As a former teacher, I’ve heard every excuse imaginable for why students were unable to produce the required homework assignment. From the cliché ‘the dog ate it’ to the very elaborate ‘the police raided my house last night and took my homework as evidence,’ I’ve heard it all.
In one Texas school, a classroom full of students were provided the best excuse for skipping homework for an entire school year — ‘my teacher doesn’t believe in homework.’ And, they were telling the truth.
Brandy Young is a second-grade teacher who has decided to do away with assigning students homework for the year. On the first day of school, she sent each one of her little darlings home with a note explaining to parents that homework would not be assigned:
The Great Debate
The topic of homework has been hotly debated for decades. Is it practical, useful and necessary, or is it an antiquated practice that wastes the time of parents and robs students of their childhood? Then there are questions over how much homework should be assigned and how often, to which types of students and how old should students be before they are required to complete homework.
Brandy Young, in her letter to parents, eluded to the fact that research has been unable to definitively prove that homework improves student performance and overall achievement. And she is right. For every study that shows student improvement is correlated to homework, there is a counterexample.
The National PTA and the NEA published a parent guide called Helping Your Child Get the Most Out of Homework.
It states, “Most educators agree that for children in grades K-2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3-6, can handle 30-60 minutes a day; in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject…”
Research and multiple analyses show that practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. And, small amounts of homework may help elementary school students build study habits. However, these two groups agree that these suggestions are merely guidelines based on the evaluations of educators and that each student is an individual and has individual needs. This baseline does not–and should not–be sweepingly applied to every single student with no consideration of ability and developmental levels and learning style.
Even where a positive correlation is established, it is not clear whether homework helps students retain information for long periods of time. Experts opposing the idea of homework argue that the negative effects of homework can outweigh the positives. They believe it can lead to boredom with schoolwork; it can deny students access to leisure activities that also help teach important life skills. And all too often, parents can become too involved in their children’s homework — pressuring them and confusing them by using different instructional techniques than the teacher.
Surprisingly positive response from parents
Brandy Young has taken a bold step and shifted the paradigm when it comes to her second-grade class. And her efforts have been applauded by parents. Some took to Facebook and expressed their sentiments:
In the end, whether you are a fan or homework or not, you must applaud this young teacher. She has won the respect and most importantly, the support of her parents. Educating children is a team effort, and while the teacher is the captain of the team, the parents and students are vital participants. If the whole team does not buy into the belief system, whatever techniques are employed will become void and ineffective. Ms. Young’s decision to cut the small amount of homework she would have assigned from the lives of her students is already paying big dividends.