Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

Mother helping son with homework at home

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

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Is it time to get rid of homework? Mental health experts weigh in.

do some schools not have homework

It's no secret that kids hate homework. And as students grapple with an ongoing pandemic that has had a wide range of mental health impacts, is it time schools start listening to their pleas about workloads?

Some teachers are turning to social media to take a stand against homework. 

Tiktok user @misguided.teacher says he doesn't assign it because the "whole premise of homework is flawed."

For starters, he says, he can't grade work on "even playing fields" when students' home environments can be vastly different.

"Even students who go home to a peaceful house, do they really want to spend their time on busy work? Because typically that's what a lot of homework is, it's busy work," he says in the video that has garnered 1.6 million likes. "You only get one year to be 7, you only got one year to be 10, you only get one year to be 16, 18."

Mental health experts agree heavy workloads have the potential do more harm than good for students, especially when taking into account the impacts of the pandemic. But they also say the answer may not be to eliminate homework altogether.

Emmy Kang, mental health counselor at Humantold , says studies have shown heavy workloads can be "detrimental" for students and cause a "big impact on their mental, physical and emotional health."

"More than half of students say that homework is their primary source of stress, and we know what stress can do on our bodies," she says, adding that staying up late to finish assignments also leads to disrupted sleep and exhaustion.

Cynthia Catchings, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Talkspace , says heavy workloads can also cause serious mental health problems in the long run, like anxiety and depression. 

And for all the distress homework  can cause, it's not as useful as many may think, says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and CEO of Omega Recovery treatment center.

"The research shows that there's really limited benefit of homework for elementary age students, that really the school work should be contained in the classroom," he says.

For older students, Kang says, homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night. 

"Most students, especially at these high achieving schools, they're doing a minimum of three hours, and it's taking away time from their friends, from their families, their extracurricular activities. And these are all very important things for a person's mental and emotional health."

Catchings, who also taught third to 12th graders for 12 years, says she's seen the positive effects of a no-homework policy while working with students abroad.

"Not having homework was something that I always admired from the French students (and) the French schools, because that was helping the students to really have the time off and really disconnect from school," she says.

The answer may not be to eliminate homework completely but to be more mindful of the type of work students take home, suggests Kang, who was a high school teacher for 10 years.

"I don't think (we) should scrap homework; I think we should scrap meaningless, purposeless busy work-type homework. That's something that needs to be scrapped entirely," she says, encouraging teachers to be thoughtful and consider the amount of time it would take for students to complete assignments.

The pandemic made the conversation around homework more crucial 

Mindfulness surrounding homework is especially important in the context of the past two years. Many students will be struggling with mental health issues that were brought on or worsened by the pandemic , making heavy workloads even harder to balance.

"COVID was just a disaster in terms of the lack of structure. Everything just deteriorated," Kardaras says, pointing to an increase in cognitive issues and decrease in attention spans among students. "School acts as an anchor for a lot of children, as a stabilizing force, and that disappeared."

But even if students transition back to the structure of in-person classes, Kardaras suspects students may still struggle after two school years of shifted schedules and disrupted sleeping habits.

"We've seen adults struggling to go back to in-person work environments from remote work environments. That effect is amplified with children because children have less resources to be able to cope with those transitions than adults do," he explains.

'Get organized' ahead of back-to-school

In order to make the transition back to in-person school easier, Kang encourages students to "get good sleep, exercise regularly (and) eat a healthy diet."

To help manage workloads, she suggests students "get organized."

"There's so much mental clutter up there when you're disorganized. ... Sitting down and planning out their study schedules can really help manage their time," she says.

Breaking up assignments can also make things easier to tackle.

"I know that heavy workloads can be stressful, but if you sit down and you break down that studying into smaller chunks, they're much more manageable."

If workloads are still too much, Kang encourages students to advocate for themselves.

"They should tell their teachers when a homework assignment just took too much time or if it was too difficult for them to do on their own," she says. "It's good to speak up and ask those questions. Respectfully, of course, because these are your teachers. But still, I think sometimes teachers themselves need this feedback from their students."

More: Some teachers let their students sleep in class. Here's what mental health experts say.

More: Some parents are slipping young kids in for the COVID-19 vaccine, but doctors discourage the move as 'risky'

The truth about homework in America

by: Carol Lloyd | Updated: February 9, 2023

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Homework-in-America

Not excited about homework? We can hardly blame you. But how families handle homework in America can have a huge impact on their child’s short-term and long-term academic success. Here’s a glimpse at how American families approach homework, and some tips that may help you decide how to handle homework in your home.

Model how much you value your child’s education

Think of your child’s nightly homework as a time to model how much you value your child’s learning and education. Get in the habit of asking your child what homework they have each evening, looking over their homework when they’re done each night, praising their hard work, and marveling at all that they are learning. Your admiration and love is the best magic learning potion available.

Set up a homework routine American parents who want their children to graduate from high school and go to college take learning at home seriously. They turn off the TV and radio at homework time. They take away access to video games and smartphones. They make sure the child gets some exercise and has a healthy snack before starting homework because both are shown to help kids focus. When it’s time for homework, they (try to) ensure their child has a quiet place where they can focus and have access to the grade-appropriate homework basics, like paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, and tape for kids in younger grades and calculators and writing materials for kids in older grades.

Helping with homework when you don’t read/speak English

So how can you help with homework if you can’t read your child’s homework because it’s in English — or because the math is being presented in a way you’ve never seen? If you can’t understand your child’s homework, you can still do a lot to help them. Your physical presence (and your authority to turn off the TV) can help them take homework time seriously. Your encouragement that they take their time and not rush through the work also will help. Finally, your ability to ask questions can do two important things: you can show your interest in their work (and thus reinforce the importance you place on learning and education) and you can help your child slow down and figure things out when they’re lost or frustrated. A lot of learning happens when children have a chance to talk through problems and ideas. Sometimes, just describing the assignment or problem to you can help the solution click for your child.

What’s the right amount of homework?

It’s often in first grade that kids start receiving regular homework and feel stressed and lost if they don’t complete it. If your child is having trouble adjusting to their new routines, know that it’s not just your child. Families all across America are having the same issues in terms of figuring out how to create quiet, focussed time for a young child to read, write, and do math inside a bustling home. In first grade, your child will likely be asked to do somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes of homework a night, sometimes in addition to 20 minutes of bedtime reading. ( The National PTA’s research-based recommendation is 10 to 20 minutes of homework a night in first grade and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter.) If your child is getting a lot more than that, talk to your child’s teacher about how long your child should be spending on homework and what you can do to help.

Comparing U.S. homework time to other countries

If you’ve come from another country and recall your childhood homework taking less time, you may think it’s because you’re foreign. The truth is, most parents who grew up in the U.S. are feeling the same way. In the past few decades homework for younger grades has intensified in many schools. “The amount of homework that younger kids — ages 6 to 9 — have to do has gone up astronomically since the late ’80s,” says Alfie Kohn, author of the 2006 book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. So if you feel surprised about the quantity of homework your child is bringing home, you’re not alone.

According to an international study of homework, 15-year-olds in Shanghai do 13.8 hours of homework per week compared to 6.1 hours in the U.S. and 5.3 hours in Mexico and 3.4 hours in Costa Rica. But here’s the thing: academic expectations in the U.S. vary widely from school to school. Some American elementary schools have banned homework. Others pile on hours a night — even in the younger grades. By high school, though, most American students who are seriously preparing for four-year college are doing multiple hours of homework most nights.

Not into homework? Try this.

Homework detractors point to research that shows homework has no demonstrated benefits for students in the early elementary grades. “The research clearly shows that there is no correlation between academic achievement and homework, especially in the lower grades,” says Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and the author of the 2015 book, Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy Successful Kids .

On the other hand, nightly reading is hugely important.

“One thing we know does have a correlation with academic achievement is free reading time,” says Pope. “We know that that is something we want schools to encourage.” Since the scientific evidence shows the most impact comes from reading for pleasure, don’t skip bedtime reading. If your child is not being given any homework, make sure to spend some of that extra time reading books in either English or Spanish.

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Regions & Countries

As schools close due to the coronavirus, some u.s. students face a digital ‘homework gap’.

A sophomore at Brooklyn Friends School checks into her classes remotely from home after the school announced that it will be closed due to concerns about the coronavirus in Brooklyn, New York. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

As K-12 officials in many states close schools and shift classes and assignments online due to the spread of the new coronavirus , they confront the reality that some students do not have reliable access to the internet at home – particularly those who are from lower-income households.

Here are key findings about the internet, homework and how the digital divide impacts American youth.

do some schools not have homework

1 The majority of eighth-grade students in the United States rely on the internet at home to get their homework done. Roughly six-in-ten students (58%) say they use the internet at their home to do homework every day or almost every day, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Just 6% of students say they never use the internet at home for this purpose.

There are differences in these patterns by community type and parents’ education level. Roughly two-thirds of students attending suburban schools (65%) say they use the internet for homework every day or almost every day, compared with 58% who attend schools in cities, 50% of those who attend in rural areas and 44% of those attending schools in towns. Students whose parents graduated from college are more likely to use the internet for homework at home. Some 62% of these students use the internet at home for homework, compared with smaller shares of students whose parents have some post-high school education (53%), have only a high school education (52%) or have no high school education (48%).

This analysis examines the impact of the internet and the digital divide on youth in the United States. The survey data cited here comes from a Pew Research Center poll of 743 U.S. teens conducted March 7 to April 10, 2018, using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel. AmeriSpeak is a nationally representative, probability-based panel of the U.S. household population. Randomly selected U.S. households are sampled with a known probability of selection from the NORC National Frame, and then contacted by U.S. mail, telephone or face-to-face interviewers. More details about the NORC AmeriSpeak panel methodology are available here .

Part of this analysis also relies on data from the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP administers the digitally based Technology and Engineering Literacy assessment to better understand what students in the U.S. know and can do in the areas of technology and engineering. For more, see the assessment methodology .

Another part of this analysis uses the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The ACS is a national survey using continuous measurement methods. In the survey, a series of monthly samples produce annual estimates for the same small areas (census tracts and block groups) formerly surveyed via the decennial census long-form sample. For more, see the ACS methodology .

2 The “homework gap” – which refers to school-age children lacking the connectivity they need to complete schoolwork at home – is more pronounced for black, Hispanic and lower-income households. Some 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, according to a previously published Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. School-age children in lower-income households are especially likely to lack broadband access. Roughly one-third (35%) of households with children ages 6 to 17 and an annual income below $30,000 a year do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, compared with just 6% of such households earning $75,000 or more a year. These broadband gaps are particularly pronounced in black and Hispanic households with school-age children – especially those with low incomes.

3 Some lower-income teens say they lack resources to complete schoolwork at home. In a 2018 Center survey , about one-in-five teens ages 13 to 17 (17%) said they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection. Black teens and those living in lower-income households were more likely to say they cannot complete homework assignments for this reason.

do some schools not have homework

For example, one-quarter of black teens said they often or sometimes cannot do homework assignments due to lack of reliable access to a computer or internet connectivity, compared with 13% of white teens and 17% of Hispanic teens. Teens with an annual family income below $30,000 were also more likely to say this than teens with a family income of at least $75,000 a year (24% vs. 9%).

do some schools not have homework

In the same survey, around one-in-ten teens (12%) said they often or sometimes use public Wi-Fi to do schoolwork because they lack a home internet connection. Again, black and lower-income teens were more likely to do this. Roughly one-in-five black teens (21%) said they use public Wi-Fi to do schoolwork due to a lack of home internet connection, compared with 11% of white teens and 9% of Hispanic teens. And around a fifth (21%) of teens with an annual family income under $30,000 reported having to use public Wi-Fi to do homework, compared with 11% of teens in families with a household income of $30,000-$74,999 and just 7% of those living in households earning at least $75,000.

4 A quarter of lower-income teens do not have access to a home computer. One-in-four teens in households with an annual income under $30,000 lack access to a computer at home, compared with just 4% of those in households earning over $75,000, according to the 2018 survey. There are also differences by race and ethnicity. Hispanic teens were especially likely to say they do not have access to a home computer: 18% said this, compared with 9% of white teens and 11% of black teens.

do some schools not have homework

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Is Homework Good for Kids? Here’s What the Research Says

A s kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.

The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week , earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.

But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:

For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. 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. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.

But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station . “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”

A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.

New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.

The research

The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.

Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.

Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.

Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.

Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.

“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”

Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs , thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.

“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.

The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.

“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness.”

Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.

“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”

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The Cult of Homework

America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.

do some schools not have homework

America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.

“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”

Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.

Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.

Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”

Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.

As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.

In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.

This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.

In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”

According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)

In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)

Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”

His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.

Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.

Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.

Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)

Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.

Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.

“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”

“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.

Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”

When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.

Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.

In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.

The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.

clock This article was published more than  2 years ago

Should we ease grading and homework rules? Dangers lurk.

Experienced teachers say that could cripple all-important learning in class..

do some schools not have homework

Along the bumpy return to normalcy in our pandemic -battered schools, I see an interesting movement to ease grading and homework requirements. Many educators have been promoting such changes for years, but more education writers like me are beginning to notice.

That’s often not a good sign. We journalists like to portray new stuff as exciting in part because that increases our chances of getting prominent play and attracting readers. There is a long list of movements we once publicized — such as New Math, open classrooms, Whole Language, No Child Left Behind — that did not live up to expectations.

A recent Los Angeles Times editorial sums up the latest movement well. “Schools have stuck to an outdated system that relies heavily on students’ compliance — completing homework, behaving in class, meeting deadlines and correctly answering questions on a one-time test — as a proxy for learning, rather than measuring the learning itself.”

The big handicap for journalists as well as everyone else in the discussion is a lack of useful data on how many teachers use these allegedly worn-out methods and what are the measurable results. I asked four experienced public school teachers in southern California, northern California, Texas and Virginia how they handled grading and homework and what they thought of the notion that the old ways were wrong.

