The (No) Homework Revolution
As the school year comes to an end, educators are reconsidering how much homework to assign students. Something of a “homework revolution” is underway throughout the US, and also in Canada and even the Philippines, with parents saying kids should have time to be kids and “just be kids.” Notes the New York Times:
Teachers at Mango Elementary School in Fontana, Calif., are now assigning “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 high school in the affluent northern New Jersey town of Ridgewood introduced a homework-free winter break in December.
Toronto schools banned homework for kindergartners and for older children on school holidays in 2008.
Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a program for gifted and talented elementary students, has made homework optional.
The New York Times gives some of the background behind todays “had it with homework” movement:
Homework wars have divided communities for more than a century, fanned by shifting social, political and cultural norms. In the 1950s, the launching of Sputnik ushered in heavier workloads for American students in the race to keep up with the Soviet Union. The 1983 report “A Nation at Risk” brought renewed demands for homework as American test scores lagged behind those of other countries. The testing pressures of the No Child Left Behind law over the past decade have resulted in more homework for children at younger ages.
Teachers and educators are not as gung-ho about decreasing, or eliminating, homework. There is a required curriculum for students to complete and the school day is not long enough to cover everything, and studying at home does help to reinforce what one did in class. Also, as the New York Times points out, research – and my own experience as a student and a teacher underscore — has “long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits.” It is the case that younger children can only handle so much homework, as Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
One statistic people might like to keep in mind before throwing homework out the window. According to USC’s US-China Institute, middle school and high school students in China spend 90% (average of 58 minutes per day) of their time doing their homework on average. Chinese students regularly rank #1 in the world in the math, science and reading, according to recent results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
More homework, greater academic achievement: Maybe there’s a correlation?
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