Some schools and school districts are taking a hard look at how much homework is assigned and how valuable it is for student learning. How much homework do you have, on average, each night? Is it a burden for you? Does it mostly help you learn the material and skills you are being taught? Does some of it seem like “busy work”?
Winnie Hu reports on a “homework revolution,” in which some schools and districts are rethinking their policies on and approaches to homework:
Galloway is part of a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high-stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, particularly in elementary grades.
“There is simply no proof that most homework as we know it improves school performance,” said Vicki Abeles, a mother of three from California, whose documentary “Race to Nowhere,” about burned-out students caught in a pressure-cooker educational system, has helped reignite the antihomework movement. “And by expecting kids to work a ‘second shift’ in what should be their downtime, the presence of schoolwork at home is negatively affecting the health of our young people and the quality of family time.”
So teachers at Mango Elementary School in Fontana, Calif., are replacing homework with “goal work” that is specific to individual student’s needs and that can be completed in class or at home at his or her own pace. The Pleasanton School District, north of San Jose, Calif., is proposing this month to cut homework times by nearly half and prohibit weekend assignments in elementary grades because, as one administrator said, “parents want their kids back.”
Ridgewood High School in New Jersey introduced a homework-free winter break in December. Schools in Tampa, Fla., and Bleckley County, Ga., have instituted “no homework nights” throughout the year. And the two-year-old Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a program for gifted and talented elementary students, has made homework optional: it is neither graded nor counted toward progress reports.
“I think people confuse homework with rigor,” said Donna Taylor, the Brooklyn School’s principal, who views homework for children under 11 as primarily benefiting parents by helping them feel connected to the classroom.
Students: Tell us about your homework. How much time do you spend per night on assignments? Do your homework assignments tend to reinforce your learning in class, or does it generally feel like a useless requirement? Have any of your teachers changed their homework policies or limit the homework they assign? Do you ever have optional or individualized homework? If it were up to you, what would your school’s homework policy be, and why?
When you get home after school, how much homework will you do? Will it keep you up late at night? Will it cause stress in your family? Or do you have homework under control?
Do teachers assign too much homework?
In the article “The Homework Squabbles,” Bruce Feiler writes:
Homework has a branding problem. Or, to be a little less pointy-headed about it, everybody hates homework.
Scan through the parenting shelves, and the frustration is palpable: “The Case Against Homework,” “The Homework Trap,” “The End of Homework.” Glance through glossy magazines, and the enmity is ubiquitous: “The Homework Wars” (The Atlantic), “The Myth About Homework” (Time), “Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?” (Smithsonian).
Heck, just drop the word into any conversation with families and watch the temperature rise.
Some of this is cyclical, of course. Homework goes back to the onset of formal schooling in America and was popular in an era when the brain was viewed as a muscle to be strengthened.
The first backlash began in the early 20th century as repetitive drilling came under attack, and by the ’40s, homework had lost favor. The launch of Sputnik in 1957 generated hysteria that we were losing ground to the Soviet Union, and more homework was one response, but the practice again waned in the 1960s. Homework came roaring back after “A Nation at Risk” in the 1980s as Americans again feared their children were falling behind.
Today’s tension echoes this back and forth. “The Chinese do six hours of homework before breakfast — we have to keep up” versus “Play is more important than make-work. Google wants people who are ‘creative’.”
Students: Read the entire article, then tell us …
— Do your teachers assign too much homework? Or do you have just the right amount?
— Does homework cause stress and tension in your family? Or does it create opportunities to work together with your parents or siblings?
— Does it get in the way of sleep or extracurricular activities? Or are you able to manage the right balance?
— How do you usually get your homework done? At home or at school? In a quiet room, or with family or friends around? Do you tend to work alone, or do your parents or friends help?
— Is homework, including projects and writing assignments you do at home, an important part of your learning experience? Or is it not a good use of time, in your opinion? Explain.
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.