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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.
“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.
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.
Additionally 61 percent of its students are of color, making it one of the most diverse schools in the entire Portland metro area.
Many of its parents faced difficulties in helping their kids with homework due to language barriers or other stressors, and administrators felt families might benefit more from positive time together than homework.When Cherry Park’s announcement was made, The Oregonian’s comment section was ablaze with criticism, much of it regarding what some saw as the school “giving up” and “catering to the lowest common denominator” amid a climate of budget cuts and frustration over teacher shortages.Harris Cooper, chair of the department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of the book The Battle Over Homework, points out in a New York Times op-ed that “…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.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.’ it immediately creates stress, whereas asking about their day or something they learned doesn’t.” Kate Barker, Cherry Park Elementary’s principal, has no regrets after her school’s first complete year of no homework, which she describes as fantastic.“I think it was the right decision; we’ve had very positive feedback from parents and teachers and the community,” she says.