Another District Says ‘No’ To Homework, And Parents Are Torn

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
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One district’s no homework mandate for elementary students is making headlines

The school year has either started or is right on the horizon for many students around the country, which means earlier bedtimes and the dreaded beginning of homework. But one Florida school is taking an aggressive stance on homework for their elementary school students – a “no homework policy” covering 31 schools in their district. And not all parents are on board.

“It’s no traditional homework, no work sheets, no endless pages of workbooks. Instead our children are reading aloud with their parents at least 20 minutes a night,” School Superintendent Heidi Maier told Today. While the “no homework” change doesn’t apply to middle and high schoolers in Ocala’s Marion County Public Schools, it’s set off a debate about how much, if any, homework younger children need.

The district’s new policy has some parents concerned about their child not having traditional homework and falling behind. Others agree with the policy citing stressed, fatigued children who are exhausted at the end of the school day. Regardless of where a parent stands, opinions are strong on both sides:

“Reading with parents for 20 minutes at home is basic common sense and should be done regardless, and taking away homework is not a plus.. it’s a negative.. It prepares the children early for what’s ahead for them for years to come pertaining to study habits, assignments, homework.”

“Research supports no homework at the elementary level. Kids need more play. The kids work hard at school all day. More and more recess is taken away and all of the things we had fun doing in school are gone. Kudos to this district for this policy! We should all be so lucky.”

“This should go nationwide. There’s no reason elementary school kids should have homework. They spend 7+ hours a day in school, they need family and play time in the evening. I chose to homeschool this year because I hate seeing how hard schools push young children these days. They need time to be kids too.”

“And what’s going to happen when Jr high comes along and homework is back again? Whatever happened to the “happy medium” for parents who say it’s too much? I did homework, my kids did homework and their children will do homework.”

“The research showed that students who are given a preponderance of homework do not perform better, or get better grades, than those who do not,” Maier noted in the mandate sent to the district’s teachers and parents.

The most comprehensive research study on homework was a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University that found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who completed homework performed better in school, but that correlation was much stronger for older students (seventh through 12th grade) There was almost no correlation for younger students.

So, what is the right mix? For decades, the standard has been based on a “10-minute rule,” which recommends “a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level,” TIME reports. “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.” This guideline is one the National PTA and the National Education Association both support.

Many parents and teachers we know feel burdening young students with homework every night can lead to stress, anxiety, and negative feelings about school, especially when they’ve spent 5-6 hours already in the day learning. Spending nights reading or coming up with counting or spelling games that foster learning but doesn’t feel like homework should be an option for children who need it.

Whatever the case we can rest assured if there are two sides to an argument, it will always be made. So the homework debate will be something that is always that — a debate.

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