Excessive homework can be a major burden on both young students and their parents — so it’s no wonder that many North Texas parents were delighted when a teacher cancelled homework for the entire year. Citing research that suggests that homework doesn’t improve academic performance, the teacher instead gave a different type of after-school assignment to her kids and their families: Play, read, have family dinners, and get plenty sleep. When a happy parent posted a letter about the new policy online, it unsurprisingly went viral, racking up nearly 68,000 shares in a single week.
At a recent “Meet the Teacher Night,” Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher at Godley Elementary School in Godley, Texas, gave parents a letter about her new homework policy. It reads,
After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.
Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.
Thanks, Mrs. Brandy Young
The value of homework is a subject of ongoing debate among educators and researchers. American children do a lot of it — a 2015 study showed that some elementary students were doing as much as triple the amount of homework recommended by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association — but research about homework has been decidedly mixed. Some studies, such as a 2012 study suggesting that homework may lead to higher standardized test scores, have shown a positive connection between academic achievement and homework. But other research demonstrates the opposite, such as one report showing that students in countries with large homework loads score lower on standardized tests than those in countries with fewer after-school assignments. Excessive homework has also been shown to increase student stress levels and negatively impact physical health.
However, amid these conflicting reports, one things that seems to be a common theme is that homework in general is a lot more beneficial to older students (such as those in their final years of high school) than to younger kids like the ones in Brandy Young’s second grade class. “Young children have a limited attention span," Harris Cooper, a neuroscientist at Duke University, explained to Public Radio International. “In particular they have trouble tuning out distractions and most parents will know that, so that if homework assignments go on for too long, it’s not surprising to discover that a child’s brain is wandering off.”
For her part, Brandy Young doesn’t seem to be against homework as a whole. She told Snopes.com, “I do believe meaningful, engaging, and authentic homework has a place. However, I wanted the parents of my students to know that they would not have a weekly, standard, homework packet to look forward to this year.” We can’t yet know how Young’s new homework policy will affect her students throughout the school year, but if the massive public response to her letter is anything to go by, there are more than a few parents out there who are eager for an alternative to the standard homework model.
Images: Angelina Litvin/Unsplash