At the start of the 2013-14 school year, the Fentress County School District in Tennessee announced that it would enforce a district-wide ban on graded homework assignments.
Administrators explained their decision by pointing to the large majority of students who lacked at-home resources to help them with their homework. Anywhere between 65%-75% of each school’s student body qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, so it was decided that students should not be singled out for failing to adequately complete take-home assignments.
“We don’t want kids to be unfairly penalized for their work because they don’t have the resources or support they need at home,” explained Randy Clark, Fentress County Schools’ Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor. “Our new motto for assignments is ‘review and preview.”
That means that homework in the district now constitutes an ungraded review or preview of current course work that’s the students’ responsibility to independently complete. Spelling words, vocabulary practice, and study guides for testing all fall under this purview.
The Great Homework Debate
Some educators aren’t fans of the new policy. Tammy Linder, a sixth grade teacher at Allardt Elementary School, is one of them.
“Students have not had that daily homework practice in any subject that keeps the concepts ‘alive’ and moving in their brains, so that means that much of the practice time and teaching time and testing time had to come during the class time each day,” Linder says.
Still, other districts across the country are taking second looks at the practice. The principal of Gaithersburg Elementary in Maryland decided to ask students to spend only 30 minutes in the evening reading. The decision was reached out of the realization that worksheets and other assignments had been assigned merely out of a sense of obligation to dole our homework to students.
Across the country, parents, teachers, and students are also voicing their opinions in the homework debate. On the issue of the actual educational value of homework, it may seem straightforward to many educators that reviewing lessons and practicing concepts after school would correlate to a greater retention of course material, but studies suggest that the link between assigned homework and academic achievement is drastically overinflated.
Researchers at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education found in a 2012 study that math and science homework didn’t correlate to better student grades, but it did lead to better performances on standardized tests. And when homework is assigned, the help provided by parents often mitigated any of the positive effects of the work. Critics of this type of parental involvement say it can be counterproductive because parents may assume too great a role and/or may not fully understand the lessons being taught.
In April, Denise Pope, a researcher at Stanford University, found that too much homework can negatively affect kids by increasing stress and sleep deprivation and generally leaving less time for family, friends, and activities. According to Pope, homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice.
“Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development.”
Video: Do Students Really Have Too Much Homework?
No Homework the New Norm?
“There are simply no compelling data to justify the practice of making kids work what amounts to a second shift when they get home from a full day of school,” says Alfie Kohn, an expert on child education, parenting, and human behavior, as well as the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing.
Should schools then assign less homework or at least reevaluate what they assign? No, says Kohn, school shouldn’t assign any homework. Teachers who do assign it need to have a very compelling reason for extending a student’s school day.
“My general suggestion is to change the default: No homework should be the norm,” Kohn says, “Six hours of academics is enough—except on those occasions when teachers can show strong reason to infringe on family time and make these particular students do more of this particular schoolwork.”
Still, homework is so ingrained in the fabric of schooling that studies revealing its minimal positive benefits have been largely shrugged off or ignored altogether. For most educators, completely cutting homework out of schools isn’t a viable alternative – at least not yet. And many, if not most, teachers are unconvinced that gutting homework from their repertoire of learning tools is the best idea anyway.
Tammy Linder says that teachers haven’t had the amount of teaching time they usually need to enforce classroom lessons and concepts. With the heavy focus on standardized testing already in schools, losing precious out-of-school homework time drastically diminishes how long teachers can devote to thoroughly covering a given subject, as well as the depth and amount of topics they can cover in a school year.
“I have calculated that I have averaged only two to three ‘teaching’ days per week, depending upon re-teaching for those hard to conquer standards and testing,” Linder says. “My students have not covered as much material as students in the past have because of these factors. Nightly practice of any concept keeps the brain engaged in the topic and helps the student focus.”
Karen Spychala, a teacher in San Jose, believes homework has value, but is concerned about its potential to consume too much time outside the school day.
“Homework has its place: to practice skills and most importantly to involve families in their child’s learning” Spychala explains. “But too much homework that takes over everyone’s lives should never happen. There should be agreed upon standard homework times per grade level.”
Are there ways to deemphasize the overreliance on standard homework assignments and allow students to learn through other conducive means?
