Just before the beginning of school this year, much well deserved buzz surrounded the note Brandy Young (@MrsYoung2nd), an elementary school teacher in Texas, sent to the families of her students explaining her no homework policy.  Since then, elementary school, after elementary school,  after elementary school have announced that they are banning homework as a building policy.

nohomework-trainYet, the movement hasn’t caught on at the secondary school level.  Many high school teachers are very reluctant to get aboard the #NoHomework train.  They cite studies by John Hattie and others that show a correlation between homework and academic achievement.  High school teachers argue that homework fosters organization, tenacity, and responsibility.  Teachers often contend, “if I don’t assign homework, my students won’t be prepared to succeed in college or won’t be able to handle the rigor of the real world.”

Before I explain why I no longer assign homework to my students, let’s take a look at a few hypothetical students’ schedules without homework factored in:

  • Ignacio is the quintessential “try-hard.”  He is a 3 sport athlete, is an active member in school sponsored clubs, takes challenging classes, and works as a stock boy at a local grocery store.
  • Jada isn’t a huge fan of school, but she shows up everyday and takes care of business.  While Jada doesn’t like to participate in school sports or clubs, she is an active member of her church and has a job as a waitress at a local diner so she can save for college.
  • Wyatt is an “at risk” student.  He struggles to get to school because his family doesn’t have a reliable vehicle.  Wyatt’s mother works 2 jobs to try and make ends meet which leaves him not only in charge of getting his 3 younger siblings ready for school each day but also needing to care for them in the evening.

Ignacio

Jada

Wyatt

6:00
Wakes up and gets self ready
Wakes up and gets self ready
6:30
Wakes up and gets self ready
Gets siblings ready for and to school
7:00 Extra-curricular meeting
7:45-3:15 In School In School In School
3:30
Sports Practice
picks up siblings
4:00
4:30 Quick Dinner
Makes dinner and eats with siblings
5:00
Work
5:30
Cleans up kitchen, picks up after kids, and entertains
6:00 Quick Dinner
6:30
Work
7:00
Gets siblings washed up and ready for bed
7:30
8:00
8:30 Packs lunches for the next day
9:00
9:30
10:00 Goes to Bed Goes to Bed Goes to Bed

If you look at these schedules, you might notice all three of these students have between 1 and 1.5 hours of “free” time that they could use for homework.  Let’s assume that these students have 7 classes in a day and 1 study hall (45 minutes).  There is then 2 hours and 15 minutes of “work” time for these student to do homework in a given day. With 7 classes each, the teachers in those classes can lay claim to almost 20 minutes of the students’ time.

But what about these students’ mental health?  What about their need to relax?  When might they be able to explore other interests?  Where is there an opportunity for the family to do things together?  What happens when one of those 7 teachers lays claim on an hour?  Is it possible that what a teacher expects to take 20 minutes might take a student 15 minutes to relearn the material- and then actually 30 more complete?  When the workload exceeds the available time, what should a student do – not do homework for a different class, lose sleep, or not read thedesert_road_sign_18648 chapter due for tomorrow?

I no longer assign homework because I don’t believe I have the right to dictate what happens at home.

I no longer assign homework because because I understand the home lives of my students are not equal and homework exacerbates the effects of that inequality.

I no longer assign homework because I believe I can inspire a desire to learn more without needing to require.

I no longer assign homework because I believe that the almost 40 hours every week students are in school is enough

But, what if it isn’t enough time?  First, consider your lessons.  We all have room to be more efficient in our delivery.  Since fully implementing standards based grading (SBG), it has been much easier to prioritize my instruction.  SBG also has helped my students understand what their strengths are and where their weaknesses are.  Consider making more room for practice during your lessons.  Utilizing POD lesson planning has opened the door for more meaningful practice time during class – further reducing the need for homework.

All this isn’t to say that students shouldn’t do work at home.  Students learn at different paces and in different ways – some may find more success with at-home work while others find an intrinsic desire to advance as far as they can.  I provide resource pages filled with reteaching videos, interactive practice, notes presentations, and worksheets for students to select and choose what, if any, work is valuable to them to meet their goals.  The policy and class structure is meant to help as many students as possible find success – but progress monitoring may lead to conversations that a different policy best fits the needs of an individual.

6 thoughts on “I’m a high school teacher and I no longer assign homework because. . .

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