Do Kids Need Homework?

October 30, 2017
RICK GOMEZ—GETTY IMAGES

Should elementary schools assign homework? TFK asked two experts to weigh in.

Janine Bempechat is a professor of human development and psychology at Wheelock College, in Massachusetts. She studies kids’ motivation for learning. Below, she explains why homework serves an important purpose for students of all ages.

Etta Kralovec is a professor of education at the University of Arizona. She is also a coauthor of the book The End of Homework. Here, she argues that homework is a waste of time and explains her reasoning.

RICHARD NESTEAD—GETTY IMAGES

Yes!

By Janine Bempechat

Particularly for elementary school, homework has become a debated issue. That is because studies show that doing homework does not necessarily improve younger students’ grades.

Still, many teachers and parents are in favor of homework in elementary school. They view it as a way for students to review what they are learning in school and develop the learning habits and study skills they will need through middle school and high school. Homework helps you practice how to plan your time, manage distractions, and persevere when learning becomes difficult.

Research shows that homework pays off. Students who invest effort in their homework are better at keeping track of their work and managing their time. When they begin middle school and high school, they are more positive about learning than students who do not invest time in homework. They also do much better in school.

This payoff may not appear during the elementary school years. But that doesn’t mean homework should be abandoned. Instead, educators should focus on designing high-quality, enjoyable homework that is challenging in the best sense of the word.

No!

By Etta kralovec

I hated homework when I was in elementary school, and I hated it even more as a parent. As I recall, my kids and I argued more about homework than about anything else.

Now that I’m an educator, I spend a lot of time in schools. When it comes to homework, there is still a lot of controversy. And it’s not just students who are unhappy. Many teachers and parents tell me they think homework is a waste of time. I couldn’t agree more.

Homework has been around about as long as there have been schools. You may be surprised to know that it was not always popular. In 1905, California banned homework for students under 15. In the 1920s, doctors formed a group called Physicians Against Homework. They said homework harmed students’ eyes and kept kids cooped up, denying them exercise and fresh air. More recently, researchers at Stanford University found that it causes considerable stress in students’ lives.

My colleagues and I have put together healthy homework guidelines, which we hope will stimulate conversation between teachers, parents, and students, and eventually lead to some common-sense solutions for the age-old controversy of homework in our schools. It’s a conversation worth having, don’t you think?