Highland Park Elementary School is set to keep in place its so-called “no homework” policy despite a drop in math scores.
“We wanted to individualize what we’re doing more, and I think we’ve definitely accomplished that in the last year,” Principal Vanette Barnett said.
Spring pass rates on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness – or STAAR – climbed for Highland Park third graders in reading by three percentage points, but rates on math exams dropped by 24 percent compared to last year. Sixty-six Highland Park Independent School District third graders were tested in the spring, compared to 64 one year prior.
Barnett said parents and teachers have supported the policy.
“STAAR is one test, one day,” Barnett said. “And I think if we structure everything that we do in a school around one test, we’re doing our students an injustice.”
Last year, the nearly 400 students in prekindergarten through third grade in the small Potter County school district only had to do schoolwork at home if they didn’t finish it during the regular 7.5-hour school day.
Barnett said the decision was made because research hasn’t clearly shown that homework improves academic performance for younger students.
A letter sent to parents last year announcing the new policy said, “Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get your child to bed early.” The letter came amid a social media frenzy after a Fort Worth-area school introduced a similar policy.
Brittani Caswell, 28, called the homework policy a “blessing.” Her 7-year-old daughter enrolled in first grade at Highland Park Elementary last year, coming from Canyon ISD where homework was assigned once a week to kindergartners. She said the policy gave her daughter more time to spend with family and play outside.
“Playing outside, I think, is a big deal for little kids,” she said outside her home in Highland Park on Thursday. “They need that to run off that energy somehow.”
Caswell also said the homework policy relieved her of stress as she prepares to take classes at Amarillo College.
“I never went to college,” she said. “I graduated high school ten years ago. And when they have homework, I have to retrain my brain how to do those things.
“You feel like a failure if you can’t help them with it.”
School starts Aug. 28 at Highland Park ISD.
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