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No More Homework? A Texas Teacher’s Letter Goes Viral


A Texas teacher swearing off of homework for her students has gone viral and it seems to have incited more than the usual flurry of back-to-school discussions about whether homework helps or hinders kids.

If you haven’t read the note from Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher working not far from Dallas-Fort Worth, she says that homework for her class this year will only consist of work that students did not finish during the school day. She suggests using the time to do things that “correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get your child to bed early.” Notice the use of the word “correlate.”

In her note, Young talks about researching homework results and being unable to prove homework improves student performance. Does homework actually improve outcomes? Does it increase a child’s understanding of the subject matter? Of the basic concepts?

Harris Cooper, who received a Ph.D. from Duke University, along with a number of colleagues, reviewed and analyzed dozens of homework studies between 1987 and 2003. In an article written for the SEDL Letter, Cooper talks about how they focused on two types of studies.

  • The first set of studies compared students who had homework assigned to similar students who didn’t. The results of these studies suggest that, yes, homework can improve student scores on class tests.
  • Cooper calls the second type of study, correlational studies, “less rigorous.” Correlational studies “suggest little or no relationship between homework and achievement for elementary school students. The average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement was substantial for secondary school students, but for elementary school students, it hovered around no relationship at all.”

Much of the research around homework (and Ms. Young’s suggested substitutions) can only prove correlation. In other words, dinner with the family may be a correlation for higher grades but it may also indicate a family with involved parents. Those same involved parents may have read to their child from the earliest age, another correlation.

The bottom line according to Cooper? “Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits.”

Media from the Washington Post to the Boston Globe have covered Ms. Young’s letter and examined the latest homework controversy. Many of them are treading lightly, talking about “intentional” homework, versus “make work,” and pointing to the National Education Association’s recommendation for homework of 10 minutes per grade starting in first grade. This small amount of homework shouldn’t be getting in the way of family togetherness, playtime or sitting down together for a meal. A much more likely culprit is the still huge amount of time kids spent in front of a television – on average, kids spend more than 2 hours per day passively watching!

So, what’s the difference between “good” and not-so-good homework? Good homework provides:

  • Activities that are carefully planned and specific, with a clear goal.
  • Feedback on the child’s performance.
  • A variety of tasks that include different levels of challenge.

These are the basic principles upon which the Smartick Method was created. Smartick offers short (10 to 15 minute) practice sessions that are designed to address basic math concepts, no more than 1 or 2 at a time. They address the basic concepts of math with a variety of different approaches. Smartick provides a customized experience, assessing the child’s progress as they go along and tailoring the program to their individual needs. Kids receive immediate feedback and positive reinforcement. Parents also receive feedback on their child’s progress and there’s no need to schedule expensive after-school tutoring and classes.

So, what do you think about homework now?

Learn More:

Fun is our brain’s favorite way of learning
Diane Ackerman
Smartick is a fun way to learn math
  • 15 fun minutes a day
  • Adapts to your child’s level
  • Millions of students since 2009
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