KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Kirkwood High School is trying an experiment for the sake of student and teacher mental health.
On the weekends following Feb. 16 and March 9, students will get no homework assignments from their teachers.
Many Kirkwood High students juggle after-school jobs and extracurricular activities on top of homework, said Kirkwood High Principal Michael Havener. Teachers’ work rarely ends when school dismisses; teachers spend nights and weekends grading papers and planning lessons.
That can be conducive to stress. Relief from homework on the weekends could help everybody, Havener said.
“Kids need to be kids at some time,” Havener said. “We need to make sure we allow them the time to take a breath and, for lack of a better word, reset throughout the semesters and quarters.”
The school came up with the idea of the no-homework trial after staff noticed an uptick in the number of students seeking social and emotional help from school counselors. The school will assess the trial’s effectiveness using feedback surveys, then decide whether to extend the idea.
Homework is controversial. Experts have argued for and against its effectiveness. A 2006 review of research on homework’s effectiveness found a correlation between homework and higher test scores, though that correlation is believed to be nonexistent in elementary grades.
Experts say a school’s intended goal for homework matters: Is homework meant for practicing what students already learned, or to have students apply what they learned to real-world experiences? Many experts say the former can suffocate a love of learning and overall well-being.
“There’s not a whole lot of research that shows that practicing what you learned for homework is helpful,” said Jeffrey Brosco, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who studies the connection between academic demands on children and rising rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “In fact, it probably shows it’s the complete opposite.”
Some schools have already tried scrapping homework, and many report success. In 2016, a Texas elementary schoolteacher gained national praise after she started a year-round no-homework policy for her classroom, asking students to eat dinner with their families, read with their parents and get more sleep instead. A Vermont elementary school adopted a similar policy and reported vast parent satisfaction.