School District Says 'No' To Homework

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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District decides to ditch homework and institute a longer school day as part of performance initiatives

A Massachusetts school district is abolishing homework for students attending its elementary schools. The district was declared “chronically under-performing” and getting rid of homework is one way they’re hoping to bring about improvement in the upcoming school year.

Fox 12 reports that Holyoke, MA public schools are in their second year of state receivership and as the state-appointed receiver has already made several changes, the idea of eliminating homework actually came from one of the elementary school’s principals.

Jackie Glasheen, principal of Kelly Elementary School, says some find her idea “crazy,” but as both an educator and parent, she thinks it makes sense. “I’m a mom. We all are saying as we clean up the supper dishes ‘Did you do your homework? Okay, take out your homework, I’ll help you with it, let’s go!’ So I don’t know if always the responsibility was on the student as much as we’d like to think it was, but you can look at the data both ways.”

Glasheen’s school is K-8 and like many other area schools will be going to a longer day, beginning at 8:00 am with a 4:00 pm release. She explains how this new schedule will hopefully fill in gaps and eliminate the need for homework. “People watching this interview will say ‘Geez, Holyoke’s in receivership. They’re some of the lowest performing kids in the state. Kelly School may have some of the lowest performing numbers, they need to do more work.’ Well, we are! We are going two hours longer in our school day. We are providing specific instructional intervention to close those gaps,”

Although third grade teacher and mom Marisa Ventrice was hesitant as she likes the lesson of responsibility that homework can teach, she also thinks that ditching it could prove beneficial for students. “I’ve had to think about it for a while, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.”

Glasheen adds, “We really want our kids to go home at 4:00 tired. We want their brain to be tired. We want them to enjoy their families, to go to soccer and football practice, and we want them to go to bed and that’s it.”

As the mother of two elementary school students, I say Amen to that. I’ve often grumbled to myself as I helped my kids with hours of Common Core math and reading homework that I’m not a teacher. Although generations of parents have helped their kids with homework, it doesn’t mean we’re qualified. And it doesn’t mean our kids are absorbing any of it having spent all day at school focusing and working hard. My children have sadly brief recess periods and by the time they come home, they want to run around and play. Because that’s what elementary school kids should be doing for a few hours each day.

I also resent how much homework intrudes on family time. Instead of sitting on the couch paging through a fun book about outer space with myself or my husband, our kids do worksheets and memorize math concepts until they shower and go to bed. They miss out on things we want them to know because we’re simply too low on time during the school year.

So much of what children need to learn involves not only the culture of a family, but the enrichment of sports participation and music lessons. We don’t let our kids do much during the week because of the need for ample homework time. And I can’t help but wonder how much they miss out on because of it.

If the school day were lengthened and kids got the kind of individual instruction that extra time could provide, it would eliminate the need for frustrating evenings spent at the kitchen table Googling third grade math concepts and listening to a whiny, tired kid who’s had enough. There has to be a better way, and maybe this school district has found it.


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