Editorial: Ban homework, don’t ban homework?

A school district in Florida has eliminated homework for its elementary school students, citing a 2006 study that shows children that young don’t benefit from it. The same study shows that older children only get a minor benefit.

So 20,000 of the 42,000 students (and their parents) in the Marion County district in Florida are pretty happy this year. Middle school and high school students in that district, however, will get homework.

Instead of homework, the district is encouraging parents and students to spend 20 minutes a night reading, because research shows there is a benefit to daily reading, especially if the students are picking their own books, reading aloud, and listening to a fluent adult reader.

There are some side benefits to young children doing homework. Experts argue it teaches them organization, responsibility and time management skills.

And there are some studies that suggest children who do homework perform better on tests.

This editorial board does not take sides. Let every district decide what is best for its students and parents.

We simply don’t think it matters all that much. The key to a great education is having parents involved. Those who do spend 20 or more minutes reading with their children every night will likely have students who succeed.

Those who aren’t involved in their children’s education will likely have students who struggle.

Yes, there are factors other than parental involvement that contribute to the education of children, including ensuring proper funding from the government and the quality of teachers.

But the best edge any parent can give their child is to be involved, to encourage them, and to read with them every night.

A 2002 study (A New Wave of Evidence from the Southwest Education Development Laboratory) found that, regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to:

• Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs

• Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits

• Attend school regularly

• Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school

• Graduate and go on to postsecondary education

School districts can ban homework for elementary schools, or complain about the lack of money the state of Arizona is willing to spend on public education (which is shameful) or give school vouchers a try to see if they will improve scores.

But nothing will work as well as having parents who make the time to spend 20 minutes a night reading with their children and asking them about their day.

School districts and government can’t force that, it’s on the parents.