their parents for not completing homework. In short, knowing there would be resistance from parents, the school could not have taken the courageous and bold step to implement Home Learning unless they also knew the parents were confident in the quality of education.

    Homework to Home Learning: "the more the better" to "the less the better"

    The introduction of Home Learning provided me with an opportunity to ponder the pros and cons of homework and the role of school and parents in children's learning and growth.

    For me, a longtime advocate of children enjoying being children, Home Learning served as a test to see if I could walk the talk, believing in my son and the power of childhood in line with the values of his elementary school. In retrospect, what I was doing was shoving a piece of childhood in his crowded schedule rather than honoring his childhood in totality, rushing through the day thereby exhausting ourselves. After letting go of this "have-it-all" or "the more, the better" syndrome, I now have time and mental space to listen to my son attentively and enjoy the moment, while he has his own time to do what he desires at the end of every day. The days filled with "hurry up" or "first, finish your homework" are long gone.

    The truth of the matter is, though, I still don't know if homework supports or discourages my son's learning in the long run. However, I trust a fully explored childhood together with his multi-national friends will be an indispensable asset for him as he grows into a responsible global citizen.

    "We worry about what child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is already someone today." by Stacia Tauscher.

    Recommended articles and books about Home Learning by the school

    • - The Serious Need for Play by Melinda Wenner. Scientific American Mind January 2009
      http://www.uwsp.edu/hphd/gesell/pdfs/needForPlay.pdf
    • - The Truth About Homework: Needless Assignments Persist Because of Widespread Misconceptions About Learning by Alfie Kohn. Education Week, Sept. 6, 2006
      http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/homework.htm
    Books:
    • - Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsh - Pasek
    • - A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
    • - Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • - Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner
    • - Brain Rules by John Medina
    • - Smart Schools by David Perkins
    • - The Homework Myth by Alfa Kohn (a meta analysis)
    • - The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon by David Elkind

    i At my son's American school in New Delhi, the elementary school refers to ECEC (age 3-4), Kindergarten and Grade 1-5.

    Helping your child with homework: For parents of children in elementary through middle school by U.S. Department of Education. First published in September 1995. Revised 2002 and 2005.
    http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/homework/homework.pdf

    Homework Policy

    Keithville Elementary School Homework Policy

    Homework is defined as the time students spend outside the classroom completing assigned learning activities. Keithville Elementary Middle School teachers believe the purpose of homework should be to practice, reinforce, or apply acquired skills and knowledge, complete unfinished class work assignments, and develop independence. We also believe, as research supports, that moderate assignments completed and done well are more effective than lengthy or difficult ones poorly done.

    Actual time required to complete assignments will vary with each student’s study habits, academic skills, and selected course load. If your child is spending a large amount of time doing homework, you should contact your child’s teachers. Homework counts as 10% of the student’s total grade.

    All core teachers (Reading, ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies) will assign homework. This can be in the form of a daily assignment or a project with specific steps that can be given a certain amount of points as indicated on the project timeline. (Example: Science and Social Studies Fair Projects)

    ·Set clear standards and expectations for the quality of work based on the needs of students.

    ·Communicate homework guidelines to both parents and students.

    ·Review homework and provide timely feedback.

    ·Coordinate projects and assignments so that all students have access to research and resource materials.

    ·Design quality homework that is relevant to what is being taught.

    ·Allow for varied learning styles by including choices in types of assignments or length of assignments when possible.

    ·Allow students time to ask questions about the homework assignment prior to leaving class.

    ·Create an effective system to communicate homework assignments. (Ex: write on board, include in class newsletters, utilize Text 101 app, or place on teacher website)

    ·Credit will be given for all homework assignments as determined by the individual teacher and explained to both students and parents.

    ·Understand that homework is part of the course requirement and is not an option.

    ·Ask questions prior to leaving class to clarify homework assignments.

    ·Complete and submit all homework assignments by the date that it is due.

    ·Understand that a zero will be the result of homework not completed and turned in on time.

    ·Students will be given the same amount of time to make-up missed homework assignments as they are given for classwork assignments due to absence from school.

    ·Provide a quiet, well-lit place for your child to complete his/her homework assignments.

    ·Remind students that the homework is their responsibility.

    ·Guide or assist in homework only when necessary, but never do the homework for your child.

    ·Communicate with the teacher any difficulties your child may have had in completing the assignment, or any special circumstances that prevented your child from completing a particular assignment.

    Elementary Schools Are Enemies of Play

    Elementary Schools Are Enemies of Play

    Young children have always had to deal with a sharp decrease in their free play time as they transitioned over a couple of years from no school to elementary school, which they attend about seven hours a day.

    However, in decades past, schools recognized that children of that age need a lot of play to develop appropriately. They had ample recess breaks with free play every day during the school day, and they let children leave school behind them every day when they went home.

    In recent years, though, elementary schools have become enemies of children’s play. Many are working to eliminate play at school recess and to eat away at the small amount of play time children have at home by assigning more and more homework. Recess: Schools Work to Eliminate Play at School
    Numerous schools across the US have eliminated recess entirely or reduced the amount of time to devoted to it. This is true despite the numerous research studies that show that recess actually helps elementary school children learn better in school.

    An organization called Rescuing Recess has recently been formed to bring recess back to schools, and it is sponsored by such organizations as the Cartoon Network, the National Parent Teacher Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Education Association. That’s quite an impressive set of supporters.

    In addition, many schools like Palo Alto’s Addison Elementary, are re-engineering recess to take all the fun out of it. For instance, children at Addison can’t touch each other in any way, so playing tag or even high-fiving could result in a suspension.

    According to a New York Times article. children at Oakdale School in Connecticut can’t play competitive games, and were prohibited from playing with a ball until parents protested and were able to get a non-competitive, supervised form of kickball instituted twice a week.