In some aspects, the four teachers are in sync with the suggested reforms. None of them assign much homework, except as a way to complete work begun in class. They don’t emphasize one-time tests.

How to recover from our school disaster: Top curriculums, training and resolve

But when making sure everyone is behaving in class, they are firm traditionalists. Class time to them is vital because, in their minds, the give-and-take between students and teachers during those precious hours is the essence of what they do.

Mark Ingerson, a social studies teacher at Salem (Va.) High School, said, “You are kidding yourself if you think you have any control over what happens once that child leaves your class. … So my sole focus has been maximizing every single second of class so it results in student mastery of skills and knowledge.”

The best teachers I know do their best to make sure everyone contributes every day, even if they have to insist that the most reluctant students answer questions and keep up with the discussion.

D’Essence Grant, an eighth-grade English and language arts teacher at the KIPP Academy Middle school in Houston, said, “My content requires meaningful conversations about the text to help support text comprehension and character development. Grading these conversations and pushing students to articulate their thoughts helps prepare students for college and beyond. Making claims, supporting claims with evidence, and listening, building and challenging other student claims verbally is just as important as writing them on paper.”

Mary Stevens is the English and language arts department chair at Marshall Fundamental Secondary School in Pasadena, Calif. Enrollment at that school is by lottery. Seventy percent of the students are from low-income families. “I mostly only assign the work and/or reading we didn’t complete in class as homework,” she said. She doesn’t like the phrase “behaving in class.” She said “it has negative connotations for students. I center responsibility, hence productivity, and try not to frame my expectations around outdated ideas such as behavior.”

Greg Jouriles, a social studies teacher at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif., noted reformers’ argument that homework “discriminates socioeconomically and racially” and might be “unfair to students with household obligations and no quiet place to work.” He said that “while all of these factors carry weight, I don’t see a problem with some homework or why practicing academics isn’t as worthwhile as practicing extracurriculars, to which students will devote hours and hours. Most of what I grade is based on what happens in class.”

He said: “I disagree with the people who say time and practice and repetition don’t matter, that once a student exhibits a skill, they’ve achieved a standard. If that were the case, a basketball coach would end practice after each player made one free throw. Teachers face the ongoing challenge of making the homework they assign as engaging as extracurriculars.”

His argument suggests a weakness in the push for mastery learning, which is part of the new thinking on school work and grading. Each child, reformers say, should get a grade of completion once they have mastered a skill or subject. That leaves open the possibility that schools could dumb down the definition of mastery to make sure everyone graduates on time.

Author of teacher bestsellers warns against flawed social justice concepts

The traditional approach to grading — assessing every paper and assignment, giving zeros for work not turned in — has been abandoned by many teachers and their districts in the past two decades. Ingerson said he dropped the tough approach in 2004 because he found “many students just got destroyed” by his grading sledgehammer.

“I had students scoring advanced on the Virginia Standards of Learning tests, but had a D in the class … because of missing notebook checks or homework assignments,” he said. His intense class discussions make sure that all his students know the material, or realize he is going to be hovering over them until they do.

Many teachers I know don’t see any difference between the mastery learning embraced by the new movement and what they do with traditional grading. They use zeros to motivate students but erase those horrible marks when they see improvement. They have assignments and class discussions every week. They repeatedly let students know how they are doing. The emphasis on mastery is obvious in the way they teach. They don’t see the point of disposing of the grading tools they have.

We will be hearing more about this new movement to promote learning. If changes are made, we will need as usual some reliable measure of how much students know and understand.

I don’t see how we can do that without challenging and independently graded tests, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, to ensure assessments are accurate. SAT and ACT exams appear to be fading away. I never liked them because they were not tied to classes where our teachers could make sure every student was engaged every day.

We need some measure of learning we can trust. The latest educational buzz words may suggest otherwise, but we have learned enough during the pandemic to know that if productive class work is not happening for everyone, we have to do something about that.

do some schools not have homework

do some schools not have homework

Home » Tips for Teachers » 7 Research-Based Reasons Why Students Should Not Have Homework: Academic Insights, Opposing Perspectives & Alternatives

7 Research-Based Reasons Why Students Should Not Have Homework: Academic Insights, Opposing Perspectives & Alternatives

In recent years, the question of why students should not have homework has become a topic of intense debate among educators, parents, and students themselves. This discussion stems from a growing body of research that challenges the traditional view of homework as an essential component of academic success. The notion that homework is an integral part of learning is being reevaluated in light of new findings about its effectiveness and impact on students’ overall well-being.

Why Students Should Not Have Homework

The push against homework is not just about the hours spent on completing assignments; it’s about rethinking the role of education in fostering the well-rounded development of young individuals. Critics argue that homework, particularly in excessive amounts, can lead to negative outcomes such as stress, burnout, and a diminished love for learning. Moreover, it often disproportionately affects students from disadvantaged backgrounds, exacerbating educational inequities. The debate also highlights the importance of allowing children to have enough free time for play, exploration, and family interaction, which are crucial for their social and emotional development.

Checking 13yo’s math homework & I have just one question. I can catch mistakes & help her correct. But what do kids do when their parent isn’t an Algebra teacher? Answer: They get frustrated. Quit. Get a bad grade. Think they aren’t good at math. How is homework fair??? — Jay Wamsted (@JayWamsted) March 24, 2022

As we delve into this discussion, we explore various facets of why reducing or even eliminating homework could be beneficial. We consider the research, weigh the pros and cons, and examine alternative approaches to traditional homework that can enhance learning without overburdening students.

Once you’ve finished this article, you’ll know:

  • Insights from Teachers and Education Industry Experts →
  • 7 Reasons Why Students Should Not Have Homework →
  • Opposing Views on Homework Practices →
  • Exploring Alternatives to Homework →

Insights from Teachers and Education Industry Experts: Diverse Perspectives on Homework

In the ongoing conversation about the role and impact of homework in education, the perspectives of those directly involved in the teaching process are invaluable. Teachers and education industry experts bring a wealth of experience and insights from the front lines of learning. Their viewpoints, shaped by years of interaction with students and a deep understanding of educational methodologies, offer a critical lens through which we can evaluate the effectiveness and necessity of homework in our current educational paradigm.

Check out this video featuring Courtney White, a high school language arts teacher who gained widespread attention for her explanation of why she chooses not to assign homework.

Here are the insights and opinions from various experts in the educational field on this topic:

“I teach 1st grade. I had parents ask for homework. I explained that I don’t give homework. Home time is family time. Time to play, cook, explore and spend time together. I do send books home, but there is no requirement or checklist for reading them. Read them, enjoy them, and return them when your child is ready for more. I explained that as a parent myself, I know they are busy—and what a waste of energy it is to sit and force their kids to do work at home—when they could use that time to form relationships and build a loving home. Something kids need more than a few math problems a week.” — Colleen S. , 1st grade teacher
“The lasting educational value of homework at that age is not proven. A kid says the times tables [at school] because he studied the times tables last night. But over a long period of time, a kid who is drilled on the times tables at school, rather than as homework, will also memorize their times tables. We are worried about young children and their social emotional learning. And that has to do with physical activity, it has to do with playing with peers, it has to do with family time. All of those are very important and can be removed by too much homework.” — David Bloomfield , education professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York graduate center
“Homework in primary school has an effect of around zero. In high school it’s larger. (…) Which is why we need to get it right. Not why we need to get rid of it. It’s one of those lower hanging fruit that we should be looking in our primary schools to say, ‘Is it really making a difference?’” — John Hattie , professor
”Many kids are working as many hours as their overscheduled parents and it is taking a toll – psychologically and in many other ways too. We see kids getting up hours before school starts just to get their homework done from the night before… While homework may give kids one more responsibility, it ignores the fact that kids do not need to grow up and become adults at ages 10 or 12. With schools cutting recess time or eliminating playgrounds, kids absorb every single stress there is, only on an even higher level. Their brains and bodies need time to be curious, have fun, be creative and just be a kid.” — Pat Wayman, teacher and CEO of HowtoLearn.com

7 Reasons Why Students Should Not Have Homework

Let’s delve into the reasons against assigning homework to students. Examining these arguments offers important perspectives on the wider educational and developmental consequences of homework practices.

1. Elevated Stress and Health Consequences

Elevated Stress and Health Consequences

The ongoing debate about homework often focuses on its educational value, but a vital aspect that cannot be overlooked is the significant stress and health consequences it brings to students. In the context of American life, where approximately 70% of people report moderate or extreme stress due to various factors like mass shootings, healthcare affordability, discrimination, racism, sexual harassment, climate change, presidential elections, and the need to stay informed, the additional burden of homework further exacerbates this stress, particularly among students.

Key findings and statistics reveal a worrying trend:

  • Overwhelming Student Stress: A staggering 72% of students report being often or always stressed over schoolwork, with a concerning 82% experiencing physical symptoms due to this stress.
  • Serious Health Issues: Symptoms linked to homework stress include sleep deprivation, headaches, exhaustion, weight loss, and stomach problems.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Despite the National Sleep Foundation recommending 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep for healthy adolescent development, students average just 6.80 hours of sleep on school nights. About 68% of students stated that schoolwork often or always prevented them from getting enough sleep, which is critical for their physical and mental health.
  • Turning to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: Alarmingly, the pressure from excessive homework has led some students to turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with stress.

This data paints a concerning picture. Students, already navigating a world filled with various stressors, find themselves further burdened by homework demands. The direct correlation between excessive homework and health issues indicates a need for reevaluation. The goal should be to ensure that homework if assigned, adds value to students’ learning experiences without compromising their health and well-being.

By addressing the issue of homework-related stress and health consequences, we can take a significant step toward creating a more nurturing and effective educational environment. This environment would not only prioritize academic achievement but also the overall well-being and happiness of students, preparing them for a balanced and healthy life both inside and outside the classroom.

2. Inequitable Impact and Socioeconomic Disparities

Inequitable Impact and Socioeconomic Disparities

In the discourse surrounding educational equity, homework emerges as a factor exacerbating socioeconomic disparities, particularly affecting students from lower-income families and those with less supportive home environments. While homework is often justified as a means to raise academic standards and promote equity, its real-world impact tells a different story.

The inequitable burden of homework becomes starkly evident when considering the resources required to complete it, especially in the digital age. Homework today often necessitates a computer and internet access – resources not readily available to all students. This digital divide significantly disadvantages students from lower-income backgrounds, deepening the chasm between them and their more affluent peers.

Key points highlighting the disparities:

  • Digital Inequity: Many students lack access to necessary technology for homework, with low-income families disproportionately affected.
  • Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic exacerbated these disparities as education shifted online, revealing the extent of the digital divide.
  • Educational Outcomes Tied to Income: A critical indicator of college success is linked more to family income levels than to rigorous academic preparation. Research indicates that while 77% of students from high-income families graduate from highly competitive colleges, only 9% from low-income families achieve the same . This disparity suggests that the pressure of heavy homework loads, rather than leveling the playing field, may actually hinder the chances of success for less affluent students.

Moreover, the approach to homework varies significantly across different types of schools. While some rigorous private and preparatory schools in both marginalized and affluent communities assign extreme levels of homework, many progressive schools focusing on holistic learning and self-actualization opt for no homework, yet achieve similar levels of college and career success. This contrast raises questions about the efficacy and necessity of heavy homework loads in achieving educational outcomes.

The issue of homework and its inequitable impact is not just an academic concern; it is a reflection of broader societal inequalities. By continuing practices that disproportionately burden students from less privileged backgrounds, the educational system inadvertently perpetuates the very disparities it seeks to overcome.

3. Negative Impact on Family Dynamics

Negative Impact on Family Dynamics

Homework, a staple of the educational system, is often perceived as a necessary tool for academic reinforcement. However, its impact extends beyond the realm of academics, significantly affecting family dynamics. The negative repercussions of homework on the home environment have become increasingly evident, revealing a troubling pattern that can lead to conflict, mental health issues, and domestic friction.

A study conducted in 2015 involving 1,100 parents sheds light on the strain homework places on family relationships. The findings are telling:

  • Increased Likelihood of Conflicts: Families where parents did not have a college degree were 200% more likely to experience fights over homework.
  • Misinterpretations and Misunderstandings: Parents often misinterpret their children’s difficulties with homework as a lack of attention in school, leading to feelings of frustration and mistrust on both sides.
  • Discriminatory Impact: The research concluded that the current approach to homework disproportionately affects children whose parents have lower educational backgrounds, speak English as a second language, or belong to lower-income groups.

The issue is not confined to specific demographics but is a widespread concern. Samantha Hulsman, a teacher featured in Education Week Teacher , shared her personal experience with the toll that homework can take on family time. She observed that a seemingly simple 30-minute assignment could escalate into a three-hour ordeal, causing stress and strife between parents and children. Hulsman’s insights challenge the traditional mindset about homework, highlighting a shift towards the need for skills such as collaboration and problem-solving over rote memorization of facts.

The need of the hour is to reassess the role and amount of homework assigned to students. It’s imperative to find a balance that facilitates learning and growth without compromising the well-being of the family unit. Such a reassessment would not only aid in reducing domestic conflicts but also contribute to a more supportive and nurturing environment for children’s overall development.

4. Consumption of Free Time

Consumption of Free Time

In recent years, a growing chorus of voices has raised concerns about the excessive burden of homework on students, emphasizing how it consumes their free time and impedes their overall well-being. The issue is not just the quantity of homework, but its encroachment on time that could be used for personal growth, relaxation, and family bonding.

Authors Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish , in their book “The Case Against Homework,” offer an insightful window into the lives of families grappling with the demands of excessive homework. They share stories from numerous interviews conducted in the mid-2000s, highlighting the universal struggle faced by families across different demographics. A poignant account from a parent in Menlo Park, California, describes nightly sessions extending until 11 p.m., filled with stress and frustration, leading to a soured attitude towards school in both the child and the parent. This narrative is not isolated, as about one-third of the families interviewed expressed feeling crushed by the overwhelming workload.