One option is changing the paradigm of assigned homework to infuse hands-on, student-led engagement with class lessons as a way of piquing student interest in the material. And instead of simply limiting homework to the teacher/student/parent sphere, allowing students the opportunity to show off exceptional homework to a larger audience can give them a further incentive to put in their best effort.
Angela Downing, an elementary school teacher in Newton, Massachusetts, has found great success in displaying excellent student homework on the walls inside and outside of her classroom. By doing so, homework becomes disassociated from the standard teacher-student relationship and gains a whole new level of importance that draws students into the assignment.
“This practice sends the message to students that their work and their learning are important and valued,” Downing says. “Students take special care to do their best work when they know that the final piece will be displayed in the hall or on the classroom bulletin board.”
But for Bonnie Stone, an elementary school teacher in Tulsa, too much homework is too much homework. She saw the impact on her own children and vowed to curtail what she assigned her students.
“As a result of their experience, I vowed never to assign more than 30 minutes of outside reading enrichment for my students,” Stone recalls. “They work hard in class all day. After that, they need to be kids and teens. And I’ve seen no change in the achievement level of my students since I stopped assigning homework.”
Should homework be abolished
No,and Yes. I'm a 7th grade student. At my school we have loads of homework, even though it takes away my/our time to do what I want. It actually is fun some times. And it might not help you in some ways. But I do think schools should not give loads of homework. Just 4 sheets of quick exercise a night based on your level in that class.
It is important for children.
Even if children do not like homework it is very improtant for them, if children are not at school they have homework to help them keep up with their class. As a student I realise we have way to much time on our hands and homework is a good way to use all of it.
Students need to be challenged.
Homework should not be overdone, however, students need to be challenged reach beyond what they know. Homework also serves as feedback - if the teachers get a whole bunch of bad homework they will know they did not thoroughly cover that topic enough. Homework makes sure that kids actually can learn something and will keep it in their minds well enough to answer questions on it - they wont forget.
Homework is good.
I think that the idea of aboloshing homework is one of naieve rebellion. Homework is like a whetstone for a knife. It trains the mind while the mind would otherwise be at rest. Homework is a great way to keep a person honed in and learning outside of the classroom.
No it should not.
Homework should not be abolished. Homework is the perfect way for people to learn and continue to learn on the subject even once their are out of school for the day and are at their home. It is how they review the work and better understand what they get and what they don't get.
No, homework is important.
Homework can feel like a drag when you're a student, but it's a really important part of going to school. It helps to retain the information you have learned during the class period. Additionally, though a good student, I was someone who didn't learn as well in a loud environment like the classroom. I really learned better when at home, studying quietly. We all learn in different ways, and homework will help those who learn in a quiet environment, while also reinforcing learned information from the class period.
Homework is very important
I think homework is vital when it comes to school and it truly does help students in the long run. Whether it'd be to help them prepare for a test/exam or simply to understand the material better, homework should never be abolished, nor do I think it honestly it ever will be.
Homework Increases Repetition of Good Skills
I'm not sure why there should be a consideration to abolish homework. I think that at times, teachers weigh homework more heavily than other teachers in the same grade. If anything, homework should have the same difficulty throughout all classes and subjects so that a student does not spend more time on one assignment than another. Besides that point, homework increases the rate of repetition for students to hone in their skills for certain subjects and classes. A common example is when a student has to go over a dozen questions regarding long division when they just learned the subject in school; if they correctly do each question of long division they will understand the subject matter better because they were given homework to increase their understanding.
Homework is a boon
It makes a person better on studies and improves handwriting of a person and the homework is of he studies that we do in school so it gives us practice. It is way a person can learn something extra than what is in a textbook. I love doing home work
Homework can help students in a plethora of ways
Most students might feel that homework is an extremely tedious and useless task to do but throw me tomatoes and banana peels because I believe otherwise. Homework can help students in a plethora of ways both consciously and unconsciously. First and foremost, students are bound to become more responsible by fulfilling this task. This is because it is a given task to be completed and submitted at a due date. They will learn what they must do and when they must do it. Consequently, their time managing skills will improve. They will learn how to divide their tasks among other extra curricular activities and set aside 'tv' time or 'computer game' time which will be helpful in organization and peace of mind.