Bring Healthy Homework to Your School

Use the Healthy Homework Guidelines to advocate for change at your school. These homework guidelines encourage schools nationwide to reexamine and reimagine homework practices to better support student engagement, health and learning. Join us.

Background Information

The ongoing debate about homework—how much, for whom and to what end—has picked up momentum in parenting and educational circles, as recent research studies continue to question the relationship between time spent doing homework and academic engagement among students.

Experts who have conducted or synthesized research on the links between homework, learning and test performance, including Alfie Kohn, Dr. Etta Kralovec, Sara Bennett and Duke University's Harris Cooper, agree that the relationship between homework and school achievement is limited. In a study released by the Economics of Education Review, homework in science, English and history was shown to have "little to no impact" on eighth graders' test scores in those subjects. In Dr. Cooper's findings, which surveyed 15 years' worth of homework studies conducted across the country, homework was found to have diminishing returns for middle and high school students as the hours spent doing it increased.

Moreover, homework has also been linked to stress and academic disengagement among both young children and teens. In a study published by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, 70% of Bay Area parents reported that their 9- to 13-year-olds suffered "moderate to high levels of stress", and that schoolwork or homework was the most significant contributor. Similarly, a Scholastic study of 500 children and their parents found that reading for pleasure decreased dramatically after age 8 (the age after which only 29% of students read every day). Parents identified homework as the number one reason their children didn't read more.

But change is possible.

In order to better support learning and a spirit of engagement in our classrooms, and to remedy the academic stress and anxiety that accompanies current homework practices and policies, urge your school to adopt the following recommendations on homework—guidelines that will help educators innovate and improve their approaches to designing and assigning homework in our classrooms.

Guidelines

1. HOMEWORK SHOULD ADVANCE A SPIRIT OF LEARNING

Educators at all grade levels should assign homework only when:

  • Such assignments demonstrably advance a spirit of learning, curiosity and inquiry among students.
  • Such assignments demonstrably provide a unique learning opportunity or experience that cannot be had within the confines of the school setting or school day.
  • Such assignments are not intended to enhance rote skill rehearsal or mastery. Rehearsal and repetition assignments should be completed within the confines of the school day, if they are required at all.
  • Such assignments are not intended as a disciplinary or punitive measure, nor as a means of fostering competition among or assessment of students.

2. HOMEWORK SHOULD BE STUDENT-DIRECTED

Educators at all grade levels, but particularly in elementary and middle grades, should limit take-home assignments to:

  • At-home reading chosen by the student.
  • Project-based work chosen by the student.
  • Experiential learning that integrates the student’s existing interests and family commitments.
  • Work that can be completed without the assistance of a sibling, caregiver or parent.

3. HOMEWORK SHOULD PROMOTE A BALANCED SCHEDULE

Educators at all grade levels should avoid assigning or requiring homework:

  • On non-school nights, including weekends, school holidays, or winter or summer breaks.
  • On the nights of major or all-school events, concerts, or sports 
  • When a child is sick or absent from 
  • When it conflicts with a child’s parental, family, religious or community 
  • When a parent opts a child out of homework.

The above commitments will ask of school leaders that they provide teachers with professional development support and time to restructure their classroom practices to eliminate an over-reliance on homework.

Such support and restructuring will help us to ensure that homework can better:

  • Support learning and engagement among students, regardless of family background, income level, or caregivers’ educational status.
  • Narrow the achievement gap by ensuring that instruction, rehearsal, mastery and remediation happens primarily at school and in the classroom, rather than at home, where resources and instructional support are less equitably distributed.
  • Enhance family engagement with schools and students by providing parents and caregivers more opportunities to influence and collaborate on homework policy and practice.
  • Provide time for students to develop a rich array of extra-curricular personal interests and to engage in meaningful family, religious, community, creative or athletic activities outside of school.