Key points of concern:

  • Excessive Time Commitment: Students, on average, spend over 6 hours in school each day, and homework adds significantly to this time, leaving little room for other activities.
  • Impact on Extracurricular Activities: Homework infringes upon time for sports, music, art, and other enriching experiences, which are as crucial as academic courses.
  • Stifling Creativity and Self-Discovery: The constant pressure of homework limits opportunities for students to explore their interests and learn new skills independently.

The National Education Association (NEA) and the National PTA (NPTA) recommend a “10 minutes of homework per grade level” standard, suggesting a more balanced approach. However, the reality often far exceeds this guideline, particularly for older students. The impact of this overreach is profound, affecting not just academic performance but also students’ attitudes toward school, their self-confidence, social skills, and overall quality of life.

Furthermore, the intense homework routine’s effectiveness is doubtful, as it can overwhelm students and detract from the joy of learning. Effective learning builds on prior knowledge in an engaging way, but excessive homework in a home setting may be irrelevant and uninteresting. The key challenge is balancing homework to enhance learning without overburdening students, allowing time for holistic growth and activities beyond academics. It’s crucial to reassess homework policies to support well-rounded development.

5. Challenges for Students with Learning Disabilities

Challenges for Students with Learning Disabilities

Homework, a standard educational tool, poses unique challenges for students with learning disabilities, often leading to a frustrating and disheartening experience. These challenges go beyond the typical struggles faced by most students and can significantly impede their educational progress and emotional well-being.

Child psychologist Kenneth Barish’s insights in Psychology Today shed light on the complex relationship between homework and students with learning disabilities:

  • Homework as a Painful Endeavor: For students with learning disabilities, completing homework can be likened to “running with a sprained ankle.” It’s a task that, while doable, is fraught with difficulty and discomfort.
  • Misconceptions about Laziness: Often, children who struggle with homework are perceived as lazy. However, Barish emphasizes that these students are more likely to be frustrated, discouraged, or anxious rather than unmotivated.
  • Limited Improvement in School Performance: The battles over homework rarely translate into significant improvement in school for these children, challenging the conventional notion of homework as universally beneficial.

These points highlight the need for a tailored approach to homework for students with learning disabilities. It’s crucial to recognize that the traditional homework model may not be the most effective or appropriate method for facilitating their learning. Instead, alternative strategies that accommodate their unique needs and learning styles should be considered.

In conclusion, the conventional homework paradigm needs reevaluation, particularly concerning students with learning disabilities. By understanding and addressing their unique challenges, educators can create a more inclusive and supportive educational environment. This approach not only aids in their academic growth but also nurtures their confidence and overall development, ensuring that they receive an equitable and empathetic educational experience.

6. Critique of Underlying Assumptions about Learning

Critique of Underlying Assumptions about Learning

The longstanding belief in the educational sphere that more homework automatically translates to more learning is increasingly being challenged. Critics argue that this assumption is not only flawed but also unsupported by solid evidence, questioning the efficacy of homework as an effective learning tool.

Alfie Kohn , a prominent critic of homework, aptly compares students to vending machines in this context, suggesting that the expectation of inserting an assignment and automatically getting out of learning is misguided. Kohn goes further, labeling homework as the “greatest single extinguisher of children’s curiosity.” This critique highlights a fundamental issue: the potential of homework to stifle the natural inquisitiveness and love for learning in children.

The lack of concrete evidence supporting the effectiveness of homework is evident in various studies:

  • Marginal Effectiveness of Homework: A study involving 28,051 high school seniors found that the effectiveness of homework was marginal, and in some cases, it was counterproductive, leading to more academic problems than solutions.
  • No Correlation with Academic Achievement: Research in “ National Differences, Global Similarities ” showed no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary students, and any positive correlation in middle or high school diminished with increasing homework loads.
  • Increased Academic Pressure: The Teachers College Record published findings that homework adds to academic pressure and societal stress, exacerbating performance gaps between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

These findings bring to light several critical points:

  • Quality Over Quantity: According to a recent article in Monitor on Psychology , experts concur that the quality of homework assignments, along with the quality of instruction, student motivation, and inherent ability, is more crucial for academic success than the quantity of homework.
  • Counterproductive Nature of Excessive Homework: Excessive homework can lead to more academic challenges, particularly for students already facing pressures from other aspects of their lives.
  • Societal Stress and Performance Gaps: Homework can intensify societal stress and widen the academic performance divide.

The emerging consensus from these studies suggests that the traditional approach to homework needs rethinking. Rather than focusing on the quantity of assignments, educators should consider the quality and relevance of homework, ensuring it truly contributes to learning and development. This reassessment is crucial for fostering an educational environment that nurtures curiosity and a love for learning, rather than extinguishing it.

7. Issues with Homework Enforcement, Reliability, and Temptation to Cheat

Issues with Homework Enforcement, Reliability, and Temptation to Cheat

In the academic realm, the enforcement of homework is a subject of ongoing debate, primarily due to its implications on student integrity and the true value of assignments. The challenges associated with homework enforcement often lead to unintended yet significant issues, such as cheating, copying, and a general undermining of educational values.

Key points highlighting enforcement challenges:

  • Difficulty in Enforcing Completion: Ensuring that students complete their homework can be a complex task, and not completing homework does not always correlate with poor grades.
  • Reliability of Homework Practice: The reliability of homework as a practice tool is undermined when students, either out of desperation or lack of understanding, choose shortcuts over genuine learning. This approach can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, especially when assignments are not well-aligned with the students’ learning levels or interests.
  • Temptation to Cheat: The issue of cheating is particularly troubling. According to a report by The Chronicle of Higher Education , under the pressure of at-home assignments, many students turn to copying others’ work, plagiarizing, or using creative technological “hacks.” This tendency not only questions the integrity of the learning process but also reflects the extreme stress that homework can induce.
  • Parental Involvement in Completion: As noted in The American Journal of Family Therapy , this raises concerns about the authenticity of the work submitted. When parents complete assignments for their children, it not only deprives the students of the opportunity to learn but also distorts the purpose of homework as a learning aid.

In conclusion, the challenges of homework enforcement present a complex problem that requires careful consideration. The focus should shift towards creating meaningful, manageable, and quality-driven assignments that encourage genuine learning and integrity, rather than overwhelming students and prompting counterproductive behaviors.

Addressing Opposing Views on Homework Practices

While opinions on homework policies are diverse, understanding different viewpoints is crucial. In the following sections, we will examine common arguments supporting homework assignments, along with counterarguments that offer alternative perspectives on this educational practice.

1. Improvement of Academic Performance

Improvement of Academic Performance

Homework is commonly perceived as a means to enhance academic performance, with the belief that it directly contributes to better grades and test scores. This view posits that through homework, students reinforce what they learn in class, leading to improved understanding and retention, which ultimately translates into higher academic achievement.

However, the question of why students should not have homework becomes pertinent when considering the complex relationship between homework and academic performance. Studies have indicated that excessive homework doesn’t necessarily equate to higher grades or test scores. Instead, too much homework can backfire, leading to stress and fatigue that adversely affect a student’s performance. Reuters highlights an intriguing correlation suggesting that physical activity may be more conducive to academic success than additional homework, underscoring the importance of a holistic approach to education that prioritizes both physical and mental well-being for enhanced academic outcomes.

2. Reinforcement of Learning

Reinforcement of Learning

Homework is traditionally viewed as a tool to reinforce classroom learning, enabling students to practice and retain material. However, research suggests its effectiveness is ambiguous. In instances where homework is well-aligned with students’ abilities and classroom teachings, it can indeed be beneficial. Particularly for younger students , excessive homework can cause burnout and a loss of interest in learning, counteracting its intended purpose.

Furthermore, when homework surpasses a student’s capability, it may induce frustration and confusion rather than aid in learning. This challenges the notion that more homework invariably leads to better understanding and retention of educational content.

3. Development of Time Management Skills

Development of Time Management Skills

Homework is often considered a crucial tool in helping students develop important life skills such as time management and organization. The idea is that by regularly completing assignments, students learn to allocate their time efficiently and organize their tasks effectively, skills that are invaluable in both academic and personal life.

However, the impact of homework on developing these skills is not always positive. For younger students, especially, an overwhelming amount of homework can be more of a hindrance than a help. Instead of fostering time management and organizational skills, an excessive workload often leads to stress and anxiety . These negative effects can impede the learning process and make it difficult for students to manage their time and tasks effectively, contradicting the original purpose of homework.

4. Preparation for Future Academic Challenges

Preparation for Future Academic Challenges

Homework is often touted as a preparatory tool for future academic challenges that students will encounter in higher education and their professional lives. The argument is that by tackling homework, students build a foundation of knowledge and skills necessary for success in more advanced studies and in the workforce, fostering a sense of readiness and confidence.

Contrarily, an excessive homework load, especially from a young age, can have the opposite effect . It can instill a negative attitude towards education, dampening students’ enthusiasm and willingness to embrace future academic challenges. Overburdening students with homework risks disengagement and loss of interest, thereby defeating the purpose of preparing them for future challenges. Striking a balance in the amount and complexity of homework is crucial to maintaining student engagement and fostering a positive attitude towards ongoing learning.

5. Parental Involvement in Education

Parental Involvement in Education

Homework often acts as a vital link connecting parents to their child’s educational journey, offering insights into the school’s curriculum and their child’s learning process. This involvement is key in fostering a supportive home environment and encouraging a collaborative relationship between parents and the school. When parents understand and engage with what their children are learning, it can significantly enhance the educational experience for the child.

However, the line between involvement and over-involvement is thin. When parents excessively intervene by completing their child’s homework,  it can have adverse effects . Such actions not only diminish the educational value of homework but also rob children of the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and independence. This over-involvement, coupled with disparities in parental ability to assist due to variations in time, knowledge, or resources, may lead to unequal educational outcomes, underlining the importance of a balanced approach to parental participation in homework.

Exploring Alternatives to Homework and Finding a Middle Ground

Exploring Alternatives to Homework

In the ongoing debate about the role of homework in education, it’s essential to consider viable alternatives and strategies to minimize its burden. While completely eliminating homework may not be feasible for all educators, there are several effective methods to reduce its impact and offer more engaging, student-friendly approaches to learning.

Alternatives to Traditional Homework

  • Project-Based Learning: This method focuses on hands-on, long-term projects where students explore real-world problems. It encourages creativity, critical thinking, and collaborative skills, offering a more engaging and practical learning experience than traditional homework. For creative ideas on school projects, especially related to the solar system, be sure to explore our dedicated article on solar system projects .
  • Flipped Classrooms: Here, students are introduced to new content through videos or reading materials at home and then use class time for interactive activities. This approach allows for more personalized and active learning during school hours.
  • Reading for Pleasure: Encouraging students to read books of their choice can foster a love for reading and improve literacy skills without the pressure of traditional homework assignments. This approach is exemplified by Marion County, Florida , where public schools implemented a no-homework policy for elementary students. Instead, they are encouraged to read nightly for 20 minutes . Superintendent Heidi Maier’s decision was influenced by research showing that while homework offers minimal benefit to young students, regular reading significantly boosts their learning. For book recommendations tailored to middle school students, take a look at our specially curated article .

Ideas for Minimizing Homework

  • Limiting Homework Quantity: Adhering to guidelines like the “ 10-minute rule ” (10 minutes of homework per grade level per night) can help ensure that homework does not become overwhelming.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Focus on assigning meaningful homework that is directly relevant to what is being taught in class, ensuring it adds value to students’ learning.
  • Homework Menus: Offering students a choice of assignments can cater to diverse learning styles and interests, making homework more engaging and personalized.
  • Integrating Technology: Utilizing educational apps and online platforms can make homework more interactive and enjoyable, while also providing immediate feedback to students. To gain deeper insights into the role of technology in learning environments, explore our articles discussing the benefits of incorporating technology in classrooms and a comprehensive list of educational VR apps . These resources will provide you with valuable information on how technology can enhance the educational experience.

For teachers who are not ready to fully eliminate homework, these strategies offer a compromise, ensuring that homework supports rather than hinders student learning. By focusing on quality, relevance, and student engagement, educators can transform homework from a chore into a meaningful component of education that genuinely contributes to students’ academic growth and personal development. In this way, we can move towards a more balanced and student-centric approach to learning, both in and out of the classroom.

Useful Resources

  • Is homework a good idea or not? by BBC
  • The Great Homework Debate: What’s Getting Lost in the Hype
  • Alternative Homework Ideas

The evidence and arguments presented in the discussion of why students should not have homework call for a significant shift in homework practices. It’s time for educators and policymakers to rethink and reformulate homework strategies, focusing on enhancing the quality, relevance, and balance of assignments. By doing so, we can create a more equitable, effective, and student-friendly educational environment that fosters learning, well-being, and holistic development.

  • “Here’s what an education expert says about that viral ‘no-homework’ policy”, Insider
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  • “National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report”, National Library of Medicine
  • “A multi-method exploratory study of stress, coping, and substance use among high school youth in private schools”, Frontiers
  • “The Digital Revolution is Leaving Poorer Kids Behind”, Statista
  • “The digital divide has left millions of school kids behind”, CNET
  • “The Digital Divide: What It Is, and What’s Being Done to Close It”, Investopedia
  • “COVID-19 exposed the digital divide. Here’s how we can close it”, World Economic Forum
  • “PBS NewsHour: Biggest Predictor of College Success is Family Income”, America’s Promise Alliance
  • “Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background”, Taylor & Francis Online
  • “What Do You Mean My Kid Doesn’t Have Homework?”, EducationWeek
  • “Excerpt From The Case Against Homework”, Penguin Random House Canada
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  • “The Nation’s Report Card: A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading”, National Center for Education Statistics
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  • “How Homework Is Destroying Teens’ Health”, The Lion’s Roar
  • “ Breaking the Homework Habit”, Education World
  • “Testing a model of school learning: Direct and indirect effects on academic achievement”, ScienceDirect
  • “National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling”, Stanford University Press
  • “When school goes home: Some problems in the organization of homework”, APA PsycNet
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  • “Epidemic of copying homework catalyzed by technology”, Redwood Bark
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  • “Encouraging Students to Read: Tips for High School Teachers”, wgu.edu
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School Life Balance , Tips for Online Students

The Pros and Cons of Homework

The-Pros-and-Cons-Should-Students-Have-Homework

Homework is a word that most students dread hearing. After hours upon hours of sitting in class , the last thing we want is more schoolwork over our precious weekends. While it’s known to be a staple of traditional schooling, homework has also become a rather divise topic. Some feel as though homework is a necessary part of school, while others believe that the time could be better invested. Should students have homework? Have a closer look into the arguments on both sides to decide for yourself.

