abolish homework


Slate magazine has a nice article on homework this week. Education researchers don’t really know if it actually helps kids learn or if it even helps them learn study skills. Like the business world, schools don’t use “evidence based management,” but instead rely on anecdote and experience. Here’s some choice quotes from Emily Bazelon’s review of Harris Cooper’s The Battle over Homework:

Cooper’s research shows that, much of the time, take-home assignments in elementary school are an act of faith. No one really knows whether all those math sheets and spelling drills add up to anything. If there’s little or no evidence that younger students benefit from homework, why assign it at all? Or, to adopt Kohn’s less extreme position in The Homework Myth, why make homework the rule rather than the rare and thought-through exception?


In The Battle Over Homework, Cooper has crunched the numbers on dozens of studies of homework for students of all ages. Looking across all the studies is supposed to offer a fairly accurate picture even though the science behind some of them is sketchy. For elementary-school students, Cooper found that “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero.” In Kohn’s book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders. For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades.

My take is that a lot elementary school practices are motivated by good intentions, not evidence. There is little systematic effort to understand whether anything really helps with learning or socialization. While I can see how homework can help certain kinds of students or those in certain kinds of classes (e.g. algebra or French – you need constant exposure), I would be pretty comfortable with a huge cut back in homework. Most Americans lead normal lives without a Japanese style obsession with homework. So, as Pink Floyd would say: “Hey, teachers, leave us kids alone!”

Written by fabiorojas

September 20, 2006 at 6:31 pm

Posted in education, fabio

4 Responses

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  1. Surprisingly – a closer look reveals that a whole host of pedagogical issues are up for grabs (evidence on both sides) – findings on matters such as experiential exercises, multiple-choice exams, participation etc are far from conclusive, or more directly in terms of learning – is learning about repetition, ‘investigation,’ social interaction etc?



    September 20, 2006 at 10:19 pm

  2. Read the article and can see that real research needs to be done. Homework has never fit into my already tight schedule, I fail to meet the minimum grade point average in most classes due to incomplete homework assignments. It doesn’t seem apparent to them that I obviously know the material judging from my test scores, but as I am a student my opinion on my grades isn’t extremely important to the staff.



    January 9, 2008 at 9:16 pm

  3. my parents are always bugging me about how i should always “do my homework” the only reason i’m getting a C or D in a class is because my home work is down my SAT’s say i’m one of the best math wizz in the world and so do my regular tests. My parents say that people won’t trust me because of my home work grades. WHAT KIND OF JOB GIVES OUT WORK TO BE DONE AFTER HOURS!?!?!?! The principle in my school says every little bit of homework helps, then why are my grades in the garbage?



    April 23, 2008 at 12:34 am

  4. that time is off by 7 hours i did not ditch school



    April 23, 2008 at 12:35 am

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