Pro: Standardized homework would benefit all
By Alex White
A district-wide policy to regulate the amount of homework students can be assigned would be effective in improving student morale and the overall value of education.
Giving students a standardized amount of homework would give them more opportunities to develop outside of the classroom. When elementary school kids spend hours of their free time practicing cursive or multiplication tables, they are losing chances to learn necessary life skills that are not taught in school.
Recently, a group of Manhattan Beach parents created a petition to submit to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District board. The parents claim that their children, most of whom are of elementary age, spend so much time doing homework, that it affects their personal and family lives.
The petition simply wants the district to review homework at the elementary level and consider taking action. It also proposes that other, perhaps more beneficial, homework assignments such as 20 minutes of nightly outside reading, are under-used.
The topic will be discussed at future MBUSD board meetings. The school board will likely have to address the petition, which currently has over 350 signatures and is gaining rapid popularity, according to the petition site on change.org.
A study done by Duke University researcher Harris Cooper suggests that too much homework can be detrimental to a child’s development. He concludes that assigning less homework is beneficial to sleep habits, exercise frequency and more. According to Cooper, less homework would aid social development and health.
Standardization can mean many things besides just reducing the amount of homework assigned. Some teachers, such as English teacher Shannon Vaughan, believe that it is unfair for teachers to demand their students to focus on a single subject when the class has a disproportionate amount of work to others. A board policy preventing this kind of inequity would help create equal amounts of homework in each class, alleviating stress for students.
Homework does not necessarily yield higher comprehension of concepts or improved test scores. Based on a 2005 report released by the Stanford University Press, countries with high achieving students, like Japan or Denmark, assign little homework to their students.
On the other hand, countries like Thailand or Greece that perennially score lower give more homework than teachers in the United States do. The district would be well advised to propose caps for certain age levels on the intended amount of homework time.
Another issue that arises is lack of sleep due to high amounts of homework. A report published by the Trends in Math and Science Study organization showed that large amounts of homework, i.e., over 90 minutes per subject, did relatively little to help high school students.
A National Sleep Foundation survey also stated that a majority of high school students get at least one hour less of sleep per night than is recommended, a deficiency that has the potential to set cognitive abilities back years.
Proponents of the current policy argue that individual teachers should be given full control over their class homework. At the elementary level though, large amounts of work are detrimental, and this policy of control and regulation could seriously benefit these students.
Implementing such a policy would prove beneficial and a step forward in improving student morale and development.
Con: Homework should be up to the teachers
By Michelle McKenna
A recent petition organized by parents of students within the Manhattan Beach Unified School District aims to regulate the amount of homework assigned in elementary schools. However, homework is a crucial and necessary part of students’ learning experience and individual teachers should be given discretion to assign homework for their classes.
Many teachers feel that homework is an important part of learning. Therefore, it is ridiculous to say that something so key in a successful learning environment should be reduced, as the petition proposes.
Manhattan Beach schools pride themselves on high test scores and academic excellence, which has been achieved in part through the work students have done outside of school. Homework is necessary to prepare elementary school students for middle school and, eventually, high school.
MBUSD parents who signed the petition believe that due to the amount of homework their children have, there is very little free time for them to spend with their families or engage in their interests and, therefore, think that there should be a standard for the amount of acceptable homework. Some parents believe their children’s homework is causing unnecessary stress and is inappropriate considering the child’s grade level.
According to Wendy Walsh, a Manhattan Beach parent who organized the petition, elementary school teachers told her that most Manhattan Beach parents support this kind of workload. If homework is too much, parents must consider cutting back on extra activities that take up their child’s time. Through assessments such as test scores, these sacrifices would prove to be positive in the long run, as homework helps to build the foundation for the rest of a student’s education.
Many proponents of the regulation of homework argue that an excessive amount of homework will cause sleep deprivation, which would be detrimental to the health and well being of students. However, most homework can be managed effectively if a student is focused and productive. Therefore, the frequent cause of sleep deprivation is procrastination or lack of focus.
Multiple teachers, however, do not support the standardization of amounts of homework. Costa teacher Andrea Collicutt believes that work not completed in class must be finished at home. These teachers also believe that homework is necessary in order to keep test scores high and reinforce material that was learned in class.
If teachers wish to help students balance school work and other activities, they should help students organize their time effectively. Teacher-based initiatives would thus benefit the students without reducing the authority of the teacher.
Issues regarding homework and other pressures in education have been raised in movies such as “Waiting For Superman.” This film demonstrates the problems that persist in public education. Students in every grade may feel pressure because of their challenging workload, but it helps them to prepare for the future.
Heavier homework loads may seem burdensome, especially at lower grade levels, but they will better prepare students for the future. Instructors know what is best for their students, and all involved will continue to thrive if homework decisions remain with the teachers.