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Less homework = more reading?

favicon Check out what this elementary school is doing in Maryland (also in Iserotope Extras!):

What do you think? At the elementary school level, I think this is the way to go. Unless we carve out time to read — and to allow students to choose what to read — there won’t be enough reading.

But once students hit middle school, things get more complicated, and I value some non-reading homework, as long as it’s consistent, purposeful, and valuable. One of the biggest challenges my students face is unpredictable and scattered homework. Homework shouldn’t change every day and require different sets of academic skills.

What are your thoughts? If teachers shun conventional homework and substitute independent reading in its place, what do you think will happen? More real reading? Fake reading? Worse math skills? favicon


  1. caitlin schwarzman

    Since becoming the parent of two elementary school students (who go to a school that assigns almost no homework), I’ve changed my views on homework. As a high school teacher, I assigned homework regularly, though not, I hope, ever for the sake of homework. As I parent I’d rather do other things with my kids.

    An interesting piece in a not too recent New Yorker ends with this thought:

    But it’s also likely (contrary to President Hollande’s assumption) that the people most hostile to homework are affluent parents who want their children to spend their after-school time taking violin lessons and going to Tae Kwon Do classes—activities that are more enriching and (often) more fun than conjugating irregular verbs. Less affluent parents are likely to prefer more homework as a way of keeping their kids off the streets. If we provided after-school music lessons, museum trips, and cool sports programs to poor children, we could abolish homework in a French minute. No one would miss it. ♦

    see the whole piece:

  2. Mark Isero

    Caitlin, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Several of my friends who are parents express similar sentiments. I think it’s necessary for teachers to question their practice, including their views on homework. If assigning homework is a teacher’s way to demonstrate rigor, then I’m not for it. There are much better ways to do that.

    But as a teacher, I want to make sure that my students can accelerate their learning and compete against their suburban peers. That’s where I get stuck. Still, homework without support is not the answer. That’s why I like academic after-school programs, like First Graduate and College Track. Another option is for the teacher, if he gives a homework assignment, to be available online in the evening to help students — not by text but rather by Google+ Hangout. (More about that idea later!)

    What do you think? Would your view change if you were a parent of high school children?

Please share your brilliant insights!