Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Giving Homework The Heave-Ho

One San Francisco-area elementary is radically re-thinking homework:
A Menlo Park elementary school is saying no to homework for some of its students. The kids, and most parents and teachers like the idea.

First graders spend a good six hours a day doing school work -- what they do after school should not include homework. That's the decision made last October by the principal of Oak Knoll Elementary.

David Ackerman, Oak Knoll Principal: "I had been hearing stories from families about what it was doing to family life, and the kid's schedules being over-scheduled, and we as a staff had been reading the research about homework."

A University of Missouri study found high school students benefit tremendously from homework -- in middle school, the results were half as good. But on the elementary school level, the same study found homework had no effect on students.

Deborah Stipek, Dean Of Stanford University School of Education: "One of the problems I see with homework is that it is often one size fits all. It may be good for three or four kids, and other kids struggle with it, and other kids are bored to death with it, because they already know that stuff."

Not all homework at Oak Knoll has been axed -- for example, third graders will still practice their multiplication tables at home.

Joan von der Lindan is a teacher, at first she questioned the new policy, but now believes less is best.

Joan von der Lindan, teacher: "If we are going to work hard in class, the kids, like teachers need to have downtime as well."

Ackerman says the majority of the parents have been supportive. But Louise Gaffney remembers when her older kids had lots of homework.

Louise Gaffney, parent: "When they graduated from high school they were definitely prepared for college, extremely prepared."

Still, Ackerman says other districts have contacted him and are now rethinking their homework policy.
Oak Knoll principal David Ackerman shares some other thoughts over there.

Our district, which is located in California's so-called "Imperial" Valley, has adopted a "homework policy" which directs that students in grades 1-8 should receive no more than an hour's worth of homework four days per week.

As for the weekend, the assigning of homework is "not recommended."
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