Elementary school quits homework

CLEBURNE COUNTY, AL (WBRC) –

The Principal at Fruithurst Elementary in Cleburne County says research on homework prompted her to do away with daily take home assignments.

Her students no longer have homework.

“It doesn’t show any positive correlation in Elementary school between homework and academic achievement. There is no research that proves that, no,” Principal Dr. Christy Hiett said.

Hiett says that research has been around for decades but educators have just been slow to change from what they have always done.

“I read several about the pressures of homework. The stress on children, the stress on parents, the things children are not getting to do in the afternoons  because of the hours of homework they have to do,” she said.

Hiett reached out to researchers including Alfie Kahn, the author of The Homework Myth. 

“I’ve read that and gotten email responses from him with questions that I’ve had,” she said.

Those researchers offered no evidence that homework helped student achievement. Even in high school those researchers say a few points on a standardized test is the most students can hope to benefit from homework.

Hiett says she is confident students benefit the most from being in the classroom with teachers not homework.

Hiett admits repetition is the idea behind homework. But she also sees pitfalls with take-home assignments.

“It causes grief. It causes tension, crying at times with a child that doesn’t understand and typically most parents hear this from a child, ‘You are not doing it the way my teacher told us to do it,” Hiett said. “So if that’s case and the teacher has taught it one way and the parent is insisting on showing their way and the teacher is insisting on their way, the child is confused when they return to school the next day. So that is totally tearing down everything that the teacher taught day before so there is no benefit.”

Hiett said homework isn’t very beneficial if that child doesn’t have anyone to help them work through it and get the practice in.

“When I started watching children that were waiting on buses in the bus line, rapidly doing their homework. Whether they were doing it correctly or not they just wanted to get it done to hand it in the next day. So if they were doing it incorrectly or didn’t have someone to check it to make sure it was done correctly…there was no point. Even with math,” Hiett said.

Hiett alerted teachers change was coming this year and that students would no longer have homework and also reached out to parents on Facebook

“I posted…your children haven’t been bringing homework, but there is a catch. I want to see what you are doing that’s beneficial, educational, that’s fun, that you are doing at home in place of homework,” Hiett said. “What are you doing with that time? And parents started posting pictures of all the things they were doing instead of doing homework and I have created a wall.”

That wall is right outside her office covered with pictures of her students doing things like visiting sick friends, spending time with grandparents and older children reading to younger children.

Students at Fruithurst Elementary School also seem to enjoy doing activities to add to Hiett’s wall.

“I want them to have time to spend with their families, go outside and play, and do the things children should be able to do and not have to sit at a dining room table and do hours of homework,” she said.

In fact, third grade teacher Stacy Hulsey says spelling grades are higher. The same is true for her fellow teacher Kara Houston who admits she was skeptical at first and even warned parents if grades started to slip they would see homework again.

Hiett says in the first nine weeks of school students met their accelerator reading goals and that has never happened in the 12 or more years since that program started at Fruithurst Elementary School. 

Teacher Larry Haynes at Oak Mountain Middle School has also spent time looking at the debate over homework. He said there needs to be room for flexibility.

“Homework is great when it is a meaningful activity, when it is skills based, when it allows a student a chance to practice a concept they have learned in class and also at the same time be challenged and think critically about the assignment,” he said.

Otherwise he says it is meaningless without that concept connection to what students are learning.

Haynes says Oak Mountain Middle School offers students homework help before they go home and before classes start in the morning to help students do their assignments correctly.

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