As kids return to school across the country, a second grade teacher in Godley, Texas is making waves with her new homework policy.
Brandy Young, a teacher at Godley Elementary School, sent a note to parents indicating that she will not be formally assigning any homework at all this year. The note reads, in part:
"After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.
Research as been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early."
The note gained national attention when parent Samantha Gallagher — whose daughter, Brooke, is one of Young's students — posted a picture of it to Facebook.
Although Godley second-graders may be delighted, Young's assertion that "research has been unable to prove that homework improved student performance" doesn't quite hold up to scrutiny.
One of the most-cited pro-homework studies, carried out by Duke professor Harris Cooper, was a meta-analysis of over 60 research studies of homework carried out between 1987 and 2003. Cooper's 2006 study concluded that "with only rare exception, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant," although he was quick to point out that the positive correlation were much higher in students in grades 7 — 12.
Cooper did warn against teachers giving too much homework, noting that "kids burn out" and "homework for young students should be short, lead to success without much struggle, occasionally involve parents and, when possible, use out-of-school activities that kids enjoy, such as their sports teams or high-interest reading," a recommendation that seems more in concordance with Young's philosophy.
Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering, the authors of "The Case For and Against Homework," an article published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, also seem to agree with Young to an extent. "Although teachers across the K–12 spectrum commonly assign homework," they write, "research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels." They are careful, however, to stop short of saying that there is no benefit to homework, but instead suggest that teachers know best. "Educators can develop the most effective practices by observing changes in the achievement of the students with whom they work every day."