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.
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