Who Is Doing Your Homework? For Some East Rock Students, It’s Their Parents


Homework: Who is a fan?  

From repetitive reading responses to tedious long division, nightly assignments can get groans from even the best students at East Rock Community & Cultural Studies Magnet School. 

Just say “homework” and Christian Poole, a 7th grader, winces. “I hate homework,” he said, calling it “the worst thing ever. I’d rather play video games.” 

Even so, most students buckle down and do it. But sometimes, students turn to another source to finish homework: their parents. 

Teachers say it is easy to spot. Giveaways include handwriting neater than normal or more complex sentences that show mental sophistication more expected of a grown adult than an elementary school student.  

“It’s difficult to balance going to practice, performances and games and doing homework.”

It happens more than you would think, said sixth grade teacher Garrett Griffin.  He catches students turning in homework done by parents “about once per week.”  

According to the East Rock Record Spring 2020 Survey, to which students respond anonymously, just over one-quarter of students said their parents had done their homework for them at least once. 

Does East Rock have a homework problem? 

Mr. Poole told East Rock Record reporters that his mom did his math homework when he was sick. “She just did it — she didn’t even ask,” he said. Even though he enjoyed the time away from his books, Mr. Poole also was sorry that his busy mother did his homework. 

“She has other stuff to do,” he said. “I feel bad.” 

Evenings can be very hectic for East Rock School students. Between choir rehearsal, family meals, religious events and other commitments, many struggle to find time for homework and to get the right amount of help. Faced with the need to juggle a nightly routine with challenging math problems, some families decide to tackle an assignment without the child.

It is an unfortunate reality, said Leslie DePriest, East Rock School vice principal. But she doesn’t fault parents. “It’s difficult to balance going to practice, performances and games and doing homework,” she said. “I can see both sides.” 

Some teachers aren’t so sure. John Kennedy, who teaches 7th grade math, said he assigns “not a lot” of homework — some 15 minutes at least two to three times every week. With a whole life of tight deadlines and stressful work in front of these kids, this amount is fairly reasonable, he said. “Fifteen minutes, three times a week is not an odious burden on them, he said. 

When students have other people do their own homework, some say it is like telling a lie. Teachers use assignments to see how well their lessons stick and to gauge how much review they need to do the next day 

If homework is perfect thanks to a parent’s help, teachers might assume the class understands a concept and move on to harder material. That can make students feel confused and left behind. 

“If you’re not doing your homework, chances are you’re lost in class the next day,” Mr. Griffin said. “You’re already behind the starting line.”

There are also consequences for students who try to pass off a parent’s work as their own. If she sees it happening, fourth grade teacher Angela Maiocco will give zero credit for the assignment, and will call home if it keeps happening.  

Since she doesn’t give “super hard” homework, Ms. Maiocco said, the number of times that she finds homework done by parents are rare. And sometimes, teachers make mistakes.

Ms. Maiocco said she received an assignment with impeccable penmanship from one of her students earlier this year. But when she asked the kid to do it again — a way to find out if the work was really the student’s — the writing was more or less the same. “I want to see that handwriting more often!” she said. 

There are, of course, good things about doing homework.  

Monica Abbot, a social and emotional learning coach for New Haven Public Schools, told East Rock Record reporters that nightly practice can help build study habits that will be useful in high school and college. As a former classroom teacher for 18 years and a mother of two New Haven students, Ms. Abbott also said that homework teaches time management, an important skill in the “real world” of bills, jobs and taxes.  

Like it or not, teachers said that homework is here to stay at East Rock School 

For some students, that news isn’t so bad: 33 percent of those who responded to the East Rock Record Survey said they “secretly like” homework. For the other 66 percent, nightly assignments are just part of the aches and pains of school. 

“Homework is a waste of your time,” said third grader Tusker Pickett. “It just stresses you out.” 

Mr. Pickett listened with wide eyes one Thursday as an older student boasted about how much homework he does each night.  

Mr. Pickett groaned, then spoke: “I am not ready for 4th grade.” 

Edited by Matt Kristoffersen.