A college student completely swamped with homework.

Photo by  energepic.com  from  Pexels

Why should students have homework, 1. homework encourages practice.

Many people believe that one of the positive effects of homework is that it encourages the discipline of practice. While it may be time consuming and boring compared to other activities, repetition is needed to get better at skills. Homework helps make concepts more clear, and gives students more opportunities when starting their career .

2. Homework Gets Parents Involved

Homework can be something that gets parents involved in their children’s lives if the environment is a healthy one. A parent helping their child with homework makes them take part in their academic success, and allows for the parent to keep up with what the child is doing in school. It can also be a chance to connect together.

3. Homework Teaches Time Management

Homework is much more than just completing the assigned tasks. Homework can develop time management skills , forcing students to plan their time and make sure that all of their homework assignments are done on time. By learning to manage their time, students also practice their problem-solving skills and independent thinking. One of the positive effects of homework is that it forces decision making and compromises to be made.

4. Homework Opens A Bridge Of Communication

Homework creates a connection between the student, the teacher, the school, and the parents. It allows everyone to get to know each other better, and parents can see where their children are struggling. In the same sense, parents can also see where their children are excelling. Homework in turn can allow for a better, more targeted educational plan for the student.

5. Homework Allows For More Learning Time

Homework allows for more time to complete the learning process. School hours are not always enough time for students to really understand core concepts, and homework can counter the effects of time shortages, benefiting students in the long run, even if they can’t see it in the moment.

6. Homework Reduces Screen Time

Many students in North America spend far too many hours watching TV. If they weren’t in school, these numbers would likely increase even more. Although homework is usually undesired, it encourages better study habits and discourages spending time in front of the TV. Homework can be seen as another extracurricular activity, and many families already invest a lot of time and money in different clubs and lessons to fill up their children’s extra time. Just like extracurricular activities, homework can be fit into one’s schedule.

A female student who doesn’t want to do homework.

The Other Side: Why Homework Is Bad

1. homework encourages a sedentary lifestyle.

Should students have homework? Well, that depends on where you stand. There are arguments both for the advantages and the disadvantages of homework.

While classroom time is important, playground time is just as important. If children are given too much homework, they won’t have enough playtime, which can impact their social development and learning. Studies have found that those who get more play get better grades in school , as it can help them pay closer attention in the classroom.

Children are already sitting long hours in the classroom, and homework assignments only add to these hours. Sedentary lifestyles can be dangerous and can cause health problems such as obesity. Homework takes away from time that could be spent investing in physical activity.

2. Homework Isn’t Healthy In Every Home

While many people that think homes are a beneficial environment for children to learn, not all homes provide a healthy environment, and there may be very little investment from parents. Some parents do not provide any kind of support or homework help, and even if they would like to, due to personal barriers, they sometimes cannot. Homework can create friction between children and their parents, which is one of the reasons why homework is bad .

3. Homework Adds To An Already Full-Time Job

School is already a full-time job for students, as they generally spend over 6 hours each day in class. Students also often have extracurricular activities such as sports, music, or art that are just as important as their traditional courses. Adding on extra hours to all of these demands is a lot for children to manage, and prevents students from having extra time to themselves for a variety of creative endeavors. Homework prevents self discovery and having the time to learn new skills outside of the school system. This is one of the main disadvantages of homework.

4. Homework Has Not Been Proven To Provide Results

Endless surveys have found that homework creates a negative attitude towards school, and homework has not been found to be linked to a higher level of academic success.

The positive effects of homework have not been backed up enough. While homework may help some students improve in specific subjects, if they have outside help there is no real proof that homework makes for improvements.

It can be a challenge to really enforce the completion of homework, and students can still get decent grades without doing their homework. Extra school time does not necessarily mean better grades — quality must always come before quantity.

Accurate practice when it comes to homework simply isn’t reliable. Homework could even cause opposite effects if misunderstood, especially since the reliance is placed on the student and their parents — one of the major reasons as to why homework is bad. Many students would rather cheat in class to avoid doing their homework at home, and children often just copy off of each other or from what they read on the internet.

5. Homework Assignments Are Overdone

The general agreement is that students should not be given more than 10 minutes a day per grade level. What this means is that a first grader should be given a maximum of 10 minutes of homework, while a second grader receives 20 minutes, etc. Many students are given a lot more homework than the recommended amount, however.

On average, college students spend as much as 3 hours per night on homework . By giving too much homework, it can increase stress levels and lead to burn out. This in turn provides an opposite effect when it comes to academic success.

The pros and cons of homework are both valid, and it seems as though the question of ‘‘should students have homework?’ is not a simple, straightforward one. Parents and teachers often are found to be clashing heads, while the student is left in the middle without much say.

It’s important to understand all the advantages and disadvantages of homework, taking both perspectives into conversation to find a common ground. At the end of the day, everyone’s goal is the success of the student.

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The ‘Homework Gap’ Is About to Get Worse. What Should Schools Do?

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A program that provides discounted broadband internet service to low-income households is expected to run out of funding by the end of April, a concerning development for school districts with families that relied on the subsidy.

With the Affordable Connectivity Program , eligible families can receive a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service. For those on qualifying tribal lands, the discount is up to $75 per month. The program also provides a one-time discount to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.

Nearly 23 million households have enrolled in the program since it launched in 2021, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which runs the program. However, the agency stopped accepting new enrollments as of Feb. 8 and said it will disenroll all households from the program at the end of April, unless Congress provides additional funding.

Schools are increasingly relying on technology for teaching and learning, from learning management systems to multimedia curriculum to internet research. In some cases, schools are turning inclement weather days into remote learning days . So it’s even more imperative that students have sufficient internet connectivity and devices to access learning materials while at home.

‘It’s a huge equity problem’

Educators and advocates say the possible sunsetting of the Affordable Connectivity Program could worsen the so-called “ homework gap ”—a phrase used to describe the inequities between students who have digital devices and reliable internet connectivity at home, and those who don’t and struggle to complete online assignments as a result.

“My fear is that, with this funding running out, we’re going to have either more families not having access to those services, or more families having to go someplace with open Wi-Fi that maybe isn’t as secure as it should be,” said Chantell Manahan, the director of technology for Steuben County schools, a 2,600-student district in rural northeast Indiana. The program’s expiration could also mean more “families away from home, sitting in parking lots like they were during the pandemic, and that’s not a good place for our students and families to be.”

In 2024, [internet access is] not a luxury anymore. This is a necessity to participate in modern society.

The expiration of the Affordable Connectivity Program doesn’t just affect students, but parents, too.

“Many schools rely on online communications platforms to communicate with parents and guardians about their student’s progress, school activities, and other important information. If families lose affordable internet access, this [communication] channel may be compromised,” said Julia Fallon, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

Sometimes, a school-issued device is the only one available to use at home, so parents also use it to look for jobs, do online coursework, or attend telehealth appointments, Manahan said.

“It’s not just a K-12 education problem. It’s a community problem. It’s a huge equity problem,” she added.

Will Congress provide more funding for ACP?

The Affordable Connectivity Program first launched as the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which was part of a pandemic relief package signed by former President Donald Trump in 2020. The next year, the program was codified as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden.

But the program has run through much of the initial $17.4 billion allocated by Congress, including $14.2 billion from the infrastructure law and $3.2 billion from its emergency predecessor.

Photo of African-American boy working on laptop computer at home.

In January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate and the House of Representatives that would provide $7 billion to keep the Affordable Connectivity Program operational.

It’s unclear how much traction the bill will receive, but several FCC commissioners and advocacy groups have applauded the bill and urged Congress to pass the measure.

Districts look for other solutions

In the meantime, district leaders are having tough conversations about how to provide adequate internet access to students and families who relied on the program.

In Steuben County, Manahan said the district might go back to solutions it used before the Affordable Connectivity Program, such as partnerships with local businesses and organizations that would let families come in and use their Wi-Fi for virtual learning.

The district has Wi-Fi hotspot devices it can lend to students, too, though Manahan is unsure how many of those devices the district can keep after funding runs out. The devices were originally funded through ESSER and the Emergency Connectivity Fund , both of which are also expiring this year.

High angle shot of a man assisting his students at computers

Fortunately, Manahan said, the FCC’s E-rate funding will now cover putting Wi-Fi on school buses .

“It’ll be much more cost-effective for the district to be able to outfit all the buses,” she said. “We know there are some places where we might be able to park those buses and have internet access available.”

Along with school bus Wi-Fi, the district could also extend the reach of the Wi-Fi on school buildings so students, families, and staff can use it in the parking lot, she said.

“I can only hope that if we do see both ACP and ECF sunsetting that they’re going to divert those funds to other programs [that would provide] internet access into all our homes,” Manahan said. “In 2024, it’s not a luxury anymore. This is a necessity to participate in modern society.”

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A daughter sits at a desk doing homework while her mom stands beside her helping

Credit: August de Richelieu

Does homework still have value? A Johns Hopkins education expert weighs in

Joyce epstein, co-director of the center on school, family, and community partnerships, discusses why homework is essential, how to maximize its benefit to learners, and what the 'no-homework' approach gets wrong.

By Vicky Hallett

The necessity of homework has been a subject of debate since at least as far back as the 1890s, according to Joyce L. Epstein , co-director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University. "It's always been the case that parents, kids—and sometimes teachers, too—wonder if this is just busy work," Epstein says.

But after decades of researching how to improve schools, the professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Education remains certain that homework is essential—as long as the teachers have done their homework, too. The National Network of Partnership Schools , which she founded in 1995 to advise schools and districts on ways to improve comprehensive programs of family engagement, has developed hundreds of improved homework ideas through its Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program. For an English class, a student might interview a parent on popular hairstyles from their youth and write about the differences between then and now. Or for science class, a family could identify forms of matter over the dinner table, labeling foods as liquids or solids. These innovative and interactive assignments not only reinforce concepts from the classroom but also foster creativity, spark discussions, and boost student motivation.

"We're not trying to eliminate homework procedures, but expand and enrich them," says Epstein, who is packing this research into a forthcoming book on the purposes and designs of homework. In the meantime, the Hub couldn't wait to ask her some questions:

What kind of homework training do teachers typically get?

Future teachers and administrators really have little formal training on how to design homework before they assign it. This means that most just repeat what their teachers did, or they follow textbook suggestions at the end of units. For example, future teachers are well prepared to teach reading and literacy skills at each grade level, and they continue to learn to improve their teaching of reading in ongoing in-service education. By contrast, most receive little or no training on the purposes and designs of homework in reading or other subjects. It is really important for future teachers to receive systematic training to understand that they have the power, opportunity, and obligation to design homework with a purpose.

Why do students need more interactive homework?

If homework assignments are always the same—10 math problems, six sentences with spelling words—homework can get boring and some kids just stop doing their assignments, especially in the middle and high school years. When we've asked teachers what's the best homework you've ever had or designed, invariably we hear examples of talking with a parent or grandparent or peer to share ideas. To be clear, parents should never be asked to "teach" seventh grade science or any other subject. Rather, teachers set up the homework assignments so that the student is in charge. It's always the student's homework. But a good activity can engage parents in a fun, collaborative way. Our data show that with "good" assignments, more kids finish their work, more kids interact with a family partner, and more parents say, "I learned what's happening in the curriculum." It all works around what the youngsters are learning.

Is family engagement really that important?

At Hopkins, I am part of the Center for Social Organization of Schools , a research center that studies how to improve many aspects of education to help all students do their best in school. One thing my colleagues and I realized was that we needed to look deeply into family and community engagement. There were so few references to this topic when we started that we had to build the field of study. When children go to school, their families "attend" with them whether a teacher can "see" the parents or not. So, family engagement is ever-present in the life of a school.

My daughter's elementary school doesn't assign homework until third grade. What's your take on "no homework" policies?

There are some parents, writers, and commentators who have argued against homework, especially for very young children. They suggest that children should have time to play after school. This, of course is true, but many kindergarten kids are excited to have homework like their older siblings. If they give homework, most teachers of young children make assignments very short—often following an informal rule of 10 minutes per grade level. "No homework" does not guarantee that all students will spend their free time in productive and imaginative play.

Some researchers and critics have consistently misinterpreted research findings. They have argued that homework should be assigned only at the high school level where data point to a strong connection of doing assignments with higher student achievement . However, as we discussed, some students stop doing homework. This leads, statistically, to results showing that doing homework or spending more minutes on homework is linked to higher student achievement. If slow or struggling students are not doing their assignments, they contribute to—or cause—this "result."

Teachers need to design homework that even struggling students want to do because it is interesting. Just about all students at any age level react positively to good assignments and will tell you so.

Did COVID change how schools and parents view homework?

