Associations Keep Eye on Budding No-Homework Trend

In recent weeks, schools around the country have been discussing in earnest the idea of dropping homework from their curriculums altogether. But as many associations are well-aware, homework has driven a debate that has been going on for generations.

This news would probably be more exciting to the 11-year-old version of yourself than it is now, but with classes back in session, schools are finally talking about getting rid of homework.

From Vermont to Texas, individual educators and entire schools are showing a willingness to get rid of out-of-classroom work.

The reason? All that work may simply frustrate students and parents alike. But this change in strategy goes against the traditional thinking on the issue. The National PTA, for example, recommends the 10-minute rule, which breaks down to 10 minutes of homework per night for each year of school. (In other words, 10 minutes for first graders and two hours for high school seniors.) The National Education Association (NEA) also endorses this standard.

But Mark Trifilio, principal of Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont, doesn’t think that approach really works anymore.

“I think that idea is a little dated,” Trifilio told the Burlington Free Press. “I think we have been doing homework forever without really discussing it’s purpose and challenging beliefs.”

Part of the issue may be that schools are giving students too much homework. In a study published by the American Journal of Family Therapy from last year, some students were receiving homework far beyond the recommended 10-minute rule.

In comments to the Boston Globe, Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, characterized the recent change in mindset as the latest salvo in an ongoing debate over the role of homework.

“If you walk into a meeting with parents any time after September, and ask them if students are receiving too much homework, half the hands will go up,” Scott told the newspaper. “Then if you ask them if students are not receiving enough homework, the rest of the hands go up.”

How big is the trend? In comments to The Associated Press, Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director of policy and advocacy for AASA: The School Superintendents Association, described the contingent looking at changing gears as small but growing.

She noted that the debate was generally centered on “whether it’s to do away with it or to shift to a policy where homework is the classwork they didn’t finish during the day or where the homework of the child is to read with their parents.”

An Ongoing Debate

The issue of homework is one that a number of associations have weighed in on [PDF], including the American Psychological Association, which published a study in its journal last year, recommending no more than 70 minutes of homework per day.

And NEA has given ample time to the homework debate in its online pages. Last year, the association interviewed Dr. Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology professor who wrote a book on the homework debate. Cooper noted that the debate over homework has been “cyclical,” with the topic coming up periodically over the years.

But he emphasizes that most schools get it right for their students.

“Homework is probably the most complicated pedagogical strategy teachers use because it’s open to variations due to child individual differences and the home context,” Cooper said in an interview. “But the vast majority of educators have got it right.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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