Why some elementary schools and teachers are nixing homework

Posted September 25

Do elementary kids in America need homework to learn? Apparently not, according to research and new approaches by grade school teachers across the country.

A second-grade teacher in Godley, Texas, recently decided to shake up the learning element in her classroom for the new school year by banning homework.

Brandy Young, passed out a "new homework policy" sheet to parents on “Meet the Teacher Night” before the school year began, CBS News reported.

On the new policy sheet, Young said the homework will only consist of the work students did not complete during the school day.

In her letter, Young said she dug up research over the summer that led her to the change. She instead encouraged parents to spend their evenings doing family activities that are proven to correlate with student success, such as eating dinner as a family, reading together, playing outside and getting their child to bed early.

One delighted parent, Samantha Gallagher, whose daughter is in Young’s class, posted a photo of the new homework policy to Facebook with the caption, “Brooke is loving her new teacher already.”

The mother’s social media post went viral and now has more than 72,000 shares.

For various reasons, other schools have reached the same conclusion about homework.

According to The Oregonian, Cherry Park Elementary in East Portland will have no homework whatsoever.

Cherry Park Principal Kate Barker doesn’t believe homework is a good idea for any elementary school, particularly at Cherry Park where 75 percent of students live at or below the poverty line.

"We find that homework really increases that inequity," Barker said to The Oregonian. "It provides a barrier to our students who need the most support."

Multiple studies conducted by Harris Cooper, Duke University professor of psychology and director of Duke’s Program in Education, have found that grade level has a dramatic influence on homework’s effectiveness.

Cooper, the author of “The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers and Parents,” published his first synthesis of homework in 1989 before his second in 2006.

Although homework does have its benefits, Cooper concluded that for elementary students, no amount of homework — large or small — affects achievement.

According to Edutopia, citing Cooper’s work, this is because young students are still developing study habits like concentration and self-regulation, so assigning a lot of homework isn't all that helpful.

Alfie Kohn, author of "The Homework Myth," says homework doesn’t reinforce learning nor does it improve academic results.

“For younger students, in fact, there isn’t even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement,” Kohn writes on his blog introducing his book.

That doesn't mean all homework is bad. The best homework tasks exhibit five characteristics, summed up as the authentic homework approach.

Outlined by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, this approach encourages the five hallmarks of what constitutes as good homework:

• The task has a clear academic purpose, such as practice, checking for understanding or applying knowledge or skills.

• The task efficiently demonstrates student learning.

• The task promotes ownership by offering choices and being personally relevant.

• The task instills a sense of competence, meaning the student can successfully complete it without help.

• Finally, the task is aesthetically pleasing and appears enjoyable and interesting to the student.

Email:; Twitter: @sether00ski


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