Fall 2017 will mark the end of homework for Marion County, Florida. The new superintendent, Heidi Maier, has decided to do away with traditional take home assignments for its elementary school students, opting instead to assign 20 minutes of reading every night. The decision was backed by research that suggests too much homework, especially for young kids, can be detrimental to development and instill negative perceptions of school.
Marion County is, statistically, predominantly white and conservative, with 13.1 percent of the population sitting below the poverty line. Without Maier — who is also the district’s first female superintendent since 1928 — there is little indication that the move away from regular homework would have happened. But the overwhelming evidence that homework hurts kids and reading helps, along with pocketed counties throughout the U.S. pushing against traditional homework, has influenced the superintendent and subsequently put Marion County on the map.
Multiple studies have found links between kids reading and increased communication skills, intellect, and even math abilities. Parents reading with their children has also been found to foster a stronger relationship and create a more open line of dialogue within the family. Reduced homework has been associated with kids spending more time on extracurricular activities and strengthening development. Conversely, too much homework has been linked with chronic stress and an increased risk for substance abuse in later years.
This isn’t to say, of course, that all homework is bad, however. Some students may require extra work outside of class to catch up with their peers, and some concepts may be too difficult for certain students to grasp. But as Richard Allington, a Professor of Education at The University of Tennessee and a leading force behind the no homework research, told the Washington Post, “The quality of homework assigned is so poor that simply getting kids to read replacing homework with self-selected reading was a more powerful alternative. Maybe some kinds of homework might raise achievement but if so that type of homework is uncommon in U.S. schools.” Allington further argues that the majority of homework is just busy work and that doing away with it won’t negatively impact students, as some parents argue. What will come of this experiment? Only time will tell. But it’s certainly an exciting proposition for parents and kids alike.
What will come of this homework remix? Only time will tell. But it’s certainly an exciting proposition for parents and kids alike.