    Children are still encouraged to be active, according to the principal, and are “free to walk the grounds with the school nurse, or depending on the day, sing in the chorus, play chess or pick up litter.”

    Homework: Schools Eat Away at Play at Home
    In a previous article on Playborhood.com, Sandra Hofferth notes that 6-12 year-olds spent 25% more time doing homework in 2003 than they did in 1997. That’s on top of increases of 144% for 6-8 year-olds and 9% for 9-12 year-olds between 1981 and 1997. The actual averages in 2003 are just over 30 minutes a day for 6-8 year-olds and just over 50 minutes for 9-12 year-olds.

    Despite this trend, no one can point to research that says that homework actually helps elementary school kids perform better academically. No correlation between homework and performance has been found. (See this article for a great overview of the evidence, or lack thereof.) Nada. Zilch.

    You may have heard the commonly cited rule of thumb about how much homework is “appropriate” for students – 10 minutes per night per grade, so that a first grader should get 10 minutes per night, a second grader should get 20 minutes per night, and so on.

    The person responsible for this rule is Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who is perhaps the most famous academic researcher on the benefits of homework. Ironically, in his popular book on the subject, The Battle Over Homework. he states that there is no evidence that homework improves academic performance for elementary school students. His recommendation for homework every night for elementary school students is based not on research evidence but on his intuition that it helps them develop time management skills. Intuition. He has no evidence. Thanks, but no thanks, Professor Cooper.

    We Can Work to Reverse This Trend
    So, schools are robbing children of their childhoods. They play less and suffer the effects of this, but according to the research, they get no benefit from playing less. What can we do to fight this trend?

    Fortunately, there are many examples of schools and parents fighting back successfully. For instance, Denise Clark Pope of Stanford University’s School of Education has started a movement called “Stressed Out Students ” (SOS) that puts reduced homework at the centerpiece of its recommendations. Many schools have recently announced reduced homework policies, citing SOS as their guide. SOS runs an annual conference for principals to show them how to implement their recommendations.

    Oak Knoll Elementary School of Menlo Park is surrounded on all sides by some of the most competitive, homework-heavy elementary schools in America, but it has a very well-articulated “reduced homework” policy. Principal David Ackerman has the full support of parents in his community, and Oak Knoll’s test scores indicate that it’s keeping up with its neighbors academically.

    In the final analysis, vocal parents get the school policies they want. Addison and Oak Knoll, two schools within a couple of miles of each other, have taken the very different paths they have on this issue because they’re doing what their parents have requested. So, if you believe your elementary school should have real recess and a no homework or reduced homework policy, you need to fight for these things or move to a school that already has them, as I just did .

    I live in NYC and send my kids to private school for a bunch of reasons – small class size, more resources, etc. But another big part of our decision was recess and PE. Our local public school only has PE once a week and won’t go outside at all if the temperature is below 45. That means that pretty much all winter, the public school kids are indoors watching movies during recess. Crazy.
    At our (costly) private school, the kids have PE four days a week, and the younger ones also spend 2-3 one day a week in Central Park. To me, that added value makes the tuition costs more palatable. And makes their school experience so much better.
    As for homework…well, we’re working on it!

    I was looking for an article like this because my 6 yr old daughter is constantly being written up for touching her classmates. I know that touching is part of social learning so I’m not concerned about it, however, I am concerned about what the teachers are trying to make it. I have found that it is no longer “acceptable” to touch your friends or show affection for friends through innocent touch. I have also found that everything is either turned into sexual harassment or assault. I want her to be free to play without being scrutinized.

    I have a 5 year old in a high performing public school in Brooklyn. She just started mid year, as we recently moved to the neighborhood. My concern is that they are in school from 8:45 – 2:50 with limited recess (once a week),and excessive amounts of homework for a kindergartner. It takes her roughly 30 – 40 minutes each night. They also get home work on weekends.

    During the winter break, which was only a week and a half, they sent home 13 pages of homework, 2 books to read, with the added bonus of a book report.
    I ask if she gets to play with any of the new kids in her class. She said we don’t have recess, all we do is work.

    Last night she had a massive melt down while doing homework. I realized she had enough, I told her it was ok to stop the homework. The school had me sign a note stating that I would make sure home work is completed every night. Who do I complain to? Last time I checked, I was the care giver. My child is stressed out at 5. I don’t know what can be done. But this is NOT OK. How can parents stand up for there kids? No one is listening.

    Homework Policy

    Hamilton Elementary School Homework Policy

    Hamilton Homework Policy

    Homework serves many important purposes. It reinforces academic skills, teaches research skills, and helps students learn to develop ideas and become life-long learners.
    Homework is the responsibility of the student; students need to develop regular study habits and do most of the work independently. At times, long-term assignments may require the assistance of the parent.
    According to PUSD Board Policy, students in grades 1-3 are expected to spend an average of 30 minutes a day on homework. Students in grades 4-5 should average 45 minutes a day on homework, four to five days a week. Homework in kindergarten is designed to stimulate discussion between students and parents.
    Hamilton’s homework plan for our students has been developed after extensive research:

    Read for 15 minutes daily.
    Complete simple assignments and projects
    First – Third Grades

    Read for 20 minutes daily
    Complete simple assignments including decodable books, high frequency word practice, math facts, journal writing, unfinished work, etc.
    Do math homework
    Work on long-term projects
    Fourth – Fifth Grades

    Read for 30 minute daily
    Do a 15-minute journal entry and/or writing assignment
    Complete any math, science, reading, or social studies assignments or projects not finished in class
    Work on long-term projects

    Hamilton Elementary School Our Children. Learning Today. Leading Tomorrow.

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