Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Is Less Homework Better For Students?

    Saying homework is too easily confused with rigor, some districts are clamping down on excess homework -- including, most recently, the L.A. Unified School District. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

    L.A. students aren’t sweating the multiplication problems due in class tomorrow — or, at least, the grade they get on the assignment.

    As KTLA-TV reports, a new Los Angeles Unified School District policy mandates homework assignments can’t be worth more than 10 percent of a student’s grade:

    Some teachers are concerned about the new policy saying that it will allow students to slack off and won’t help students who already fail to turn in homework assignments. They worry it could also hurt hardworking students who get good marks for their effort. Educators say students who do their homework perform significantly better than those who don’t…

    The policy says homework should not be used to punish or reward; grades should be based on learning so that it “accurately represents what a student knows and is able to do.” Grades should not be based on how students attain knowledge “nor [on] their behavior, attitude, effort or attendance.”

    L.A. Schools aren’t the first to take a soft-handed approach to homework.  A district outside Atlantic City, N.J., drafted a policy — up for public discussion Monday night — limiting homework over weekends to 10 minutes per year in school (second graders get no more than 20 minutes, third graders; 30 minutes; etc.). A Pleasanton, Calif., district adopted a similar policy discouraging excessive homework.

    In a catchphrase, the idea behind the new homework policies is ‘more isn’t always better.’ As the New York Times wrote in a story chronicling homework-limiting policies in Atlantic City-area schools and other districts:

    Research has long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits, but that there are diminishing returns, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. The 10-minute guideline has generally been shown to be effective, Dr. Cooper said, adding that over all, “there is a minimal relationship between how much homework young kids do and how well they test.”

    Teachers worry that such policies undercut their ability to teach effectively. As the president of the American Federation of Teachers told the Times, teachers feel these policies “take something that should be professional practice and making it into an assembly-line process.”


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