Against Homework

Students from less educated families are most in need of the boost that effective homework can provide, because they’re less likely to acquire academic knowledge and vocabulary at home.

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Good homework assignments might have helped a student learn a lot about, say, Ancient Egypt.

But if the reading passages on a test cover topics like life in the Arctic or the habits of the dormouse, that student’s test score may well not reflect what she’s learned.

The research relied on by those who oppose homework has actually found it has a modest positive effect at the middle and high school levels—just not in elementary school.

But for the most part, the studies haven’t looked at whether it matters what kind of homework is assigned or whether there are different effects for different demographic student groups.

Those arguments have merit, but why homework boost academic achievement?

The research cited by educators just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Another argument against homework is that it causes students to feel overburdened and stressed.

  While that may be true at schools serving affluent populations, students at low-performing ones often don’t get much homework at all—even in high school.

And while one study found that parental help with homework generally doesn’t boost students’ achievement—and can even have a negative effect— another concluded that economically disadvantaged students whose parents help with homework improve their performance significantly.

That seems to run counter to another frequent objection to homework, which is that it privileges kids who are already advantaged.

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