Thursday September 22, 2016
The Orchard School year was off to a great start Tuesday, August 30, with an open house, which was followed by the students’ first day of school the next day. Despite warm weather and recent memories of summer camp and swimming in Lake Champlain, students were excited about their return to the classroom and getting to know their new classmates and teachers.
There was also a big surprise in store when Principal Mark Trifilio announced that Orchard School would be homework free this year. The principal, known throughout the school as “Mr. T.,” said that, after much discussion and a unanimous teacher vote, there would be no work assigned to students to be completed at home, with the exception that students read each night.
While multiple studies show that benefits about assigning homework to students before middle school are unclear, Trifilio shared some of the rationale for the decision, “There is little or no research that homework supports academic achievement; homework can actually inhibit students from becoming active learners; homework limits students’ interest in education; and there is extensive anecdotal evidence about how families become stressed about homework completion; and finally, we just think it is the right thing to do.”
An Orchard teacher said this about the no-homework decision, “Children’s growing brains need downtime each day, much in the same way a person’s body needs downtime after a rigorous workout in order to recuperate and grow.”
However, students are not being given a totally free pass. There are four other assignments given to the Orchard students, beginning with the instruction to read 30 minutes every night. The other three are to get outside and play, enjoy family dinners together, and get a good night’s sleep.
Trifilio said the school will review the policy in a few months to see how it is going. Orchard is the only elementary school in South Burlington that has adopted this policy.
Some families are already saying their kids are more engaged in reading and more excited to go to school in the morning, and many parents have expressed overwhelming support for the new policy. Dawn Schneider is enthusiastic about the change. “I am thrilled with the no homework decision. Our family has two boys, 2nd and 4th grade. We have already seen positive changes for our family in the evenings,” she said.
By Nicole Lucas, Orchard PTO. The PTO meets on the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Orchard staff room. Parents are welcome to attend and get involved.