Marks go up after school bans homework
Published Saturday, November 21, 2009 7:12PM EST
No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks. At least not because kids didn't do their homework -- because there isn't any at one Ontario school.
Kids at Prince of Wales Public School in Barrie, Ont. are probably some of the happiest in the country. Not only because their school banned homework last year, but because their marks actually went up as a result.
"As a whole we found marks have started to go up, our Education Quality and Accountability Office data has improved since we started," Jan Olson, the school's principal said in an interview with CTV's Canada AM.
He says there are also fewer behavioural issues as a result of the ban, and academic improvement was observed across the entire spectrum of students: wealthy and poor, special needs and gifted.
The ban was put into place after the school looked at research on whether there was any relationship between homework and student achievement.
"We didn't find a whole lot of achievement correlation between those so we decided, 'why do we need to do it then?'" Olson said.
But before the school could start the policy, it had to duke it out with parents who grew up with the notion that homework is best for their kids, he said. Staff had to convince parents that the existing data and research suggest just the opposite -- that no homework is the best homework.
But the students don't get off scott free from their scholarly duties--- they still have to study for regular tests. But the lack of homework helps teachers monitor the progress of kids more accurately because they get daily feedback and don't have to wait to mark homework and hand it back days later.
Olson says the policy is making life easier for teachers too.
"Teachers at my school have found that when they focus on effective classroom practices, students are engaged more, students are willing to complete their work more effectively," Olson said.
And if kids do get any homework, it is assigned in relation to how it will work best with the curriculum. For example, students could be assigned to ask questions or create a dialogue with their parents.
It's "creating relationships but not encompassing the parents and family's whole life," Olson said.
Canada AM's Your Say page got one of the biggest responses ever when it asked "Should homework be banned?"
"I think banning homework is very unnecessary, it gives us kids responsibility, discipline, and much more," wrote Kenzie Pero, 12, who goes to school in Nova Scotia.
"Spend time with them, talk with them, take them to events, concerts, and museums, this will give them more valuable learning than any amount of homework ever will," wrote Darcey-Joe from Winnipeg.
In January, the Simcoe County district School Board held a meeting with two education experts from the University of Toronto, who wrote a study that found homework isn't always beneficial and can give families stress, make children tired, and can even lead to marital problems.
Last month, the Simcoe County District School Board passed new homework guidelines for every school in the area, but did not ban homework altogether.
The new policy states that teachers should avoid assigning homework that is due the next day so kids can have more time to participate in extra curricular activities. It also says homework should meet the individual needs of students, and not require access to technology that might not be available to kids.
The new policy also prevents teachers from assigning homework before holidays or March break.