Within 24 hours of the day school doors closed in March 2020, just about every school and district in the country figured out that teachers had to talk to and work with students' parents. This was not the same as homeschooling—teachers were still working hard to provide daily lessons. But if a child was learning at home in the living room, parents were more aware of what they were doing in school. One of the silver linings of COVID was that teachers reported that they gained a better understanding of their students' families. We collected wonderfully creative examples of activities from members of the National Network of Partnership Schools. I'm thinking of one art activity where every child talked with a parent about something that made their family unique. Then they drew their finding on a snowflake and returned it to share in class. In math, students talked with a parent about something the family liked so much that they could represent it 100 times. Conversations about schoolwork at home was the point.

How did you create so many homework activities via the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork program?

We had several projects with educators to help them design interactive assignments, not just "do the next three examples on page 38." Teachers worked in teams to create TIPS activities, and then we turned their work into a standard TIPS format in math, reading/language arts, and science for grades K-8. Any teacher can use or adapt our prototypes to match their curricula.

Overall, we know that if future teachers and practicing educators were prepared to design homework assignments to meet specific purposes—including but not limited to interactive activities—more students would benefit from the important experience of doing their homework. And more parents would, indeed, be partners in education.

Posted in Voices+Opinion

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Why more and more teachers are joining the anti-homework movement

The word homework doesn’t just elicit groans from students. Many veteran educators aren’t fans of it either.

Barbara Tollison, a high school English teacher with nearly four decades in the classroom, stopped assigning homework five years ago. In lieu of writing papers, she asks her 10th graders in San Marcos, California, to read more books before bed.

“For the kids who understand the information, additional practice is unnecessary,” she told TODAY Parents . “The kids who need more support are going to go home and not do it right. It's just going to confuse them more. They don’t have the understanding and they need guidance.”

Tollison is part of a growing movement that believes learners can thrive academically without homework. According to Alfie Kohn, author of “ The Homework Myth ,” there’s never a good excuse for making kids work a second shift of academics in elementary and middle school.

“In high school, it’s a little more nuanced,” Kohn told TODAY Parents . “Some research has found a tiny correlation between doing more homework and doing better on standardized tests . But No. 1, standardized tests are a lousy measure of learning. No. 2, the correlation is small. And No. 3, it doesn’t prove a causal relationship. In other words, just because the same kids who get more homework do a little better on tests, doesn’t mean the homework made that happen.”

Kohn noted that “newer, better” studies are showing that the downside of homework is just as profound in 16-year-olds as it is in 8-year-olds, in terms of causing causing anxiety, a loss of interest in learning and family conflict.

do some schools not have homework

Parents Is homework robbing your family of joy? You're not alone

“For my book, I interviewed high school teachers who completely stopped giving homework and there was no downside, it was all upside,” he shared.

“There just isn’t a good argument in favor of homework,” Kohn said.

Katie Sluiter, an 8th grade teacher in Michigan, couldn’t agree more. She believes that the bulk of instruction and support should happen in the classroom.

“What I realized early on in my career is that the kids who don’t need the practice are the only ones doing their homework,” Sluiter told TODAY Parents .

Sluiter added that homework is stressful and inequitable. Many children, especially those from lower-income families, have little chance of being successful with work being sent home.

“So many things are out of the student’s control, like the ability to have a quiet place to do homework,” Sluiter explained. “In my district, there are many parents that don’t speak any English, so they’re not going to be able to help with their child’s social studies homework. Some kids are responsible for watching their younger siblings after school.”

do some schools not have homework

Parents Too much homework? Study shows elementary kids get 3 times more than they should

Sluiter also doesn’t want to add “an extra pile of stress” to already over-scheduled lives.

“Middle school is hard enough without worrying, ‘Did I get my conjunctions sheet done?’” she said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s just too much. We need to let them be kids."

Kohn, who has written 14 books on parenting and education, previously told TODAY that moms and dads should speak up on behalf of their children.

"If your child's teacher never assigns homework, take a moment to thank them for doing what's in your child's best interest — and for acknowledging that families, not schools, ought to decide what happens during family time," he said. "If your child is getting homework, organize a bunch of parents to meet with the teacher and administrators — not to ask, 'Why so much?' but, given that the research says it's all pain and no gain, to ask, 'Why is there any?'"

Related video:

Rachel Paula Abrahamson is a lifestyle reporter who writes for the parenting, health and shop verticals. Her bylines have appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and elsewhere. Rachel lives in the Boston area with her husband and their two daughters. Follow her on Instagram .

This is why we should stop giving homework

At Human Restoration Project, one of the core systemic changes we suggest is the elimination of homework. Throughout this piece, I will outline several research studies and reports that demonstrate how the negative impact of homework is so evident that any mandated homework, outside of some minor catching up or for incredibly niche cases, simply does more harm than good.

I’ll summarize four main reasons why homework just flat out doesn’t make sense.

  • Achievement, whether that be measured through standardized tests or general academic knowledge, isn’t correlated to assigning or completing homework.
  • Homework is an inequitable practice that harms certain individuals more than others, to the detriment of those with less resources and to minor, if any, improvement for those with resources.
  • It contributes to negative impacts at home with one’s family, peer relationships, and just general school-life balance, which causes far more problems than homework is meant to solve.
  • And finally, it highlights and exacerbates our obsession with ultra-competitive college admissions and job opportunities, and other detrimental faults of making everything about getting ahead .

Does Homework Make Us Learn More?

Homework is such a ubiquitous part of school that it’s considered radical to even suggest that lessening it could be good teaching. It’s completely normal for families to spend extra hours each night, even on weekends, completing projects, reports, and worksheets. On average, teenagers spend about an hour a day completing homework, which is up 30-45 minutes from decades past. Kindergartners, who are usually saved from completing a lot of after school work, average about 25 minutes of homework a night (which to note, is 25 minutes too much than is recommended by child development experts).

The “10-minute rule”, endorsed by the National Parent Teacher Association and National Education Association, is incorporated into most school policies: there’s 10 minutes of homework per day per grade level – as in 20 minutes a day in second grade or 2 hours a day in 12th grade. 

It’s so normalized that it was odd, when seemingly out of nowhere the President of Ireland recently suggested that homework should be banned . (And many experts were shocked at this suggestion.)

Numerous studies on homework reflect inconsistent results on what it exactly achieves. Homework is rarely shown to have any impact on achievement, whether that be measured through standardized testing or otherwise. As I’ll talk about later, the amount of marginal gains homework may lead to aren’t worth its negative trade-offs.

Let’s look at a quick summary of various studies:

  • ‍ First off, the book National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling by David P. Baker and Gerald K. LeTendre draws on a 4 year investigation of schools in 47 countries. It’s the largest study of its type: looking at how schools operate, their pedagogy, their procedures, and the like. They made a shocking discovery: countries that assigned the least amount of homework: Denmark and the Czech Republic, had much higher test scores than those who assigned the most amount of homework: Iran and Thailand. The same work indicated that there was no correlation between academic achievement and homework with elementary students, and any moderate positive correlation in middle or high school diminished as more and more homework was assigned. ‍
  • A study in Contemporary Educational Psychology of 28,051 high school seniors concluded that quality of instruction, motivation, and ability are all correlated to a student’s academic success. However, homework’s effectiveness was marginal or perhaps even counterproductive: leading to more academic problems than it hoped to solve. ‍
  • The Teachers College Record published that homework added academic pressure and societal stress to those already experiencing pressures from other forces at home. This caused a further divide in academic performance from those with more privileged backgrounds. We’ll talk about this more later. ‍
  • A study in the Journal of Educational Psychology examined 2,342 student attitudes toward homework in foreign language classes. They found that time spent on homework had a significant negative impact on grades and standardized test scores. The researchers concluded that this may be because participants had to spend their time completing worksheets rather than spend time practicing skills on their own time.
  • Some studies are more positive. In fact, a meta-analysis of 32 homework studies in the Review of Educational Research found that most studies indicated a positive correlation between achievement and doing homework. However, the researchers noted that generally these studies made it hard to draw causal conclusions due to how they were set up and conducted. There was so much variance that it was difficult to make a claim one way or another, even though the net result seemed positive. This often cited report led by Dr. Harris Cooper at Duke University is the most commonly used by proponents of the practice. But popular education critic Alfie Kohn believes that this study fails to establish, ironically, causation among other factors. ‍
  • And that said in a later published study in The High School Journal , researchers concluded that in all homework assigned, there were only modest linkages to improved math and science standardized test scores, with no difference in other subjects between those who were assigned homework and those who were not. None of the homework assigned had any bearing on grades. The only difference was for a few points on those particular subject’s standardized test scores.

All in all, the data is relatively inconclusive. Some educational experts suggest that there should be hours of homework in high school, some homework in middle school, and none in elementary school. Some call for the 10-minute rule. Others say that homework doesn’t work at all. It’s still fairly unstudied how achievement is impacted as a result of homework. But as Alfie Kohn says , “The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework.” That said, when we couple this data with the other negative impacts of assigning homework: how it impacts those at the margins, leads to anxiety and stress, and takes away from important family time – it really makes us question why this is such a ubiquitous practice. 

Or as Etta Kralovec and John Buell write in The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning,

‘Extensive classroom research of ‘time on task’ and international comparisons of year-round time for study suggest that additional homework might promote U.S. students’ achievement.’  This written statement by some of the top professionals in the field of homework research raises some difficult questions. More homework might promote student achievement? Are all our blood, sweat, and tears at the kitchen table over homework based on something that merely might be true? Our belief in the value of homework is akin to faith. We assume that it fosters a love of learning, better study habits, improved attitudes toward school, and greater self-discipline; we believe that better teachers assign more homework and that one sign of a good school is a good, enforced homework policy.

Our obsession with homework is likely rooted in select studies that imply it leads to higher test scores. The authors continue by deciphering this phenomena:

“[this is] a problem that routinely bedevils all the sciences: the relationship between correlation and causality. If A and B happen simultaneously, we do not know whether A causes B or B causes A, or whether both phenomena occur casually together or are individually determined by another set of variables…Thus far, most studies in this area have amounted to little more than crude correlations that cannot justify the sweeping conclusions some have derived from them.”

Alfie Kohn adds that even the correlation between achievement and homework doesn’t really matter. Saying,

“If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores…But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive… The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough…”

Ramping Up Inequity

Many justify the practice of assigning homework with the well-intentioned belief that we’ll make a more equitable society through high standards. However, it seems to be that these practices actually add to inequity. “Rigorous” private and preparatory schools – whether they be “no excuses” charters in marginalized communities or “college ready” elite suburban institutions, are notorious for extreme levels of homework assignment. Yet, many progressive schools who focus on holistic learning and self-actualization assign no homework and achieve the same levels of college and career success.

Perhaps this is because the largest predictor of college success has nothing to do with rigorous preparation, and everything to do with family income levels. 77% of students from high income families graduated from a highly competitive college, whereas 9% of students from low income families did the same .

It seems like by loading students up with mountains of homework each night in an attempt to get them into these colleges, we actually make their chances of success worse .

do some schools not have homework

When assigning homework, it is common practice to recommend that families provide a quiet, well-lit place for the child to study. After all, it’s often difficult to complete assignments after a long day. Having this space, time, and energy must always be considered in the context of the family’s education, income, available time, and job security. For many people, jobs have become less secure and less well paid over the course of the last two decades.

In a United States context, we work the longest hours of any nation . Individuals in 2006 worked 11 hours longer than their counterparts in 1979. In 2020, 70% of children lived in households where both parents work. We are the only country in the industrial world without guaranteed family leave. And the results are staggering: 90% of women and 95% of men report work-family conflict . According to the Center for American Progress , “the United States today has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world due to a long-standing political impasse.”

As a result, parents have much less time to connect with their children. This is not a call to a return to traditional family roles or to have stay-at-home parents – rather, our occupation-oriented society is structured inadequately which causes problems with how homework is meant to function. 

For those who work in entry level positions, such as customer service and cashiers, there is an average 240% turnover per year due to lack of pay, poor conditions, work-life balance, and mismanagement. Family incomes continue to decline for lower- and middle-class Americans, leaving more families to work increased hours or multiple jobs. In other words, families, especially poor families, have less opportunities to spend time with their children, let alone foster academic “gains” via homework.

do some schools not have homework

Even for students with ample resources who attend “elite schools”, the amount of homework is stressful. In a 2013 study in The Journal of Experiential Education, researchers conducted a survey of 4,317 students in 10 high-performing upper middle class high schools. These students had an average of more than 3 hours of homework a night. In comparison to their peers, they had more academic stress, notable physical health problems, and spent a worrying amount of time focused entirely on school and nothing else. Competitive advantage came at the cost of well-being and just being a kid.

A similar study in Frontiers of Psychology found that students pressured in the competitive college admissions process , who attended schools assigning hours of homework each night and promoting college-level courses and resume building extracurriculars, felt extreme stress. Two-thirds of the surveyed students reported turning to alcohol and drugs to cope.

In fact, a paper published by Dr. Suniya Luthar and her colleagues concluded that upper middle-class youth are actually more likely to be troubled than their middle class peers . There is an extreme problem with academic stress, where young people are engaging in a rat race toward the best possible educational future as determined by Ivy League colleges and scholarships. To add fuel to the fire, schools continue to add more and more homework to have students get ahead – which has a massively negative impact on both ends of the economic spectrum.

A 2012 study by Dr. Jonathan Daw indicated that their results,

“...imply that increases in the amount of homework assigned may increase the socioeconomic achievement gap in math, science, and reading in secondary school.”

