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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.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.
“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.
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 “…
At David Douglas, for instance, “schools have flexibility to handle this in the manner they think fits best with their students and populations,” says district spokesman Dan Mc Cue.
At West Linn-Wilsonville, assistant superintendent Barb Soisson says administrators “continually review the purpose of homework” with “an emphasis on using what can be valuable about homework and what it should be rather than an overall homework policy.” Many principals, though they may not yet be completely on the no-homework bandwagon, have acknowledged the research showing that excessive homework isn’t necessarily correlated with higher academic performance.Still others, such as West Linn-Wilsonville’s Willamette Primary, Clackamas’ Mount Scott Elementary, and Raleigh Hills Elementary in Beaverton, have decided to leave the decision to assign homework up to individual teachers’ discretion.Located in a historically underserved part of East Portland, just south of Mall 205, Cherry Park reports 75 percent of its students living at or below the poverty line.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.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.Eighty-one percent of its school district population is white, with less than 24 percent living in poverty.It might be expected that the majority of Willamette Primary parents can afford the time to help their kids with homework, but Brandel says her son has been loving his year of no homework — and so has she.’ 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.