Massachusetts Elementary School Cancels Homework for a Year

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Kids, parents, and teachers at Kelly Elementary School are about to have a very unusual year. Their principal has just announced that the school will be a homework-free zone for the next 10 months, as reported by Good Housekeeping. Principal Jackie Glasheen proposed the switch to help save the struggling school, which was ranked as one of the lowest-performing schools in the district.

The move is a counterintuitive one, to be sure; you’d think that giving kids more work would boost their grades. But a number of researchers say the reverse is true, especially for elementary schoolers. Sending young kids home with worksheets, projects, and reading assignments may actually make it harder for them to learn. (To a lesser extent, the same is true for middle schoolers, and some experts say even high schoolers should be doing far less.)

Little by little, the homework-free movement is catching on. In 2009, after surveying parents and educators, the Toronto school district banned homework for kindergarteners and on holidays and reduced the amount assigned to first and second graders. That same year, an Ontario elementary school did away with homework altogether. Principal Jan Olson had read the research, too. "They could not find anything that demonstrated a strong positive correlation between homework and improved grades," he told Today’s Parent.

It’s not as though the students are getting off easy. Homework is often used as a way to cover material that teachers missed in class and so, Glasheen reasoned, they should just give the teachers more time—and so the new school day will run two hours longer than usual.

"We are providing specific instructional intervention to close those gaps," Glasheen told Western Mass News. "We really want our kids to go home at 4 p.m. tired. We want their brain to be tired. We want them to enjoy their families, to go to soccer and football practice, and we want them to go to bed and that's it."

Not everyone is thrilled with the new plan. One teacher argues that an 8-hour school day is no better for kindergarteners than homework. "They start fading between 1:30-2:00," she wrote on Facebook. "It's developmentally inappropriate to expect a 5-year-old to sit in class that long."

Others are coming around. Marisa Ventrice is a third-grade teacher at Kelly Elementary, where her own children are students. She told Western Mass News, "I wasn't [sure] right away because it's such a huge part of our routine, or at least it has been for so long, and I do like the responsibility it teaches kids of bringing homework back to school." Still, she added, "the pros definitely outweigh the cons."

The homework-free program is scheduled for this year only, but may be continued if students’ scores improve.

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[h/t Good Housekeeping]