In an effort to increase engagement with homework, teachers have been encouraged to create interesting, creative assignments. In fact, most researchers seem to agree that the quality of assignments matters a whole lot . After all, maybe assigning all of this homework won’t matter as long as it’s interesting and relevant to students? Although this has good intentions, rigorous homework with increased complexity places more impetus on parents. As researcher and author Gary Natrillo, an initial proponent of creative homework , stated later:

…not only was homework being assigned as suggested by all the ‘experts,’ but the teacher was obviously taking the homework seriously, making it challenging instead of routine and checking it each day and giving feedback. We were enveloped by the nightmare of near total implementation of the reform recommendations pertaining to homework…More creative homework tasks are a mixed blessing on the receiving end. On the one hand, they, of course, lead to higher engagement and interest for children and their parents. On the other hand, they require one to be well rested, a special condition of mind not often available to working parents…

Time is a luxury to most people. With increased working hours, in conjunction with extreme levels of stress, many people don’t have the necessary mindset to adequately supply children with the attention to detail for complex homework. As Kralovec and Buell state,

To put it plainly, I have discovered that after a day at work, the commute home, dinner preparations, and the prospect of baths, goodnight stories, and my own work ahead, there comes a time beyond which I cannot sustain my enthusiasm for the math brain teaser or the creative story task.

Americans are some of the most stressed people in the world. Mass shootings, health care affordability, discrimination, racism, sexual harassment, climate change, the presidential elections, and literally: staying informed on current events have caused roughly 70% of people to report moderate or extreme stress , with increased rates for people of color, LGBTQIA Americans, and other discriminated groups. 90% of high schoolers and college students report moderate or higher stress, with half reporting depression and a lack of energy and motivation .

do some schools not have homework

In 2015, 1,100 parents were surveyed on the impact of homework on family life. Fights over homework were 200% more likely in families where parents didn’t have a college degree. Generally, these families believed that if their children didn’t understand a homework assignment then they must have been not paying attention at school. This led to young people feeling dumb or upset, and parents feeling like their child was lying or goofing off. The lead researcher noted, 

All of our results indicate that homework as it is now being assigned discriminates against children whose parents don’t have a college degree, against parents who have English as a second language, against, essentially, parents who are poor.

Schooling is so integrated into family life that a group of researchers noted that “...homework tended to recreate the problems of school, such as status degradation.” An online survey of over 2,000 students and families found that 90% of students reported additional stress from homework, and 40% of families saw it as nothing more than busy work. Authors Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish wrote the aptly titled The Case Against Homework which conducted interviews across the mid-2000s with families and children, citing just how many people are burdened with overscheduling homework featuring over-the-top assignments and constant work. One parent remarked,

I sit on Amy's bed until 11 p.m. quizzing her, knowing she's never going to use this later, and it feels like abuse," says Nina of Menlo Park, California, whose eleven-year-old goes to a Blue Ribbon public school and does at least three-and-a-half hours of homework each night. Nina also questions the amount of time spent on "creative" projects. "Amy had to visit the Mission in San Francisco and then make a model of it out of cardboard, penne pasta, and paint. But what was she supposed to be learning from this? All my daughter will remember is how tense we were in the garage making this thing. Then when she handed it in, the teacher dropped it and all the penne pasta flew off." These days, says Nina, "Amy's attitude about school has really soured." Nina's has, too. "Everything is an emergency and you feel like you're always at battle stations."

1/3rd of the families interviewed felt “crushed by the workload.” It didn’t matter if they lived in rural or suburban areas, or if they were rich or poor.

Learning this way is also simply ineffective because well, that’s just not how kids learn! Young people build upon prior knowledge. They use what they know to make what they’re currently doing easier. Adding more and more content to a student’s plate – having to connect the dots and build upon more information – especially with the distractions of home life is unrealistic. Plus, simply put…it’s just not fun! Why would I want to spend all of my free time on homework rather than hanging out with my friends or playing video games?

Even with all that said – if other countries demonstrate educational success on standardized testing with little to no assigned homework and limited school hours (nevermind the fact that this is measured through the questionable method of standardized testing), shouldn’t we take a step back and analyze the system as a whole, rather than figure out better homework policies? If other countries do this with limited to no homework , why can’t everyone else?

Investigating Systemic Problems

Perhaps the solution to academic achievement in America isn’t doubling down on increasing the work students do at home, but solving the underlying systemic inequities: the economic and discriminatory problems that plague our society. Yes, the United States tends to fall behind other countries on math and reading scores. Many countries impose increased workloads on students because they are afraid that they will fall behind economically with the standard of living to the rest of the world. But perhaps the problem with education doesn’t lie in not having enough “rigorous” methods, but with how easy it is for a family to simply live and be content.

Finland, frequently cited as a model education system which grew to prominence during the 2000s through popular scholars like Pasi Sahlberg, enjoys some of the highest standards of living in the world:

  • Finland’s life expectancy is 81.8 years, compared to the US’ 78.7 years . Unlike Finland, there’s a notable difference between the richest and poorest Americans . The richest Americans are expected to live, on average, nearly 15 years longer than the poorest. Further, America’s life expectancy is declining, the only industrialized country with this statistic .
  • Finland’s health care is rated best in the world and only spends $3,078 per capita, compared to $8,047 in the US.
  • Finland has virtually no homelessness , compared to the 500,000 (and growing) homeless population in the United States .
  • Finland has the lowest inequality levels in the EU , compared to the United States with one of the highest inequality levels in the world . Research has demonstrated that countries with lower inequality levels are happier and healthier .

These statistics reflect that potentially — instead of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in initiatives to increase national test scores , such as homework strategies, curriculum changes, and nationwide “raising the bar” initiatives — that we should invest in programs that improve our standard of living, such as universal healthcare and housing. The solution to test scores is rooted in solving underlying inequities in our societies — shining a light on our core issues — rather than making teachers solve all of our community’s problems.

This doesn’t mean that there’s no space for improving pedagogy, schooling, or curriculums, but at the end of the day the solution cannot solely be by improving education.

do some schools not have homework

‍ Creating Future Workers

Education often equates learning with work. As a teacher, I had to stop myself from behaving like an economics analyst: telling students to quit “wasting time”, stating that the purpose of the lesson is useful for securing a high salary career, seeing everything as prep for college and career (and college’s purpose as just for more earnings in a career), and making blanket assumptions that those who aren’t motivated will ultimately never contribute to society, taking on “low levels” of work that “aren’t as important” as other positions.

A common argument exists that the pressure of homework mirrors the real world – that we should assign homework because that’s “just the way things are.” If we want kids to succeed in the “real world”, they need to have this pressure.

But this mentality is unhealthy and unjust. The purpose of education should be to develop purpose. People live happier and healthier lives as a result of pursuing and developing a core purpose. Some people’s purpose is related to their line of work, but there is not necessarily a connection. However, the primary goal for education stated by districts, states, and the national government is to make “productive members of society” – those who are “prepared for the future” through “college and career readiness.” When we double down on economic principles, rather than look to developmental psychology and holistic care, to raise young people, it’s no wonder we’re seeing such horrific statistics related to childhood .

Further, the consistent pressure to solely learn for future economic gain raises generations of young people to believe that wealth is a measurement of success, and that specific lines of work create happiness. Teachers and parents are told to make their children “work hard” for future success and develop “grit.” Although grit is an important indicator of overcoming obstacles , it is not developed by enforcing grit through authoritarian classrooms or meaningless, long tasks like homework. In fact, an argument could be made that many Americans accept their dramatically poor work-life balance and lack of access to needs such as affordable health care by being brought up in a society that rewards tasks of “working through it” to “eventually achieve happiness.”

Many families have shifted from having children participate in common household chores and activities to have them exclusively focus on their school work. Americans have more difficulty than ever raising children, with increasing demands of time and rising childcare costs . When teachers provide more and more homework, they take away from the parents’ ability to structure their household according to their needs. In fact, children with chores show completely positive universal growth across the board , from time management skills to responsibility to managing a healthy work-life balance. 

Of course, this is not to say that it is all the teacher’s fault. Educators face immense pressure to carry out governmental/school policies that place test scores at the forefront. Plus, most families had homework themselves – so continuing the practice only makes sense. Many of these policies require homework, and an educator’s employment is centered on enacting these changes. Barbara Stengel , an education professor, noted that the reason why so much homework isn’t necessarily interesting or applicable to a student’s lived experience is because “some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching.” The constant pressure on teachers to raise test scores while simultaneously being overworked and underpaid is making many leave the profession. Etta Kralovec and John Buell add:

As more academic demands are placed on teachers, homework can help lengthen the school day and thus ensure ‘coverage’ — that is, the completion of the full curriculum that each teacher is supposed to cover during the school year…This in itself places pressure on teachers to create meaningful homework and often to assign large amounts of it so that the students’ parents will think the teacher is rigorous and the school has high academic standards. Extensive homework is frequently linked in our minds to high standards.

Therefore, there’s a connection to be made between the school- or work-life balance of children and the people who are tasked with teaching them. 8% of the teacher workforce leaves every year , with one of the primary reasons being poor work-life balance . Perhaps teachers see an increased desire to “work” students in their class and at home due to the pressures they face in their own occupation?

do some schools not have homework

The more we equate work with learning, and the more we accept that a school’s primary purpose is to prepare workers, the less we actually succeed at promoting academics. Instead, we bolster the neoliberal tendencies of the United States (and others like it) to work hard, yet comparably to other countries’ lifestyle gains, achieve little.

This is why so many families demand that their children have ample amounts of homework. In fact, the majority of parents believe their students have just the right amount. They’re afraid that their kids are going to fall behind, doomed to a life within an increasingly hostile and inequitable society. They want the best for their children, and taking the risk of not assigning homework means that someone else may take that top slot. The same could be said for many parts of the “tracks toward college and career readiness” that professor William Deresiewicz refers to as “zombication” – lurching through each stage of the rat race in competitive admissions: a lot of assignments, difficult courses, sports, clubs, forced volunteerism, internships, and other things to pack our schedules.

The United States must examine the underlying inequities of peoples’ lives, rather than focus on increasing schools’ workloads and lessening children’s free time for mythical academic gains that lead to little change. Teacher preparation programs and popular authors need to stop promoting “interesting and fun ways to teach ‘x’!” and propose systemic changes that radically change the way education is done, including systemic changes to society at large. Only then will the United States actually see improved livelihoods and a better education system for all.

And what could be done instead? Much of the research and writing on homework tends to conclude that we should find a “happy middle ground” to continue the practice of homework, just in case it does indeed work. However, based on the decades of studies we have on this issue…I’m not really sure. It seems the best practice, by far, is to eliminate homework altogether outside of incredibly niche and rare scenarios. If a student asks for more things to do at home because they want to explore something that interests them, great! But that doesn’t need to be mandated homework.

Human Restoration Project believes that the four recommendations of the late educator and scholar Ken Robinson allows young people to learn for themselves and make the most of their lives:

  • Let children spend time with their families. The single strongest predictor of academic success and fewer behavioral problems for a child, 3-12 years old, is eating as a family. Make planned time during the day to catch up with children, talking to them about what they’re learning, and encouraging them to achieve.
  • Give children time to play outside or create something, preferably not always with a screen. Let them dive into their passions and plan a trip to a library, park, or museum. Explore free online resources to discover new skills and interests.
  • Give children opportunities to read by themselves or with their family. One of the best ways to learn about the world is developing a lifelong love of reading. Children who prioritize reading are more motivated to learn and see drastically improved academic outcomes.
  • Let children sleep! Elementary students should sleep at least 10 hours each night and adolescents, 9 hours. Being awake and ready to tackle each day keeps us energized and healthy.

If you’re interested in learning more, see The Case Against Homework by Nancy Kalish and Sara Bennett, The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn, The End of Homework by Etta Kralovec and John Muelle, or one of the many citations linked in the show notes.

You can also watch a modified video version of this piece on our YouTube channel:

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Livingston, G. (2019, February 20). The way U.S. teens spend their time is changing, but differences between boys and girls persist. Pew Research Center . https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/20/the-way-u-s-teens-spend-their-time-is-changing-but-differences-between-boys-and-girls-persist/

Luthar, S. S., Barkin, S. H., & Crossman, E. J. (2013). “I can, therefore I must”: Fragility in the upper-middle classes. Development and Psychopathology , 25 (4pt2), 1529–1549. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0954579413000758

Lynch, R. The economic and fiscal consequences of improving U.S. educational outcomes - Equitable growth . (2015, February 2). Washington Center for Equitable Growth. https://equitablegrowth.org/achievement-gap/

Mcdermott, R. P., Goldman, S. V., & Varenne, H. (1984a). When school goes home: Some problems in the organization of homework. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education , 85 (3), 391–409. https://doi.org/10.1177/016146818408500310

McGuire, J. (2023). The President Of Ireland Wants To Get Rid Of Homework & Honestly, He's Onto Something. Romper. https://www.romper.com/life/president-of-ireland-michael-d-higgins-homework

Miller, C. C. (2018, December 25). The relentlessness of modern parenting. The New York Times . https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/25/upshot/the-relentlessness-of-modern-parenting.html

Natriello, G., & McDill, E. L. (1986). Performance standards, student effort on homework, and academic achievement. Sociology of Education , 59 (1), 18. https://doi.org/10.2307/2112483

PBS NewsHour : Biggest Predictor of College Success is Family Income . (2015). America’s Promise. https://web.archive.org/web/20220807230624/americaspromise.org/news/pbs-newshour-biggest-predictor-college-success-family-income

Plante, T. (2018, December 3). Americans are stressed out, and it is getting worse . Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201812/americans-are-stressed-out-and-it-is-getting-worse

Pinsker, J. (2019, March 28). Does homework work? The Atlantic . https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/homework-research-how-much/585889/

Pressman, R. M., Sugarman, D. B., Nemon, M. L., Desjarlais, J., Owens, J. A., & Schettini-Evans, A. (2015). Homework and family stress: With consideration of parents’ self confidence, educational level, and cultural background. The American Journal of Family Therapy , 43 (4), 297–313. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1061407

Sander, G. F. (2018). Finland’s homeless crisis nearly solved. How? By giving homes to all who need. The Christian Science Monitor . https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2018/0321/Finland-s-homeless-crisis-nearly-solved.-How-By-giving-homes-to-all-who-need

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And the more we reinforce this narrative of learning loss, it invalidates everything you just said. Right? Everything that I know that I've learned doesn't matter. Because we're still looking at this year, people didn't measure up. We didn't learn the things we're supposed to learn so now you're behind. Right. So now you're behind, learning loss. And it's really invalidating.

