Could the End of Homework Be on the Horizon?

| June 20, 2011 | 6 Comments
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Parents’ directive to kids to “go do your homework” may soon be a thing of the past. School districts across the country, from New Jersey to Wyoming to California are banning homework — or at least shortening the allotted time to make it more “meaningful and manageable.”

Simply put, the anti-homework camp points out the added stress and hours of rote drill work have not raised achievement levels, especially in elementary grades, according to the New York Times. Those who favor homework say important skills, whether they’re rote or involve critical thinking, need to be practiced and honed.

Some schools are swapping homework for “goal work,” tailored to each student’s progress, to be done at home or at class, as they’re doing in Mango Elementary School in Fontana, Calif., while others, like Pleasanton, are cutting homework time back by half and prohibiting any assignments handed out on weekends, the Times article states.

“Homework is messing up the balance of kids’ lives in terms of having downtime and playtime and family time,” said Cathy Vatterott, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs in a Reuters article.

This philosophical argument against overworked students is one perspective. But there’s also a logistical argument to be made on behalf of low-income students, who may not have either the time or the physical space to complete homework assignments, putting them at even a greater disadvantage in the achievement gap. Many low-income students have to work to help support the family, don’t have support at home because of working parents, or are confined to cramped living quarters and simply can’t find the space to do homework.

If the homework ban does become the norm rather than the exception, what does this mean for teachers?

Apart from having to coordinate with each other to ensure they don’t exceed allotted homework time, how will educators change the way they design classroom time?

Today’s Forum show on KQED discussed the issue in depth. You can listen to it here.

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  • Guest

    As a rising senior engineering student at Cal, I have mixed feelings about this proposed ban on homework. Obviously, for college students, assignments (especially problems that emphasize analysis over number crunching) are an extremely important part of education. However, I get concerned when the author of “The Homework Myth” says that homework is something you should opt into rather than opt out of. Who says homework can’t be family time? I remember getting system of equations math problems in 5th grade and asking for help from my dad and him having a great(!!) time explaining the concept to me. We bonded then and still bond over my homework, like him helping me with a thermodynamics class 30 years after he studied it.

    • Mafarrace

      But, just what you mentioned goes back to our economically disadvantaged- some have no base to help them & sit with them due to jobs or parents working night shifts or the student must care for siblings. Some families don’t even have electricity, or a home. Then, we have another dynamic at play: the beauty of our country is that in the US, we have students from all over the world – including those whose parents might not be proficient in English – then they’ve lost this base that you were so fortunate to have. What to do to keep the scales even for them? Maybe the issue goes back again to meaning work in small amounts?

  • Laurie A. Couture

    Homework is developmentally inappropriate, like much of the public school environment. It is unacceptable for schools to impose on the little free, play, family and play time children have left of each day.

  • http://twitter.com/johnwick John Wick

    While I may not exactly agree with removing homework entirely from the educational landscape, I do have a problem when most of the major research indicates that there is no significant positive impact on student achievement in the early elementary grades. I think some teachers prescribe homework because it is expected, rather than using it for the proper use. I look forward to our further examination of the homework phenomenon and how we can find the best methods of helping to improve student learning.

  • http://twitter.com/buckinsand James Buckingham

    Love the idea of moving the emphasis away from “home” work towards “goal” work. Still believe we should be encouraging students to learn how to work and to feel confident about working .. outside of class to focus their thoughts and energies on solving problems (independently) .. or even to work on these same problems in small groups (collaboratively online). This typically involves finding a quiet place and learning to “manage” distractions (that includes electronic devices) .. something perhaps just as difficult to realize at school.

    • arlindaatkinson

      my co-worker’s sister makes $82/hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for six months but last month her payment was $20683 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on  Ask25.c­om