Could the End of Homework Be on the Horizon?

Parents' directive to kids to "go do your homework" may soon be a thing of the past. School districts across the country, from New Jersey to Wyoming to California are banning homework -- or at least shortening the allotted time to make it more "meaningful and manageable."

Simply put, the anti-homework camp points out the added stress and hours of rote drill work have not raised achievement levels, especially in elementary grades, according to the New York Times. Those who favor homework say important skills, whether they're rote or involve critical thinking, need to be practiced and honed.

Some schools are swapping homework for "goal work," tailored to each student's progress, to be done at home or at class, as they're doing in Mango Elementary School in Fontana, Calif., while others, like Pleasanton, are cutting homework time back by half and prohibiting any assignments handed out on weekends, the Times article states.

"Homework is messing up the balance of kids' lives in terms of having downtime and playtime and family time," said Cathy Vatterott, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs in a Reuters article.

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This philosophical argument against overworked students is one perspective. But there's also a logistical argument to be made on behalf of low-income students, who may not have either the time or the physical space to complete homework assignments, putting them at even a greater disadvantage in the achievement gap. Many low-income students have to work to help support the family, don't have support at home because of working parents, or are confined to cramped living quarters and simply can't find the space to do homework.

If the homework ban does become the norm rather than the exception, what does this mean for teachers?

Apart from having to coordinate with each other to ensure they don't exceed allotted homework time, how will educators change the way they design classroom time?

Today's Forum show on KQED discussed the issue in depth. You can listen to it here.

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