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do some schools not have homework

By Suzanne Capek Tingley, Veteran Educator, M.A. Degree

It used to be that students were the only ones complaining about the practice of assigning homework. For years, teachers and parents thought that homework was a necessary tool when educating children. But studies about the effectiveness of homework have been conflicting and inconclusive, leading some adults to argue that homework should become a thing of the past.

What Research Says about Homework

According to Duke professor Harris Cooper, it's important that students have homework. His meta-analysis of homework studies showed a correlation between completing homework and academic success, at least in older grades. He recommends following a  "10 minute rule" : students should receive 10 minutes of homework per day in first grade, and 10 additional minutes each subsequent year, so that by twelfth grade they are completing 120 minutes of homework daily.

But his analysis didn't prove that students did better because they did homework; it simply  showed a correlation . This could simply mean that kids who do homework are more committed to doing well in school. Cooper also found that some research showed that homework caused physical and emotional stress, and created negative attitudes about learning. He suggested that more research needed to be done on homework's effect on kids.

Some researchers say that the question isn't whether kids should have homework. It's more about what kind of homework students have and how much. To be effective, homework has to meet students' needs. For example, some  middle school teachers have found success with online math homework  that's adapted to each student's level of understanding. But when middle school students were assigned more than an hour and a half of homework, their  math and science test scores went down .

Researchers at Indiana University discovered that math and science homework may improve standardized test grades, but they  found no difference in course grades  between students who did homework and those who didn't. These researchers theorize that homework doesn't result in more content mastery, but in greater familiarity with the kinds of questions that appear on standardized tests. According to Professor Adam Maltese, one of the study's authors, "Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be."

So while many teachers and parents support daily homework, it's hard to find strong evidence that the long-held practice produces positive results.

Problems with Homework

In an article in  Education Week Teacher , teacher Samantha Hulsman said she's frequently heard parents complain that a 30-minute homework assignment turns into a three-hour battle with their kids. Now, she's facing the same problem with her own kids, which has her rethinking her former beliefs about homework. "I think parents expect their children to have homework nightly, and teachers assign daily homework because it's what we've always done," she explained. Today, Hulsman said, it's more important to know how to collaborate and solve problems than it is to know specific facts.

Child psychologist Kenneth Barish wrote in  Psychology Today  that  battles over homework rarely result in a child's improvement in school . Children who don't do their homework are not lazy, he said, but they may be frustrated, discouraged, or anxious. And for kids with learning disabilities, homework is like "running with a sprained ankle. It's doable, but painful."

Barish suggests that parents and kids have a "homework plan" that limits the time spent on homework. The plan should include turning off all devices—not just the student's, but those belonging to all family members.

One of the  best-known critics of homework, Alfie Kohn , says that some people wrongly believe "kids are like vending machines—put in an assignment, get out learning." Kohn points to the lack of evidence that homework is an effective learning tool; in fact, he calls it "the greatest single extinguisher of children's curiosity that we have yet invented."

Homework Bans

Last year, the public schools in Marion County, Florida,  decided on a no-homework policy for all of their elementary students . Instead,  kids read nightly  for 20 minutes. Superintendent Heidi Maier said the decision was based on Cooper's research showing that elementary students gain little from homework, but a lot from reading.

Orchard Elementary School in South Burlington, Vermont, followed the same path, substituting reading for homework. The  homework policy has four parts : read nightly, go outside and play, have dinner with your family, and get a good night's sleep. Principal Mark Trifilio says that his staff and parents support the idea.

But while many elementary schools are considering no-homework policies, middle schools and high schools have been reluctant to abandon homework. Schools say parents support homework and teachers know it can be helpful when it is specific and follows certain guidelines. For example, practicing solving word problems can be helpful, but there's no reason to assign 50 problems when 10 will do. Recognizing that not all kids have the time, space, and home support to do homework is important, so it shouldn't be counted as part of a student's grade.

So Should Students Have Homework?

Should you ban homework in your classroom? If you teach lower grades, it's possible. If you teach middle or high school, probably not. But all teachers should think carefully about their homework policies. By limiting the amount of homework and improving the quality of assignments, you can improve learning outcomes for your students.

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Should More Schools Adopt a “No Homework on Weekends” Policy?

stressed kid doing homework

“No homework tonight!” From time to time, some teachers surprise their students with that announcement at the closing bell of class. In some schools, though, that’s becoming the norm rather than the exception—at least on specially designated weekends.

A Seasonal Gift for Some

Fall is the season to give thanks and be merry. It’s also the countdown to college admissions due dates. And it’s a great time to land a seasonal job and make some extra money at the end of the year. In states such as Maryland , several schools have designated homework-free weekend periods this fall. It allows over-stressed kids to catch up with other responsibilities—or simply take a breather. The main reason for the break, though, is that college priority and early admissions deadlines for many top colleges in the region occur in the fall.

Schools in Princeton, New Jersey, began implementing one homework-free weekend each semester in 2015, in part to give students more time to pursue interests and passions outside of school. Other New Jersey schools limit the number of minutes students should spend on homework each night. In Hinsdale, Illinois , one high school began offering seniors one homework-free weekend in October “to give harried seniors a little break to prepare for their futures . . . and make sure they have enough time to work on their college applications.” Similarly, schools across the country offer a no-homework weekend at year’s end.

Not Without Downsides

Unfortunately, homework-free weekends sometimes create an unwelcome side effect: extra-homework weekdays. Teachers are still tasked with finishing their lesson plans, and homework is often an important part of that. For students who are working on projects with pending due dates, not working on those projects for an entire weekend may not be feasible. And there’s always the risk that students who are afforded extra time to catch up on college admissions and pursue positive endeavors may simply waste the free time bestowed upon them.

Is homework helpful or harmful?

Some teachers and school districts have taken a blanket approach and banned homework entirely. The value of homework as a whole has been a topic of much debate. In one study , researchers at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education concluded that math and science homework didn’t lead students to achieve better grades , but it did lead to better standardized test results.

A Stanford researcher concluded that excess homework increases kids’ stress and sleep deprivation. She emphasized that homework shouldn’t be assigned simply as a routine practice; it should have a concrete purpose and benefit. Homework, especially thoughtful homework, is valuable, and eliminating it entirely may be counterproductive to the goal of attending school in the first place: mastering the subject matter.

What do you think?

It’s a safe assumption that most students would strongly favor a homework-free-weekends policy. We’re curious how parents feel about the idea. How would you feel if your child’s school implemented a “no homework on the weekends” policy? Would you worry that your children might fall behind peers in other schools without a similar policy? Or do you think it would encourage your children to engage in more valuable extracurricular activities, get jobs, spend more time completing their college admissions packets, or simply catch up on much-needed sleep? We’d love to know what you think.

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do some schools not have homework

INSIDER

My son's alternative school doesn't have grades, tests, or homework. Kids decide what they're interested in learning.

  • I decided to send my son, Jasper, to a K-12 school called the Arts and Ideas Sudbury School.
  • The school is based on a philosophy that allow kids to make their own decisions about education.
  • It has no grades, tests, or homework.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Adrienne Bergthold. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When my youngest son, Jasper, was getting ready for kindergarten, I was struggling with where to send him to school. I'd always viewed school as an opportunity to instill a love of learning, and I felt like public school was too stressful for kids because of all the pressure around grades, homework, and tests. Private school is expensive , and I didn't have the patience to homeschool. So I started to consider affordable alternative schooling options in our area.

I first heard about a local K-12 school called the Arts and Ideas Sudbury School from another mom I was talking to at the park when Jasper was little. I didn't think much of it until I happened to hear the founder talking about the school on the radio. The principles of giving kids the freedom to learn about what they're interested in, without the added stress of grades and tests, really resonated with me.

Arts and Ideas seemed like the right school for Jasper

I looked into it a bit more, and Arts and Ideas seemed like the perfect fit. It was only five minutes from our house, and it was much more affordable than private schools in our area. Before making a decision, I signed up Jasper for the visiting week for families to check out the school before enrolling . After a week of visiting, he was telling me about fractions and holding doors open for me.

He started kindergarten there in 2010 and graduated just last year, in 2023. From kindergarten on, Jasper had so many opportunities to learn how to live in the real world. Arts and Ideas is a Sudbury School , which is a worldwide educational philosophy that allows kids to make decisions about their own education. Along with making and enforcing the school rules together, students can choose what they want to learn about and how.

It's not formatted like a traditional school

At Arts and Ideas, there's no curriculum or formal classrooms. Kids learn by playing and doing what they're interested in. Rather than "teachers," the school has staff members who guide the students in what they want to learn. Instead of sitting in a classroom all day, students have the freedom to play outside, work on a project, or attend workshops on topics they want to learn about, including creative writing, acting, math, and coding.

There's a bulletin board in the hallway where kids can sign up for activities to participate in. If the kids express interest in something they want to learn, the staff and students will work together to organize new workshops. Sometimes, the workshops are at school, and other times they're field trips. Baltimore and the surrounding area have a lot to offer, so the opportunities feel endless.

For example, my son was interested in cooking from a young age because his dad was a baker. Jasper was involved in the school's Kitchen Corp, which cooked hot lunch every Friday. The students would work together to find out what everyone wanted to eat, plan the meals, take field trips to get ingredients at the local grocery store, and cook in the school kitchen for all the students. Jasper got to pursue his interest in cooking, but he also learned important real-life skills like organization, budgeting, math, and teamwork.

There are no grades, tests, homework , or other requirements, which takes stress out of the equation so kids can really fall in love with learning. The only requirement is that students need to attend school for five consecutive hours, including the "core hours" of 11–3 p.m. Students are totally free to do what they want during the school day, except for a few scheduled activities, such as daily chores and school-wide meetings.

Because there are no traditional classrooms , students are with kids who are both older and younger than them all day, which I believe helps everyone learn. Younger kids can learn from older students, and older students have the opportunity to help and mentor younger ones. When my son attended visiting week, for example, he learned fractions from kids who knew math.

To receive a diploma, students write and defend a thesis about how they've prepared to enter the real world. My son graduated in 2023, and he's currently taking a gap year before attending college. His experience at Arts and Ideas helped him get ready for life in the real world.

But more than that, Arts and Ideas gave Jasper a happy childhood and helped him grow into a secure adult. We have so many opportunities to do the work throughout our lives, and childhood should be about joy. Because of his education, I can say my son experienced a childhood free from the stress of anything but getting to know himself.

My son's alternative school doesn't have grades, tests, or homework. Kids decide what they're interested in learning.

Candida Fink M.D.

Homework Struggles May Not Be a Behavior Problem

Exploring some options to understand and help..

Posted August 2, 2022 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

  • Mental health challenges and neurodevelopmental differences directly affect children's ability to do homework.
  • Understanding what difficulties are getting in the way—beyond the usual explanation of a behavior problem—is key.
  • Sleep and mental health needs can take priority over homework completion.

Chelsea was in 10th grade the first time I told her directly to stop doing her homework and get some sleep. I had been working with her since she was in middle school, treating her anxiety disorder. She deeply feared disappointing anyone—especially her teachers—and spent hours trying to finish homework perfectly. The more tired and anxious she got, the harder it got for her to finish the assignments.

Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

One night Chelsea called me in despair, feeling hopeless. She was exhausted and couldn’t think straight. She felt like a failure and that she was a burden to everyone because she couldn’t finish her homework.

She was shocked when I told her that my prescription for her was to go to sleep now—not to figure out how to finish her work. I told her to leave her homework incomplete and go to sleep. We briefly discussed how we would figure it out the next day, with her mom and her teachers. At that moment, it clicked for her that it was futile to keep working—because nothing was getting done.

This was an inflection point for her awareness of when she was emotionally over-cooked and when she needed to stop and take a break or get some sleep. We repeated versions of this phone call several times over the course of her high school and college years, but she got much better at being able to do this for herself most of the time.

When Mental Health Symptoms Interfere with Homework

Kids with mental health or neurodevelopmental challenges often struggle mightily with homework. Challenges can come up in every step of the homework process, including, but not limited to:

  • Remembering and tracking assignments and materials
  • Getting the mental energy/organization to start homework
  • Filtering distractions enough to persist with assignments
  • Understanding unspoken or implied parts of the homework
  • Remembering to bring finished homework to class
  • Being in class long enough to know the material
  • Tolerating the fear of not knowing or failing
  • Not giving up the assignment because of a panic attack
  • Tolerating frustration—such as not understanding—without emotional dysregulation
  • Being able to ask for help—from a peer or a teacher and not being afraid to reach out

This list is hardly comprehensive. ADHD , autism spectrum disorder, social anxiety , generalized anxiety, panic disorder, depression , dysregulation, and a range of other neurodevelopmental and mental health challenges cause numerous learning differences and symptoms that can specifically and frequently interfere with getting homework done.

Saharak Wuttitham/Shutterstock

The Usual Diagnosis for Homework Problems is "Not Trying Hard Enough"

Unfortunately, when kids frequently struggle to meet homework demands, teachers and parents typically default to one explanation of the problem: The child is making a choice not to do their homework. That is the default “diagnosis” in classrooms and living rooms. And once this framework is drawn, the student is often seen as not trying hard enough, disrespectful, manipulative, or just plain lazy.

The fundamental disconnect here is that the diagnosis of homework struggles as a behavioral choice is, in fact, only one explanation, while there are so many other diagnoses and differences that impair children's ability to consistently do their homework. If we are trying to create solutions based on only one understanding of the problem, the solutions will not work. More devastatingly, the wrong solutions can worsen the child’s mental health and their long-term engagement with school and learning.

To be clear, we aren’t talking about children who sometimes struggle with or skip homework—kids who can change and adapt their behaviors and patterns in response to the outcomes of that struggle. For this discussion, we are talking about children with mental health and/or neurodevelopmental symptoms and challenges that create chronic difficulties with meeting homework demands.

