I recently heard from Alfie Kohn that he spoke to teachers, administrators, and parents at an independent school in the Northwest. After that visit, the lower school division director wrote to the parents:
As a result of Kohn’s visit and our discussions, and after I did even more research from other books and articles from The Center for Public Education, we have decided that we will be changing the default from automatic, nightly or weekly homework to occasional homework. Research shows there are little to non academic benefits or a correlation of improvement in student achievement on younger students (research a little more ambiguous in middle and high school years), especially with one size fits all homework, which often follows the formula of “10 minutes per grade level”.
We do want to encourage, or in fact require, nightly reading for pleasure by all students, as this is one area where there are proven benefits for students. Also, many students can benefit from short but intensive amounts of fact review and practice, especially before bedtime when some studies show the brain repeats patterns and facts during sleep. There will also be some project work to be completed at home, as well as meaningful tasks that cannot be accomplished during school time, such as interviews with family members and additional keyboarding/ typing practice. Fifth graders will also continue with current events, as we feel that this is something that encourages a world view and important life skills. Finally, students who have some learning issues may benefit from focused homework with supervision.
In summary, homework will not be completely disappearing from the elementary school, however we will be much more deliberate and thoughtful about assigning it. If you have not already read Kohn’s book, I recommend you do so, as he definitely challenges many of our long-held assumptions such as homework gets students ready for the next year, reinforces what was learned that day, or teaches them organizational and study skills. It just doesn’t seem to do that at the early years, and I know many parents who have battled with their children over homework each evening will agree.
However, if after thinking about this issue, you still feel that you would like nightly or weekly homework for your child and you strongly believe that there will be benefits for him/her, please speak to your child’s teacher about it, and we will do our best to accommodate you and assign your child additional homework. If not, we urge you to use “homework time” to play word and board games as a family, read the paper, create things, listen to music, play sports, investigate personal interests, cook together, and enjoy your wonderful kids!