Some Parents Skeptical as NYC School Ditches Homework


Kids who attend NYC P.S. 116 elementary school are likely teeming with glee after their school was declared a “No Homework Zone” — but parents are more skeptical.

After a year of examining studies concerning whether homework is effective, the school decided that math worksheets and essay assignments were actually a waste of time. In February, Principal Jane Hsu sent a letter to parents stating that the Pre-K through fifth grade students would not be given any traditional homework. The communication encouraged letting kids have free time for reading, playing outside, or doing activities they enjoy, while limiting TV time, video and computer games.

“The negative effects of homework have been well established,” Hsu wrote in a note to parents, according to the New York local news website DNAInfo. “They include: children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time and, sadly for many, loss of interest in learning.”

Some parents, however, disagree with the policy change, believing that a lack of focus will ensue and fearing that children’s academics will fall behind, writes Yahoo Parenting’s Jennifer O’Neill. Homework has been a part of education from the beginning, and has increased in volume in recent years. Still, the National Parent Teacher Association supports no more than 20 minutes of work a day through the 2nd grade and a maximum of 60 minutes for grades 3 through 6.

However, a 2014 report from Brookings Brown Center on Education reveals that 60% of 3rd and 4th graders were working as much as 2 hours a night.

“Having the opportunity to apply what children have learned after they leave the school environment is important,” Peter Pizzolongo, associate executive director at National Association for the Education of Young Children tells Yahoo Parenting in defense of homework. “But that work doesn’t need to be worksheets.” 

Hsu’s advice that children should read and spend time with their families has upset some parents to the point of considering pulling their children out of P.S. 116. This group feels that homework assignments instill discipline and give children a goal to work toward. Others feel so strongly about the importance of homework that they have begun giving their own homework assignments to their children, reports Darcie Loreno of WJW-TV.

The role of parent interest and involvement in homework, writes News.comAU’s Rebecca Sullivan, is changing, and Sullivan reports that parents should stop helping their kids with homework. No one involved seems to like it, and she adds that the average 15-year-old student spends six hours a week on homework, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

An Australian Childhood Foundation survey found that 71% of Australian parents feel they do not spend enough quality time with their children mainly because of time spent running the household or the time spent helping with homework. Education experts in Australia are saying that parents should stop helping. Doing so will give kids more independence, will give parents more free time, and will help reduce the number of homework-induced arguments in the family.

While some research suggests that homework has little academic benefit for elementary students, other research shows homework can help kids develop independence, initiative, and confidence. It can also contribute to a sense of belonging and autonomy or control over their lives. When parents try to help their children with homework, the assistance can take away that feeling and can also drain already exhausted working parents.

“I’ve seen so many arguments between parents and children about homework. By removing the burden of having to be the homework help the whole time, parents can reduce the number of arguments, the tension and the bad feelings that come from having to hound your kid all the time.”

If not homework, then what? Schools have suggested playing family games like Scrabble, choosing and cooking a recipe for dinner, and, in general, equipping children with important life skills.

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