“Undue focus on homework as a national quick fix, rather than a focus on issues of instructional quality and equity of access to opportunity to learn, may lead a country into wasted expenditures of time and energy,” said Le Tendre.
Further, in 2016, the international Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that Finnish children have some of the highest test scores in the world, despite having shorter school days and no homework.
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.
“We’re still very much encouraging reading at home, and we really wanted that shift from just packets of homework to more of an emphasis on positive family activities — making sure everyone has board games, making sure anyone who wanted a ball and mitt could get one, encouraging walking, suggestions about making sure children are getting enough sleep, sitting down at the dinner table together,” she says.
One wrinkle that has cropped up this year, however, has some parents flustered: Schools that maintain no formal homework policy but, rather, allow teachers to assign it or not at their discretion.“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.At Gilbert Park, staff members make a concerted effort to emphasize the importance of spending time connecting as a family.In fact, Gilbert Park even maintains a formal written policy that “after school is a time for reading, family time and being physically active.” “There’s no worries about turning in homework; the kids just have to worry about their classwork,” Utz continues.In 2005, academic researchers David Baker and Gerald Le Tendre published National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling, a comprehensive study on schooling around the word.Their most consistent finding was that countries that assigned the most homework — such as Greece and Thailand — had some of the lowest test scores, while countries with the least homework — such as Japan and Denmark — had some of the highest.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.“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.