A new debate in New Jersey is bringing the homework controversy to light once again. The Galloway Township school district is discussing whether students should be given homework-free weekends so that children can have more time with their families and for extracurricular activities and sports. The plan is still in the discussion phase in this district, and it will need to go before the school board for a vote before it becomes official. In the meantime, the issue has resurfaced around the country as educators discuss once again how much homework is too much and whether it is actually counterproductive to the learning process.
This video explains how schools in California, New York, and Maryland are taking a progressive shift to completely eliminate homework for all students.
Why Galloway is Talking
The Galloway Township is considering recommendations from district officials and school board members to limit the amount of homework students receive. The recommendations have come through research, as well as parent-teacher surveys. According to the Huffington Post, officials making the recommendations have determined that less homework will allow additional time for students to focus on extracurricular activities and spend more quality time with their families. Many of the parents and school officials in the district have also voiced their frustration overstressed students who can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to complete assignments – especially when some of the homework looks like simple “busy work” on the surface.
“We really believe that when kids get to be kids, that benefits their academic performance in school,” Galloway Superintendent Dr. Annette Giaquinto told NBC Philadelphia. Many parents agree with Giaquinto.
“I would be all for not having homework on the weekends,” Galloway parent Jennifer Arrom told NBC. Monday through Friday is a good time and weekends should be spent with your family.” Some students were also in favor of the plan.
“People have sports,” Galloway sixth-grader Nicole Gruber told NBC. Gruber added, “I think that'd be a good idea and if there were tests on Monday, we could study for it and have a lot more time for it.”
This video explains how Galloway Township eliminated weekend homework.
The proposal drawn up by the Galloway Township would prohibit teachers from assigning homework on Friday that is due the following Monday. It would also ban homework from being assigned over school holidays. A similar ban is already in effect in Upper Pittsgrove Township, Salem County. If the ban is approved by the school board in Galloway, it could go into effect when students return to classes next month.
Too Much Homework a Real Phenomenon?
Despite the widespread support for such a ban, there is still a question over whether limiting homework is the most effective path to higher student performance. A study done by Harris Cooper, Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and reported in the Huffington Post, found the link between time spent on homework and academic achievement was mostly dependent on grade level. Cooper found, “The effects of homework on elementary students appear to be small, almost trivial; expectations for homework’s effects, especially short-term and in the early grades, should be modest…For high school students, however, homework can have significant effects on achievement.”
The Harris Cooper study also found that even in high school, “too much homework may diminish its effectiveness or even become counterproductive.” This finding was cited on StopHomework.com, a website created by Sara Bennett, co-author of the book, The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting our Children and What We can do about It. Bennett’s research also found that the countries that performed the best on achievement tests, such as Japan and Denmark, children were assigned very little homework. By the same token, countries where children had abundant homework, such as Thailand and Greece, performed worse on the same achievement tests.
Alfie Kohn, author of “The Homework Myth” and advocate for getting rid of all kinds of homework, told the Huffington Post, “It’s one thing to say we are wasting kids’ time and straining parent-kid relationships, but what’s unforgivable is if homework is damaging our kids’ interest in learning, undermining their curiosity.” Kohn added that one of the core culprits of the excessive homework dilemma may well be the country’s obsession with standardized test scores. Kohn said, “The standards and accountability craze that has our students in its grip argues for getting tougher with children, making them do more mindless worksheets at earlier ages so that we can score higher in international assessments…it’s not about learning, it’s about winning.”
This video discusses the question "Are we doing too much homework?"
However, there are some solid benefits to homework as well, including the ability to build study habits, self-discipline, and more effective time-management strategies. A report at NPR asks, “How many people would have learned their multiplication tables without at least some rote memorization or done those math sheets they hated so much if they weren’t required?” Yes, there are definitive, measurable benefits to nightly assignments. So how do educators, parents, and students find a happy medium?
Recommendations from the Pros
Harris Cooper recommends that children get 10 minutes of homework each night as they progress from grade to grade. For example, first-graders could receive about 10 minutes of homework each night, while fifth-graders could do up to 50 minutes a night. NPR also recommends in their op-ed that teachers focus on the quality of the homework assignments rather than simply the quantity. If homework can be effectively used to help students practice valuable skills that address their individual learning needs, it would be time well spent indeed.
As far as homework over the weekends, that is a debate for another day – one that Galloway Township in New Jersey will continue to take up in earnest as they determine the best way to educate the students heading to their school buildings this fall.
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