School’s out forever?

As outlandish as that may sound, it may become at least partially true. This comes with the elimination of homework in a Barrie, Ontario elementary school — a much needed step in the right direction.

At Prince of Wales School, principal Jan Olson implemented a no homework policy for the 2007-2008 school year. This change came after both parents and educators argued it gives students who come from supportive homes an unfair advantage over those who don’t.

The concept may seem as far away from us as Barrie is to drive to, but it may just find its way from one school up north to our local Scarborough institutions.

At the elementary level, excessive homework works significantly against students, some researchers say, and it is particularly counterproductive for students who come from lower income homes.

According to a survey done by the Canadian Council on Learning in 2007, parents with a combined income of $40,000 and under are nearly three times less likely to hire a tutor than families who make more than $100,000.

With statistics showing most families in Scarborough are not earning a combined income of more than $100,000, many families in the area may not have the luxury of a tutor.

Access to a tutor and parental support gives students whose families have the resources to assist them an unfair advantage over students who do not.

When homework is taken home, teachers don’t really know who completed assignments. They can very well be giving a grade to a parent, rather than a student, for their excellent work on a project on the rainforest.

A student can be coasting though school because of a parent who does their homework for them, thus not preparing them for their future educational endeavors.

For that reason, traditional homework does not really allow a teacher to get to know their students’ strengths or weaknesses and consequently those issues are not addressed, this research says.

More in-class seat work and integration of subjects like literacy and math is a much more effective way for students at the elementary level to learn. Students can talk out any issues they have with their school work amongst themselves, as well as have the equal opportunity to speak with their teachers.

It is also important to note research shows that at the elementary level, homework does not necessarily improve success in students’ grades. The results at Olson’s school have not changed so far, however in some cases, grades have actually gone up slightly.

But can the concept of no homework become a reality at elementary schools in our neck of the woods?

With the Toronto District School Boards’ new homework policy, kindergarten students will get no out of class assignments, while older elementary grades’ homework will consist of reading and family time.

So the notion of no homework in Scarborough elementary schools may not be so outlandish after all.