No Homework at BFA Middle School

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As a middle school we have participated in numerous discussions over the past decade about the role of homework in the learning process.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we were never able to come to consensus about the purpose and impact of assigning homework. This year we made a leap of faith and decided to stop assigning homework to our students.

We based this decision on several factors.  Our primary reason was that current research indicates that there is no evidence that homework increases academic benefits.  One argument that I often hear is that doing homework develops responsibility and prepares students for high school.  Our school views homework as an opportunity for independent practice that should reinforce a student’s understanding of a concept.  However, often times homework is an additional burden for students and parents to complete after a long day of work, school, and co-curricular activities.  Frequently the unintended outcome is that students are practicing the concept incorrectly, further interfering in the learning process.

Another consideration for our staff was equity.  There are many factors that impact learning in and outside of school such as socioeconomic status and education levels in the home.  We know that there is a wide discrepancy between the readiness levels for learning as a result.  Equity is about providing the same opportunity and considerations to all students. Due to these important factors we concluded that assigning homework creates and exacerbates inequity.  

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Finally, brain research also suggests the need for students not to overload their brains when learning new information. As a parent of a middle-schooler, I struggle to find enough hours in a day. Frequently, we do not arrive home until 7:00 p.m. from co-curricular activities and after having dinner we begin homework. The result is usually a battle of tiredness and frustration. Nothing about the process supports learning or independent practice.    

We have received no complaints about our decision to not have homework. We will continue to monitor this decision and we welcome feedback about the role of homework in the learning process. As for now, we feel good that students are giving us their best effort all day long and turning their energies toward other important endeavors in their life.  

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Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount

9 thoughts on “No Homework at BFA Middle School

  1. Great post! Several of us at GEMS are making this shift as well. This post is really informative and I love that you are all looking at “every” child and their individual needs. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I’m really surprised to read the reasoning behind ‘no homework policy’ for BFA’s middle schoolers, so glad my nephew graduated from your district years ago and will not be disadvantaged by this new policy/strategy.

    I have two middle schoolers both in 6th grade. We pulled them out of our public school district as we felt they were not being prepared for the next stages of learning and eventually real life. Our daughter participates in competitive cheerleading (an all encompassing year round sport) and drama club while our son is involved in karate and rugby. Our school is a 45 minute drive one way from our home. I say this to let you know we are on the road quite a bit, however school comes first and we make time for homework (and view it as an opportunity to expand learning NOT as a frustration or can’t do it because we are all – parents and students – too tired).

    We are blessed as our school has a philosophy that children should have the bar raised to achieve vs lowered to fail … in school and life. The teachers are available by phone, text and email every day of the week and on school nights available until 9pm for questions pertaining to the next day’s homework. My IEP son now has a smile on his face every day and on his own with no pressure from me eagerly dives into his homework (tears, frustration and outright temper tantrums had been the norm before). He loves that everything he needs is on the school intranet-Haiku-and he can do homework anytime, anywhere as long as he has wifi. Any immediate questions or concerns are addressed when he calls his teacher and asks for assistance.

    My daughter is in the upper 99% newas and wasn’t being challenged previously. She now bumps up one or two ‘grade-levels’ for mathematics and language arts to stretch her boundaries of learning.

    I grew up in Cambridge, Vermont and realize how important school learning, responsibility and accountability truly are to succeed in life. I truly feel that BFA’s new policy is contributing to the lack of preparedness for our next generations ability to be successful. I know another negative term that describes it in a more succinct manner … ‘dumbing down of America and its youth.’

    I am truly saddened to hear that BFA is making this choice FOR ALL its middle schoolers.

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    • Sad sad day. More coddling and setting bad examples to our youth of ill directed priorities. Fostering more laziness, killing academic drive and keeping that sense of entitlement alive. Sad sad day.

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  3. I really like this attempt. All too often, homework was an unnecessary burden to both students and teachers,one that negatively affected the relationship. I will be interested to hear how it plays out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally agree with you. As you said and has been said over and over, it’s the “dumbing down of America”. Then they wonder why the students in college are not prepared and at a much lower learning level than other schools in our country and especially abroad. School should come first, before all these extra curricular activities. It’s called time management and priorities! They will be ill prepared for real life demands and lazy attitudes of entitlement will prevail. Sad, sad day.

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  5. Pingback: Defining innovation in Vermont education - Innovation: Education

  6. Pingback: Eighth Grade at BFA-Fairfax Heading to Boston in April 2017 | THE FWSU STORY

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