No homework? Idea appears to be catching on

Principal Aimee Fleming helps sixth grader Still Hull select a book to read at home during the annual book fair at Lake Valley Elementary School in Prescott Valley Friday, Aug. 25. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Principal Aimee Fleming helps sixth grader Still Hull select a book to read at home during the annual book fair at Lake Valley Elementary School in Prescott Valley Friday, Aug. 25. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

In Marion County, Florida, the school superintendent issued a ban on homework in 31 elementary schools for this semester, and it made national headlines.

The decision is controversial, but Superintendent Heidi Maier said new research shows that kids do better if they read or are read to by an adult than by doing homework.

Cutting back on homework is being tried in the Quad Cities as well.

“We are seeing more and more schools around the country move to a ‘no homework policy’ but this does not simply mean that learning stops at the final bell,” said Dan Streeter, superintendent of the Humboldt Unified School District. “Policies related to homework are best handled at the school level.”

Lake Valley Elementary School Principal Aimee Fleming has a “no homework” policy in place at her school this year, after trying it out in second grade last year.

She said that data suggested “homework is not having positive effects on academics,” and that teachers were assigning it “because it’s what we’ve always done, which is not a good reason to do anything.

“Our kids are still required to read 15 or 20 minutes per night,” she said, “or for the younger kids, it could be being read to, like our kindergarteners.

“The research does show that does have a positive effect on academics.”

The no-homework policy also assigns the students to community service projects, because, Fleming said, research supports community service as a factor in academic success.

Superintendent Joe Howard of the Prescott Unified School District said, “We don’t have strict district guidelines per each level, but we do lead conversations with our teachers regarding the best practices of how to use homework to support learning.”

Howard added that students’ workload is taken into consideration, as well. “For example, (teachers) talk about when big assignments are out in different classes and then support each other with those and try not to duplicate or have major projects that overlap.”

Most parents polled by The Daily Courier supported less homework for elementary kids.

“I think it is a great idea. When school is finished for the day children should be engaged in other fun activities to stimulate their brain,” said Tamee Niekamp. “Being part of a team sport or a dance class is using another part of their growing brains.

“I do think reading every night is important, but do not see that as ‘homework.’”

Valerie Gordon-Moretti said, “Between dinner and homework there’s very little quality time. It’s sad. I’d love for there to be no homework. Family time is more important.”

“Homework is an important part of learning. It makes the students assume responsibility as well as make them accountable for their actions,” Steve Yanez said. “The actions a child makes now will be the foundation for their actions as an adult.”

Howard said there are specific reasons for homework. “Homework should support practice of skills that need practice once students are clear on the learning of the concept.  It should not be used to teach responsibility alone, although that is a side effect,” he said.

“There is plenty of evidence that supports each side of an issue such as this,” Streeter said.

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