Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Homework Debate

The debate about homework never seems to stop. It's one of those perennial issues faced by school leaders. Proponents of homework suggest that a reduction would reduce academic rigor. Those questioning homework challenge it's link to student learning. What's interesting is that there's evidence to support both sides of the debate. A recent study by a University of Virginia professor found no significant relationship between time spent on homework and grades but did find a relationship between homework and performance on standardized tests.

What we do know is that a survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that the amount of time spent on homework increased 51% since 1981. So, what do we know about homework? First, busy work turns students away from learning and does not impact overall student learning. Second, when homework exceeds more than 60 minutes a day in grades 3-6, 90 minutes a day in middle level and 120 minutes a night in high school, the benefits decline quickly.

One of the best sources of information about homework and how to support effective homework practices is an ASCD publication Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs. The author, Cathy Vatterott, is a former teacher and school administrator. She provides teachers and principals with an explicit set of strategies for thoughtfully examining homework expectations and supporting homework completion. Cathy's website,, shares many of her presentation materials and tools.

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