Elementary Schools Axing Homework to Give Younger Students a Break

Students love to hear the words “no homework” at the end of the school day. It’s music to their ears. This past year a handful of elementary schools introduced a no-homework pilot program to give their youngest students a break from the after-school work, an approach that has left educators, parents and even experts divided on the issue.

Some parents and educators are questioning the no-homework trend. Research shows there is a positive correlation between homework and student achievement; teachers say students need a break. Parents are conflicted about what to believe.

In 2006, Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper released a comprehensive meta-analysis on homework at all grade levels. Cooper found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. He later recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.

The analysis revealed “the correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.”

While his study noted that homework improves study habits, positive attitudes toward school and self-discipline, Cooper also showed that homework may cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children.

Last August, TIME magazine reported that a no-homework policy introduced by Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Texas, earned praise from parents across the country. Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this school year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.

A Massachusetts elementary school also announced a no-homework policy for the school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction.

These are only two examples of putting an end to homework, sparking a conversation about its purpose.

The National PTA and the National Education Association recommend 10 to 15 minutes of homework per night depending on grade level. First grade students might have 10 minutes of homework each night; second-grade students would have 20 minutes of homework; third-grade students would have 30 minutes of homework, and so on.

Schools that are extending the instructional day in lieu of homework are hoping to see improvements in classroom performance. For now it’s up to the teacher and school administrators to determine which method would work best in their school.

This article was featured in the Volume 88, Winter/Spring 2017 issue of AFSA’s newsletter, The Leader. To read the newsletter in its entirety visit: http://bit.ly/2nJdsIN