Young's rationale for her new policy, as she explained in her note, was that "research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Live Science spoke with three educators who have conducted research on homework and student performance to fact-check this statement, and to find out what studies have shown about homework's positive and negative effects.
It's accurate to suggest that studies have found no correlation between homework in elementary school and a student's academic performance , but there is one important exception worth mentioning, said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
Research has shown that free reading , or allowing students to read whatever books they want, does improve their academic performance, Pope said. Some elementary school teachers assign free reading as homework, but kids and parents do not always perceive these assignments as true homework that must be completed, she explained.
In middle school, the evidence shows a slight correlation between doing homework and academic achievement , but further improvement fades after a middle-school student has spent 60 to 90 minutes a night doing homework, said Pope, who is also the co-founder of Challenge Success, an organization that works with schools and families to develop research-based strategies that engage kids and keep them healthy.
But it's tricky to draw conclusions from homework studies, because these studies use such varied ways of measuring a student's academic performance, Pope said. Some researchers use standardized test scores to measure achievement, while others use students' grade-point averages, she said.
Another variable that can complicate the results of homework studies is that it's hard to know who is actually doing the assignment when it's taken home, Pope said. For example, a student could get help from a parent , tutor, sibling or classmate to complete the work. In high school, there is a strong correlation between students who do 2 hours of homework a night and higher levels of academic achievement, but again, this improvement fades when students exceed the 2-hour threshold, Pope told Live Science.
Pope said she considers the advice that the viral note offered to parents —to eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get a child to bed early — to be "spot on.
Studies suggest that to perform at their best in school, kids in second grade need sufficient sleep , playtime with their siblings and friends, and downtime, meaning time to transition from school to home.
Kids also benefit from regular family time, which ideally takes place five times a week for at least 25 minutes and could take the form of a family meal, Pope said. Making time for reading is also important for a child's success in the classroom, she said.
The contention that "research is unable to prove that homework improves student performance" is an overstatement, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who has been researching homework and student performance for 30 years. Even when looking at levels as early as second grade, studies have found that kids who study a little bit at home may do better on spelling, vocabulary and math tests given in the classroom, Cooper told Live Science.
However, he noted that the correlation between doing homework and higher academic achievement is not as strong in elementary students, who generally don't get much homework, as it is in middle-school and high-school students.
Rather than a no-homework policy for second graders, Cooper said he would recommend that homework for kids at this age be kept short and simple. It should take no more than about 20 minutes a night for second graders to complete their homework, he said. To estimate an appropriate amount of time for students to spend doing homework, educators may use "the minute rule" which means multiplying a child's grade level by 10 minutes of homework a night, Cooper explained.
That means first graders get 10 minutes of homework, second graders get 20 and so on. Besides just the skills in math, reading or other subjects themselves, homework can have positive effects on children's time-management and study skills, Cooper said.
At the beginning of his teaching career,. Nelson said he would get calls from parents saying they were up late hours of the night doing homework with their kids. That's when he decided to a little of his own homework.
I started to read articles saying elementary school homework doesn't do anything for [the students]. A Review of Educational Research published in found homework does have a positive effect on student achievement but the correlation depends on the student's age. Homework has a more positive effect on secondary students from grades 7 through 12, according to the study's lead writer, Harris Cooper — who is a professor of psychology and director of Duke's Program in Education — as well as one of the nation's lead homework researchers.
The study found younger children have less effective study habits and 'burn out' easier, so a heavy load of homework is not as beneficial.
Younger children should be given shorter homework assignments and participate in out-of-school activities such as sports or reading of their interest, according to Cooper's study. Children should learn about responsibility, such as caring for a pet, according to Nelson. At-home or outside activities can help teach responsibility, similar to a chore.
Nelson believes learning responsibility helps prepare younger students for homework in higher grades. For as much praise a "no homework" policy receives, the idea is slammed by others. Many parents are stuck in their old ways, and are used to seeing a lot of homework, according to Nelson.
Although a 'no homework' policy carries varying perspectives, there is a common practice standard upheld in American schools. Research finds 10 to 20 minutes of homework per night in the first grade is appropriate, with an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter.
A 'no homework' policy may pose a limitation to alternative homework activities in the case a child doesn't have parent guidance at home, or the financial means to engage in some of the activities.
College de Saint-Ambroise, an elementary school in Quebec, is the latest school to ban homework, announcing this week that it would try the new policy for a year.
A Texas teacher's note to parents about her newly implemented "no formal homework policy" in her second-grade class went viral last week, opening up the floodgates for parents, teachers and school. A Texas teacher's no-homework policy went viral this month after a parent shared the news on Facebook. Brandy Young teaches second grade at Godley Elementary School in Texas, but some high school.
The new policy — which will take effect when students return to school in Florida’s Marion County next month — is an example of the ongoing debate over the benefits and drawbacks of homework. • Know homework assignments before leaving school. • Take homework assignments and all necessary supplies home. • Jot down a homework buddy's phone number to use if a day is missed or if there are questions.