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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Homework ban irks some parents

Banning homework for elementary school kids has divided parents, reports Kyle Spencer in the New York Times.

Public School 11, a prekindergarten through fifth-grade school in Manhattan, now encourages students to read and provides a website with tips for parents on after-school activities.

Some parents are happy their children have more time and less stress. But not everyone.

. . . Ashley Sierra, an executive assistant and a single mother with three children at the school, said the policy had created an unwelcome burden on her and other less affluent families that could not afford extra workbooks, or software programs to supplement the new policy. “I hate it,” Ms. Sierra said. . . . “Now I can’t say, ‘Your teacher wants you to do this,’” she said. “It’s just me.’”

 P.S. 118 in Park Slope, Brooklyn replaced mandatory homework with voluntary projects, such as videos of children doing enriching after-school activities.

. . . some parents insisted that the school provide worksheets for their children anyway. At P.S. 116 in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood, some parents threatened to leave after the principal, Jane Hsu, replaced “traditional homework” with voluntary recreational activities and family engagement — a program she calls “PDF,” or “playtime, downtime and family time.”

Homework is “educational malpractice,” charges Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth,

Harris M. Cooper, a Duke professor and  author of The Battle Over Homework,  “believes elementary school students should get small doses of engaging homework,” writes Spencer.

Cooper’s research has found no link between homework and test scores for elementary students, but he believes students learn organization, time management and discipline. He backs the PTA’s guideline of 10 minutes of homework per grade, starting in first grade.

When I was in elementary school, we had no homework till fourth grade. (We weren’t supposed to have it then, but my teacher liked to push us.) I usually read for three hours after school, which enabled me to finish a book a day. I like the idea of assigning reading — read a book of your choice for 30 minutes or more — as homework instead of worksheets or projects.

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