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 Students Get Less Homework
April 8, 2011
Too much homework can cause stress in a student and lead to health issues in the body and mind. Homework related anxiety and stress can affect school work negatively. Stress causes lack of sleep, slipping grades, fatigue, unhealthy eating habits, depression, and many more factors. According to a 2006 poll, 80 percent of teens don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. At least 28 percent fall asleep in school and 22 percent fall asleep doing homework(‘Summary Findings of the 2006 Sleep in America Poll’, www.nationalsleepfoundation,org). In the film Race to Nowhere, the people working on the film interview multiple students and many of them talk about having nervous breakdowns or being very stressed; some even talked about getting depressed because of all the homework in school and depression can even lead to suicide. Nervous breakdowns can make completing homework much more of a struggle and also effect the health and life of a student.
Kids are doing more than the recommended amount each night, with no academic benefits. The recommended amount is 10 minutes times the grade level, so first grade gets 10 minutes, second grade gets 20 minutes, third grade gets 30 minutes, and so on, but kids are doing much more than that. (Homework, www.wikipedia.org) Twenty three percent of 13-year-olds do more than 2 hours a night. The more the students do, the less they get out of doing it. There is no academic benefit for high school students after 2 hours and there are no academic benefits for middle school students after 1 and a half hours. (‘As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It’, www.washingtonpost.com)
Doing homework all night can take away a student's free time and sleep. Always doing homework can lead to less family time and less time for activities. It creates less time for sports and after school activities. Family time is also decreased which can add more family conflict. Hanging out with friends is decreased, so that means there is less socializing. Staying up late and doing homework takes away a student’s time to sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause stress and many more factors. Not enough sleep can leave a student tired, and at school they might focus less or fall asleep during class. Then the student gets in trouble for falling asleep. Homework is taking away a students childhood, no one wants that, do they?
School students in America should get less homework on a daily basis. Too much homework can cause stress and other health issues. Also, students are working more than the recommended amount of time on homework, and this takes away from family time and free time, as well as time for sleep. When it comes to doing homework, students also want time to relax and enjoy other activities. Shouldn’t students get less homework so that they can be happy and have more time with family and friends? Administrators, teachers, students, and parents need to address this issue and inform people about the effects of homework on students in America. If teachers and parents tried to reduce the amount of homework there would be a decrease in stress and anxiety and an increase in happiness! “Homework makes it so I can’t spend time with my kids and family and I resent it.” (Ms.Valette)