A second-grade teacher from Texas has taken parenting corners of the social media world by storm with a letter announcing her new homework policy. The policy? No homework at all.
After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year. Research had been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eating dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.
The letter has its critics, of course: one unimpressed Facebook commenter argues that homework is "very crucial" in helping children "not only to learn schooling but also beginnings of responsibility," adding that "kids nowadays are definitely babied more." But the majority of commenters express support for the policy, reflecting a pushback in recent years against what many parents say is too much homework. An ongoing poll on Debate.org asking whether schools should abolish homework currently shows 71 percent of respondents in favor of the idea.
A number of studies have found that students, especially those in elementary school, are on average assigned more homework than education experts recommend. One study published last year found that first and second-grade children were being assigned three times the homework load recommended by the National Education Association (NEA). Kindergarteners, who according to NEA recommendations should not have any homework at all, were assigned on average 25 minutes of work a night.
Many anti-homework advocates have pointed out that there is little to no evidence that homework significantly improves academic performance in elementary students. For high schoolers, researchers have found links between moderate amounts of homework and achievement.
"[A]ll the research and evidence point to the fact that no elementary school in America should be making students work a second shift with homework because there are no proven benefits," Alfie Kohn, author of the book "The Homework Myth," told The Christian Science Monitor last year. "Homework is all pain and no gain."
Indeed, researchers say, too much homework is not only ineffective but can also be harmful.
"The cost is enormous," said Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, to CNN. "The data shows that homework over [the recommended] level is not only not beneficial to children's grades or GPA, but there's really a plethora of evidence that it's detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life."
Ms. Young, the second-grade teacher from Texas, isn't the first educator to take this research – and complaints from displeased parents with overworked children – into consideration when establishing homework policies. Some schools, such as P.S. 116 in Manhattan, have abolished homework altogether, citing "children's frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time and, sadly, for many, loss of interest in learning."
But not all parents and educators are in favor of less homework – especially those at elite schools. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology at Duke University and the author of "The Battle Over Homework," says that attitudes toward homework swing in cycles lasting about 30 years – and, as the current anti-homework revolution has been underway since the early 2000s, we may be starting to see a backlash against the backlash.
"We’re in a heavy-homework part of the cycle," Dr. Cooper told The Atlantic. "The increasing competition for elite high schools and colleges has parents demanding more homework."