Kumomi Homework Editorials

When people declare themselves to be knowledgeable on an issue or subject, they have claim to have done their homework. (These days this sometimes means a Google search, and not much more.)

Whether this homework is beneficial in the pursuit of knowledge depends on the validity of the information and data researched.

Simply doing homework does not necessarily make a person more knowledgeable, especially if that person is in kindergarten.

Highland Park Elementary School in Amarillo generated a little buzz this past week with the announcement that there will be no assigned homework this school year for students in prekindergarten through fourth grade.

A similar no-homework policy for second-grade students at a class at Godley Elementary School near the Metroplex has resulted in national attention, including a recent segment on Fox News.

Let’s break it down.

According to recommendations from the National PTA and the National Education Association, students should have a maximum of 10 minutes of homework each night for each grade level.

For example, a first grade student should have a maximum of 10 minutes of daily homework, all the way to 60 minutes for a sixth grade student.

In other words, students in prekindergarten and kindergarten through first grade are not missing much by having no assigned homework, according to these guidelines.

And it is debatable if homework is all that beneficial for younger grade school students.

Let’s be realistic — the curriculum and workload for younger students is not that challenging.

While education should be challenging, there is ample time to prepare students for a more rigorous workload as they become older and more able to understand their assignments.

Are we advocating for the removal of all assigned homework in grade school?

No, not at all. Actually, a reasonable degree of homework is preferable for older grade school students (third grade and above), so perhaps Highland Park ISD eliminating assigned homework for all grade school students is a bit of a stretch.

However, there is not a pressing need for assigned homework for students during their first two to three years of education.

And there is the benefit to younger students who might be struggling.

Without assigned homework each night, such students have more time to focus — at home — on subjects and/or schoolwork that are more difficult.

And the earlier a student can master a troublesome subject, the better for learning as the student gets older.

It is an interesting educational concept — the elimination of assigned homework actually aiding students.

For younger students, they will not miss much by missing homework.

As kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.

The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week, earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.

But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:

The issue

For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework each night. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.

But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station. “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”

A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.

New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.

The research

The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. 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.

Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.

Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.

The debate

Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.

Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.

“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”

Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.

“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.

The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.

“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “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.”

Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.

“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”

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