Last April, Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Texas, sent a short note to her students' parents informing them that she would not assign any homework for the remainder of the school year. An approving parent posted the letter on her Facebook page and it quickly went viral, eliciting scores of supportive comments from parents, educators, and, of course, students. There were a few dissenters, but the buzz the letter generated was the latest and perhaps strongest sign yet that homework - a stalwart tradition of K-12 education in the United States - was in the doghouse.
Long before Young's letter, however, many schools had already begun to question the assumptions behind homework, namely its academic value and overall appropriateness for students in elementary school.
A 2015 study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy suggested that elementary students were being assigned significantly more homework than what is recommended. (The National Education Association and the National Parent Teachers Association endorse the \"10-minute rule,\" which states that that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level.) Other studies have identified homework as a major source of stress for all students - a repercussion educators and parents have been calling attention to for years.
As to its impact on student achievement, the research is at best mixed. Evidence that homework is beneficial to elementary school students is virtually non-existent. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of \"The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents,\" says homework can lead to improvements in student learning in higher grades if it is designed and implemented properly. But too much can do more harm than good.
\"We really need more work on subject matter, on homework quality, on the level of inquisitiveness that it engenders and the way it motivates,\" says Cooper, who believes high school students need some homework because it can help them learn how to study independently if they move onto college.
Many high schools are getting the message about student stress and are looking for ways to lighten the homework load. The so-called \"no homework\" movement is focused on elementary grades, but framing the choice as \"no homework vs. homework\" is misguided, according to Maurice Elias of Rutgers University and co-author of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and The Joys and Oys of Parenting.
\"Ideally, we want children to understand that they are always learners. In school, we refer to them as 'students,' but outside of school, as children, they are still learners,\" Elias explains. \"So advertising a 'no homework' policy in a school sends the wrong message. The policy should be something like, 'no time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks with no clear instructional or learning purpose will be assigned.'\"
Whether it's called \"homework,\" \"continued learning,\" or something else altogether, the key is to make reading, writing, and performing arithmetic a part of everyday family interactions. \"Educators can and should provide developmental guidance to parents on how to to do this,\" says Elias.
The lack of research supporting formal homework in lower grades gave Jake Toomey, principal of Discovery School at Four Corners in Gilbert, Mass., the confidence to move forward with new homework guidelines in October. The change grew out of discussions between Toomey and two other elementary school principals in the district.
In October, Four Corners implemented new guidelines that permitted teachers to end formally assigned homework, along with the tracking, logging, and accountability procedures that went with it. The task was to design a new approach that engaged parents and reinforced student learning without this baggage. No more homework Not strictly-speaking, but definitely \"less drama and tears,\" Toomey says.
\"We give suggestions to parents on enrichment activities they can do with their kids,\" explains second grade teacher Bharati Winston. \"They can be fun. I'll suggest apps on smartphones or tablets that are educational. There are guidelines and expectations. There should, for example, be some level of reading, some sort of math, but there's no homework log and much less pressure.\"
If a student is struggling with a particular lesson, \"we still might provide an enrichment activity for home practice,\" says Winston. \"We always take the academic pulse of each child so a more formal style of homework may be necessary. It's a case-by-case basis.\"
The new guidelines have been in place only for a few months, but the feedback from parents and educators has so far been very positive. At the end of the school year, educators will take a more formal look at how the new guidelines affected student learning.
\"In education, we tend put a lot of clout in the data for academics,\" Winston cautions. \"But I can tell you I have seen no tears or anxiety in my students this year, compared to last year when I would see it maybe once a month over a missed or incomplete homework assignment. So my students are coming to school feeling way more positive about what they able to accomplish at home with their parents. There's valuable data in that as well.\"
Teachers who took a meritocratic approach to homework were more likely to adopt punitive homework policies: giving extra credit on tests for students who turned in homework, or keeping students back from recess for not completing it, for example. Meritocratic teachers also were more likely to assign homework that students could not complete independently, either because it was too difficult or required input from parents.
In an earlier related study using the same students, Calarco and her colleagues also found teachers felt significant pressure from affluent and white parents to excuse their children when they failed to complete homework. Existing homework policies tended to be applied in favor of students of parents who were highly involved in the school.
How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.
Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.
But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.
\"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice,\" she adds. \"We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there.\"
\"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level,\" he says. \"For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest.\"
Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.
\"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense,\" says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.
Do private schools assign more homework than public schools There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.
\"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it,\" he adds. \"They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it.\"
The Federal Communications Commission reports that about 65% of students used the internet at home to complete their homework and 70% of teachers assigned homework that required access to broadband. As technology becomes increasingly common in households, how can educators and parents harness technology to foster students' problem-solving skills
There is no clear-cut definition of what digital homework is. It can be any assignment that students need to complete with the assistance of a computer, the internet, or other information and communication technologies (ICT). Although it would seem the opposite to the traditional homework that students complete with pen, pencil, and paper, it should be noted that, in a broad sense, digital homework includes homework that students write on paper but also requires using computer and/or internet assistance for its completion.
Data show that digital homework is growing in popularity in the 21st century. In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that about 65 percent of U.S. students used the internet at home to comple