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By Sandy Stenoff

Education expert, Alfie Kohn has written extensively about the lack of any real educational value in homework, especially for young children.

In this brief video, he refers to homework, after a full day of school, as the Second Shift. After a full day of Kindergarten, homework for 5-year-olds IS just like working a second shift. Why can’t they just be 5 years old?

Last night, in the Opt Out Seminole group on Facebook, parent Brandi Kitchens shared this letter sent home with her Kindergartener yesterday. For whatever reason, the school is unable to get in the 90 minutes/week of i-Ready during school and demanding, not demanding that parents see to it at home, complete with bribes galore to enforce compliance. Many parents were appalled. It was a robust discussion. While there were a few parents who stated that their child likes i-Ready, outraged is not too strong a word for what others expressed.

Seminole County is not alone in this poor educational practice. i-Ready is excessively required in Orange County, Palm Beach County (here, here and here) , Miami-Dade County and many others – to the same degree. Parents in the Opt Out groups have been discussing i-Ready homework for months. And they’ve had enough.

Dr. Denisha Jones, Early Education expert from Defending the Early Years chimed in:

“Apalled. I don’t care if the child likes it or not. Some kids might like licking cement but we don’t let them do it. No kindergarten child should have homework, but if you must, one worksheet or a story to read should be the max. I think it will take parents drawing the line on the amount of time spent on homework at all grade levels and opting out of anything in excess of that time for schools to think about ending this obscene policy.”

What would YOU think if you received this letter from your child’s school?

Letter to Kindergarten Parents from a Seminole County elementary school

Brandi and Jonathan Kitchens sent this letter to SCPS Superintendent, Dr. Walt Griffin:

Dear Dr. Griffin,

When my husband and I decided to move to Florida this summer, we chose to move to Seminole County because of its solid reputation for doing what is best for children in education.

Yesterday, my child brought home a letter from school informing me that SCPS is now requiring Kindergarteners to complete 90 minutes per week of Math and Reading on i-Ready. At home. The letter says that children who do not do i-Ready at home will not be punished. However they will also not partake of the rewards shared with those who put in their i-Ready hours. They will be excluded from multiple trips to Treasure Box and Fish Awards, which will be used in larger weekly prizes. Therefore, punished without calling it punishment.

This is unacceptable.

These children are FIVE YEARS OLD. They’ve already put in their seven hours of hard work at the office. Seven hours of being good. Seven hours of being told what to do, say and think, of “minding their manners” with other five-year olds, of sitting still and “keeping your hands to yourself,” of lessons and lining up for lunch and learning to color inside the lines.

This is to advise you that my child will not be completing i-Ready at home. We will not subject him to “overtime” at home. When he gets home, he needs to tell me about his day. He needs to play and climb trees. He does not need to do MORE work. He does not need the screen time. He needs to just be five years old.

What is striking to me in the letter is that there is no mention of how i-Ready will benefit my child, only how important it is to get in his “minutes” and we will do everything possible to get in those precious minutes.” There is NO research demonstrating that 90 minutes of weekly i-Ready will improve any student’s learning. In a school year, that’s 54 hours of assessments. Just for i-Ready. Unacceptable.

Furthermore, not all families are “plugged in” making this is an unfair demand. But if i-Ready is online and the school has the ability to track student time in the program, why would parents need to sign off “yes” or “no” on the calendar?

Parents get homework too!

This strikes me as further distancing my child from others in the class due to our inability or (disinterest) in the program. The entire “reward system” seems unfair, and inappropriate in a class full of Kindergarteners.

My understanding is that i-Ready is being used to evaluate teachers. It is not any child’s job to sacrifice valuable time with his teacher for his teacher’s evaluation.

I am told by an elementary school teacher of more than twenty years with a Masters degree in Developmental Psychology that there is a “standard of care” that academia and early childhood experts have concluded is best for children. And that would be NO HOMEWORK IN KINDERGARTEN. The people who know what’s best for children have determined homework is not one of those things.

We do believe that running and playing outside for the hour of daylight after we get home from work is more valuable for all aspects of his growth and development than any amount of i-Ready, especially after a full day of school. We believe that helping to set the table will teach him more practical math; and reading together as a family at bedtime will help instill a love of reading far more than i-Ready ever could. Family first.

There is ample research against using extrinsic motivation in school. Therefore, I hope that special treats will be shared with the entire class – just as treats, not incentives. Has it even occurred to anyone in the district to question the wisdom of i-Ready if the schools must “incentivize” participation to the extent that it does in order to get the compliance it seeks?

Because we strongly disagree with i-Ready for homework, and with the use of the school’s “rewards game” to coerce five-year-olds into compliance, it is our family’s decision that he not participate. I am prepared to discuss with my five-year-old, the fact that life can sometimes be unfair, and that as his Mom and Dad, WE have to decide what is best for him. He will understand that if he is excluded from “treats or special rewards” at school, he is not being punished by his teacher – he is being punished by his school district’s questionable demands.

Please restore our trust in this district and put a stop to requiring i-Ready as homework for our youngest students. Please stop demanding that schools and teachers push for the “minutes.” It is an unnecessary stress for families.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Respectfully,

Brandi and Jonathan Kitchens
_______________________________

This is not the norm in every district – most, but not all. In Marion County, Supt. Heidi Maier has all but banned homework for elementary grades. It’s true! A Florida school district banned homework.

From the Washington Post (July 17, 2017)
“Why this superintendent is banning homework — and asking kids to read instead”

“Heidi Maier, the new superintendent of the 42,000-student Marion County public school district in Florida, said in an interview that she made the decision based on solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students. They are being asked to do one thing to help them academically: Read for 20 minutes a night.”

Let me repeat – in bold, AND underlined:

“..she made the decision based on solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students. They are being asked to do one thing to help them academically: Read for 20 minutes a night.

This IS possible in your district too. But not unless YOU demand it.

Otherwise, this may be the alternative for your child…

1frequenthomeworkprogramCOLCP 6
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SUGGESTED READING

CBE (Competency Based Education) or personalized learning
Digital Curriculum: Questions Parents Should be Asking
We change the world by showing up. I went to Seattle and got a video on Ed Reform 2.0

Early Childhood
Defending the Early Years
National Association for the Education of Young Children
10 NAEYC Standards

i-Ready
Are all parents aware of i-Ready in our public schools? – PB Post Letters
i-Ready or not? $5.6M software targets reading, math – PB Post
Comparing PBC school day hours, use of iReady, planning time, more – PB Post

The case against homework
The Case Against Homework- Alfie Kohn
The Homework Myth – Alfie Kohn (Book)
FOR TEACHERS – The Homework Debate: The Case Against Homework
– Concordia University (Updated Nov 17, 2017)
No, my kindergartner won’t be doing that homework assignment – WaPo
Rethinking Homework – Alfie Kohn

 

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