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Schools Doing Away with Homework Brings Up the Age-Old Debate on Its Pros And Cons

Ask just about any student if homework should be eliminated and you’re likely to get a resounding “yes!” Ask a teacher or parent though, and the results are going to vary -- often significantly. With the summer winding down and the “back-to-school” mindset beginning to seep back into the consciousness of parents, teachers, and students alike, the debate over homework has risen again.

In 2016, Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Texas, earned praise from parents (and of course students) around the nation when she banned homework, instead encouraging her students to engage in family time or go to bed early.

Young isn’t the only educator who has decided to have her students leave their studies in the school classroom, either. Mark Trifilio, a principal at Orchard Elementary in Vermont proposed a no-homework policy to his teaching staff and all 40 wanted to try it out. Students were encouraged to read book recommendations or have their parents read to them, but that was it. Six-months in, Trifilio reported that his students hadn’t fallen behind in their academics.

“My son declared on Monday that he can read now and that he doesn’t need any help,” said James Conway, whose son Sean is a kindergartner at Orchard. Not all parents shared Conway’s enthusiasm though over the new policy. "My kids would be thrilled if I let them eat brownies everyday. But as a parent, I can't let them," Tara Chitko, the mother of a third-grader told the Burlington Free Press.

The long-standing recommendation for homework by the PTA has been 10 minutes of homework per grade level, meaning by the time students are high school seniors they’re taking home around two hours of homework every night.

Advocates against homework argue that its absence frees kids up to discover things they’re passionate about it and say it can discourage students eagerness to learn. However, there are still educators who tote the benefits of sending students home with a manageable amount of homework.

Harris M. Cooper, a neuroscience and psychology professor at Duke University is known for being a homework advocate saying that it has clear benefits, such as organization, time management, and discipline. A 2006 data analysis he conducted of 60 studies on the topic revealed homework had somewhat of a benefit for older children, but didn’t have a significant impact on the grades or test scores of elementary school children. He fully endorses the PTA’s 10-minute per year homework recommendation.

The issue of homework is often one of frustration for parents who feel that it places unnecessary stress on their children. For Jenney Sims, a parent of twins in the second-grade, one of whom is dyslexic, homework equaled hours of daily frustration. “What should take 20 minutes would take hours and there were a lot of tears,” Sims told the Ocala Star Banner.

Cooper told Time that the debate over homework comes and goes in cycles and now the popular view is that it’s too much and should be done away with. "You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness," he added.

The debate isn’t likely to go away anytime soon and but for Lisa Fontaine-Dorsey, a third-grade math teacher in Florida at Wyomina Park Elementary, the school’s new no-homework policy is a healthy thing for her students. “All day at school they are pressured with the test, test, test environment,” Fontaine-Dorsey said. “They need to go home and get away from that.”


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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