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A homework assignment could require students to answer questions about what was covered in class that day without consulting their notes.
The following year, the superintendent of a Florida school district serving 42,000 students eliminated homework for all elementary students and replaced it with twenty minutes of nightly reading, saying she was basing her decision on “solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students.” Many other elementary schools seem to have quietly adopted similar policies.
Critics have objected that even if homework doesn’t increase grades or test scores, it has other benefits, like fostering good study habits and providing parents with a window into what kids are doing in school.
In 2016, a second-grade teacher in Texas delighted her students—and at least some of their parents—by announcing she would no longer assign homework.
“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance,” she explained.
One study found that lower-income ninth-graders “consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night.” And if they didn’t complete assignments, there were few consequences.
I discovered this myself when trying to tutor students in writing at a high-poverty high school.
If a child wants to learn to play the violin, it’s obvious she needs to practice at home between lessons (at least, it’s obvious to an adult).
And psychologists have identified a range of strategies that help students learn, many of which seem ideally suited for homework assignments.
After I expressed surprise that none of the kids I was working with had completed a brief writing assignment, a teacher told me, “Oh yeah—I should have told you.
Our students don’t really homework.” If and when disadvantaged students get to college, their relative lack of study skills and good homework habits can present a serious handicap.