How Can You Help a Child Who Struggles with Homework?

How can you help your child who is struggling to meet homework demands because of their ADHD, depression, anxiety, OCD , school avoidance, or any other neurodevelopmental or mental health differences? Let’s break this down into two broad areas—things you can do at home, and things you can do in communication with the school.

do some schools not have homework

Helping at Home

The following suggestions for managing school demands at home can feel counterintuitive to parents—because we usually focus on helping our kids to complete their tasks. But mental health needs jump the line ahead of task completion. And starting at home will be key to developing an idea of what needs to change at school.

  • Set an end time in the evening after which no more homework will be attempted. Kids need time to decompress and they need sleep—and pushing homework too close to or past bedtime doesn’t serve their educational needs. Even if your child hasn’t been able to approach the homework at all, even if they have avoided and argued the whole evening, it is still important for everyone to have a predictable time to shut down the whole process.
  • If there are arguments almost every night about homework, if your child isn’t starting homework or finishing it, reframe it from failure into information. It’s data to put into problem-solving. We need to consider other possible explanations besides “behavioral choice” when trying to understand the problem and create effective solutions. What problems are getting in the way of our child’s meeting homework demands that their peers are meeting most of the time?
  • Try not to argue about homework. If you can check your own anxiety and frustration, it can be more productive to ally with your child and be curious with them. Kids usually can’t tell you a clear “why” but maybe they can tell you how they are feeling and what they are thinking. And if your child can’t talk about it or just keeps saying “I don't know,” try not to push. Come back another time. Rushing, forcing, yelling, and threatening will predictably not help kids do homework.

Lapina/Shutterstock

Helping at School

The second area to explore when your neurodiverse child struggles frequently with homework is building communication and connections with school and teachers. Some places to focus on include the following.

  • Label your child’s diagnoses and break down specific symptoms for the teachers and school team. Nonjudgmental, but specific language is essential for teachers to understand your child’s struggles. Breaking their challenges down into the problems specific to homework can help with building solutions. As your child gets older, help them identify their difficulties and communicate them to teachers.
  • Let teachers and the school team know that your child’s mental health needs—including sleep—take priority over finishing homework. If your child is always struggling to complete homework and get enough sleep, or if completing homework is leading to emotional meltdowns every night, adjusting their homework demands will be more successful than continuing to push them into sleep deprivation or meltdowns.
  • Request a child study team evaluation to determine if your child qualifies for services under special education law such as an IEP, or accommodations through section 504—and be sure that homework adjustments are included in any plan. Or if such a plan is already in place, be clear that modification of homework expectations needs to be part of it.

The Long-Term Story

I still work with Chelsea and she recently mentioned how those conversations so many years ago are still part of how she approaches work tasks or other demands that are spiking her anxiety when she finds herself in a vortex of distress. She stops what she is doing and prioritizes reducing her anxiety—whether it’s a break during her day or an ending to the task for the evening. She sees that this is crucial to managing her anxiety in her life and still succeeding at what she is doing.

Task completion at all costs is not a solution for kids with emotional needs. Her story (and the story of many of my patients) make this crystal clear.

Candida Fink M.D.

Candida Fink, M.D. , is board certified in child/adolescent and general psychiatry. She practices in New York and has co-authored two books— The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child and Bipolar Disorder for Dummies.

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Teachers Are Missing More School, and There Are Too Few Substitutes

In some districts, teachers are taking more sick days since the pandemic. A shortage of substitutes can make matters worse.

Students walk through the hallways at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.

By Sarah Mervosh

Schools across the country have faced no shortage of challenges since the pandemic. Students are behind academically . Cases of misbehavior are up. Students are absent far more frequently than before .

But there is another problem that has left some school districts scrambling. Teachers are also missing more school.

Teachers typically receive paid sick days and a small number of personal days. Over the 2022-23 school year in New York City, nearly one in five public schoolteachers was absent 11 days or more, an increase from the previous year and from before the pandemic. In Michigan, roughly 15 percent of teachers were absent in any given week last school year, compared with about 10 percent in 2019, researchers found .

More recently, teacher absences forced a school in Ohio to close for a day, and left high school students in Massachusetts to gather in the cafeteria during class time with little supervision.

“The proof in the pudding is how many people have exhausted their leave and are asking to take days off that are unpaid,” said Jim Fry, the superintendent in College Place, a small district in southern Washington State. “That used to be a really rare occurrence. Now it is weekly.”

Making matters more difficult is a national shortage of substitute teachers, which many educators say has worsened since the pandemic. Schools serving low-income areas are the least likely to be able to find enough substitutes, research has shown .

Not all districts have experienced a rise in teacher absences, but those that have point to trends that reflect the broader American work force.

Employees in many occupations are taking more sick days since the pandemic. Women — who make up the vast majority of the teaching work force — may also be juggling more child care, as children stay home from school or from day care more frequently. (Mothers are 10 times as likely as fathers to take time off work to care for a sick child.)

Employees are also putting more focus on mental health. That is especially relevant for teachers, who have faced increased demands and political pressures over the last four years, while being paid less than similarly educated professionals and having less flexibility to work remotely.

“Exhaustion is hitting them,” said Ian Roberts, the superintendent in Des Moines, which has recorded about 300 daily teacher absences this school year, up from about 250 last year.

Teachers, who get built-in breaks throughout the year and during the summer, have at times faced scrutiny from parents for missing school. For example, parents in Newton, Mass., are seeking damages for a teachers’ strike that led to 11 days off school this winter, and teachers’ unions were criticized for their role in prolonging school closures during the pandemic. Research shows that a large number of teacher absences can have a negative impact on student learning.

Yet many teachers say they do not like to miss school, in part because it takes significant work to prepare for and catch up from any absence.

“It’s easier just to go in, push through it,” said Tracey Bolton, a second-grade teacher in the Houston area, who said she reluctantly missed school in November with an extreme case of congestion and fatigue.

When teachers do miss work, there often are not enough substitutes available to fill in. In Des Moines, officials can typically find substitutes for a little over half of the 300 daily absences.

The shortage of substitutes has grown more acute since the pandemic, experts say, because fewer people are entering the teaching profession compared with a decade ago, and there has been more teacher turnover in recent years.

As schools turn to long-term substitutes for unfilled positions, that leaves fewer substitutes available for days when teachers take off, said Tuan Nguyen, an associate professor at Kansas State University, who has studied teacher shortages nationally.

The pool of substitutes has also changed, educators say.

Some substitutes were reluctant to return after the pandemic closures; others took different jobs and never came back. The pay for substitutes, which averages around $20 an hour , is less competitive in a strong economy.

When no substitute is available, remaining teachers often have to do double duty — taking extra students in their classroom, or covering another class on their break — which can lead them to request days off in the future. Sometimes reading tutors or other specialists fill in, which means that extra support sessions — a priority to make up for pandemic learning losses — are canceled that day.

“I think this is having a huge impact on our ability to rebound” from the pandemic, said Amanda von Moos, executive director of Substantial Classrooms, a nonprofit that has sought to improve training and support for substitute teachers.

To reduce the daily scramble, the Sacramento school district recently raised its substitute teacher pay to $355 a day, or about $54 an hour, one of the highest rates in the country.

But that hasn’t solved another challenge: filling substitute spots in schools serving some of the lowest-income areas. A study out of Chicago found that paying substitutes up to 50 percent more to work at hard-to-staff schools can be an effective incentive.

The school district in Columbus, Ohio, has tried something else: assigning at least one permanent substitute to every school building.

Jacquelyn Golden, a full-time substitute at a west Columbus elementary school, has formed relationships with students, who confide in her and give her hugs in the hallway. When substituting, she wastes little time establishing order because students know her expectations.

“I’ve been in every room — there is not a kid in the building that don’t know Ms. Golden,” she said.

The district, though, will soon have to cut back the program, because it was paid for with pandemic relief funding that is expiring. Going forward, permanent substitutes will be assigned only at the buildings with the highest needs.

To Ms. Golden, the bigger question is: Which schools aren’t in need? Rarely does a day go by, she said, when her services as a substitute are not required.

Sarah Mervosh covers education for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools. More about Sarah Mervosh

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  1. Should Kids Get Homework?

    March 11, 2022, at 9:34 a.m. Getty Images Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful. How much homework students should get has long...

  2. Schools try no-homework policies amid complaints about overload

    Fed up with the tension over homework, some schools are opting out altogether.No-homework policies are popping up all over, including schools in the U.S., where the shift to the Common...

  3. Why Some Schools Are Ditching Homework

    As other schools across the country are adopting similar no-homework policies, not all parents are enthused. The New York Times reported that when a school in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood ...

  4. Students' mental health: Is it time to get rid of homework in schools?

    But they also say the answer may not be to eliminate homework altogether. Emmy Kang, mental health counselor at Humantold , says studies have shown heavy workloads can be "detrimental" for ...

  5. Should We Get Rid of Homework?

    Oct. 26, 2022 Do you like doing homework? Do you think it has benefited you educationally? Has homework ever helped you practice a difficult skill — in math, for example — until you...

  6. The truth about homework in America

    In the past few decades homework for younger grades has intensified in many schools. "The amount of homework that younger kids — ages 6 to 9 — have to do has gone up astronomically since the late '80s," says Alfie Kohn, author of the 2006 book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing.

  7. Why Homework Should Be Banned From Schools

    High schools in Ridgewood, N.J., and Fairfax County, Va., among others, have banned homework over school breaks. The entire second grade at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Va.,...

  8. Some U.S. students lack home internet or computer for homework

    2 The "homework gap" - which refers to school-age children lacking the connectivity they need to complete schoolwork at home - is more pronounced for black, Hispanic and lower-income households. Some 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, according to a previously published Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 U.S. Census ...

  9. Is Homework Good for Kids? Here's What the Research Says

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  10. Does Homework Work?

    As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing ...

  11. Should we ease grading and homework rules? Dangers lurk

    Columnist. November 28, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. EST. (iStock) 6 min. Along the bumpy return to normalcy in our pandemic -battered schools, I see an interesting movement to ease grading and homework ...

  12. Homework Pros and Cons

    Research published in the High School Journal indicated that students who spent between 31 and 90 minutes each day on homework "scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average." [ 6]

  13. Why Students Should Not Have Homework

    Examining these arguments offers important perspectives on the wider educational and developmental consequences of homework practices. 1. Elevated Stress and Health Consequences. According to Gitnux, U.S. high school students who have over 20 hours of homework per week are 27% more likely to encounter health issues.

  14. The Pros and Cons: Should Students Have Homework?

    School Life Balance, Tips for Online Students The Pros and Cons of Homework Homework is a word that most students dread hearing. After hours upon hours of sitting in class, the last thing we want is more schoolwork over our precious weekends. While it's known to be a staple of traditional schooling, homework has also become a rather divise topic.

  15. The 'Homework Gap' Is About to Get Worse. What Should Schools Do?

    Educators and advocates say the possible sunsetting of the Affordable Connectivity Program could worsen the so-called " homework gap "—a phrase used to describe the inequities between ...

  16. Does homework still have value? A Johns Hopkins education expert weighs

    Joyce L. Epstein. Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Education. But after decades of researching how to improve schools, the professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Education remains certain that homework is essential—as long as the teachers have done their homework, too. The National Network of Partnership Schools, which she founded in 1995 ...

  17. Should Middle Schools Do Away With Homework?

    YES. With an unprecedented number of teens struggling with mental health issues, including sadness and hopelessness, students need a break. Yet some middle school students spend more time in class and doing homework than many adults put in at their 40-hour-a-week jobs. Research has shown that doing a lot of homework doesn't help students ...

  18. Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework

    Older students benefit more from homework than younger students. Some studies have shown that older students gain more academic benefits from homework than do younger students, perhaps because younger students have less-effective study habits and are more easily distracted (Cooper 1989; Hoover-Dempsey et al. 2001; Leone and Richards 1989 ...

  19. Why more teachers are joining the anti-homework movement

    Tollison is part of a growing movement that believes learners can thrive academically without homework. According to Alfie Kohn, author of " The Homework Myth ," there's never a good excuse for...

  20. This is why we should stop giving homework

    The "10-minute rule", endorsed by the National Parent Teacher Association and National Education Association, is incorporated into most school policies: there's 10 minutes of homework per day per grade level - as in 20 minutes a day in second grade or 2 hours a day in 12th grade.

  21. Should Students Have Homework?

    To be effective, homework has to meet students' needs. For example, some middle school teachers have found success with online math homework that's adapted to each student's level of understanding. ... Children who don't do their homework are not lazy, he said, but they may be frustrated, discouraged, or anxious. And for kids with learning ...

  22. Is homework a good idea or not?

    11 January 2017 Homework debate: What's the issue? Going to school - means lessons, assembly, seeing your friends and - for a lot of you - time to do homework! While giving homework to...

  23. Should More Schools Adopt a "No Homework on Weekends" Policy?

    Schools in Princeton, New Jersey, began implementing one homework-free weekend each semester in 2015, in part to give students more time to pursue interests and passions outside of school. Other New Jersey schools limit the number of minutes students should spend on homework each night. In Hinsdale, Illinois, one high school began offering ...

  24. My son's alternative school doesn't have grades, tests, or homework

    The only requirement is that students need to attend school for five consecutive hours, including the "core hours" of 11-3 p.m. Students are totally free to do what they want during the school ...

  25. Homework Struggles May Not Be a Behavior Problem

    Mental health challenges and neurodevelopmental differences directly affect children's ability to do homework. Understanding what difficulties are getting in the way—beyond the usual explanation ...

  26. Teachers Are Missing More School, and There Are Too Few Substitutes

    Over the 2022-23 school year in New York City, nearly one in five public schoolteachers were absent 11 days or more, an increase from the previous year and from before the pandemic. In Michigan ...