Teacher Bans Homework for an Excellent Reason

August 22nd 2016

Kyle Jaeger

It's the start of a new school year and, for students, that means getting back into the routine of lectures, homework, and testing. But one teacher is flipping the standard curriculum on its head and introducing a new no-homework policy that's designed to improve academic performance.

A photo of the policy is being shared online.


"Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance," the teacher wrote in a letter to parents. "Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early."

The only work students would have to do at home are assignments they were unable to complete during the school day, the policy states. Not only does that encourage students to actively participate in class, but the benefits of a no-homework policy are backed by studies showing that excessive homework hurts students' health and actually hinders academic performance.

Gerald LeTendre, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University, set out to answer the question of whether homework is associated with higher rates of academic success. His conclusion? The data doesn't validate a heavy homework load. LeTendre finds it troubling that ten percent of fourth graders spend multiple hours on homework each night, for example.

"These reports of large homework loads should worry parents, teachers and policymakers alike," LeTrendre wrote in The Washington Post. "Empirical studies have linked excessive homework to sleep disruption, indicating a negative relationship between the amount of homework, perceived stress and physical health."

Other experts contend that abandoning homework altogether is not the best solution. Earlier research indicates that "the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant," for example. The problem with homework seems to present itself when assigned in excess, opponents to no-homework policies argue.  

What about the teacher's point that other activities — e.g. eating dinner with family and playing outside — improves academic success?

According to at least one study, this checks out. A joint study conducted by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Tulsa found that eating dinner with family is associated with improved vocabulary for young students, The Washington Post reports. For older students, this daily activity "is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art."

As far as the teacher's other points are concerned – reading, playing outside, and getting to sleep early — the benefits are pretty much self-evident. Research shows that reading bolsters memory and concentration, exercise improves brain functioning and that getting a healthy amount of sleep is critical to the learning process.

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