After nearly four decades in the classroom, second-grade teacher Johanna Korpita has seen the ebb and flow over how much — or how little — homework children should complete.
So as several schools nationwide launch no-homework policies this fall, including at least two in Massachusetts — Holyoke and Essex — and one in Texas that swept the internet in August, Korpita knows from experience that the way schools approach homework often changes.
But based on her experience, homework, in the right doses, helps students learn valuable life skills, says the longtime teacher at Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg. Korpita, who has been teaching first and second grade since 1978, has tried to keep homework consistent over the years as family dynamics have changed and life at home is different for each student.
That’s why she assigns the same homework every week and collects homework every Friday. Korpita’s students are assigned a new list of spelling words weekly. This work can vary from writing each word five times to writing sentences using the words.
“I don’t want my kids to have tons of homework,” Korpita said.
Doing the homework is a learning process for students and the act of remembering to put it in the homework folder is an organization skill, according to the teacher.
“(Students) learn how to multitask,” she said.
Not all elementary school teachers agree. In August, the no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral after a letter she sent home to parents was posted on Facebook. In the letter, teacher Brandy Young announced a new policy for her class: no homework. Only assignments students did not finished during school hours would be finished at home.
“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance,” Young wrote in a letter to parents. “I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get your child to bed early.”
This year, a growing number of schools are following the “no-homework” trend.
Kelly Full Service Community School in Holyoke banned homework after the school’s district extended the school day by two hours, and a similar move was made at Essex Elementary School in northeast Massachusetts. The idea behind both policy changes is to let young students just be kids after school.
Korpita is careful to say that the decision to ban homework should be determined by individual schools based on student needs. She said it makes sense that the Kelly school would stop assigning homework given length of the school day.
The question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage.
In what many education experts say is among the most comprehensive studies of the issue, Duke University researchers in 2006 concluded that the correlation between homework and achievement was much stronger among secondary students than with those in elementary schools.