The students pledged to focus on family time, activity, sleep, and reading.
As the pressure to perform infiltrates classrooms at a younger and younger age, many schools have responded to the call by increasing the amount of homework with the expectation that doing more homework will make kids better students.
Parents, students, and now even schools have begun a backlash, insisting that whittling down the free time of children is in the long term more harmful than the marginal benefits from issuing more homework. Swinging the pendulum far in the other direction, Orchard Middle School in Vermont adopted a no-homework policy for all students pre-K through fifth grade.
The policy is simply put on the school’s website:
No Homework Policy
Orchard School Homework Information
Student’s Daily Home Assignment
1. Read just-right books every night — (and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play — that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family — and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
Six months after the policy’s implementation, the principal, Mark Trifilio, is ready to prepare the experiment a success based on both academic achievement and a survey sent home to the families of the 400 students. Trifilio has stated that students have not fallen behind and is optimistic that their performance will improve as a result of the “time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”
While academics may be the school’s stated concern, parents are finding drastic improvements in quality of life, improvements in which may incidentally improve performance in the absence of nightly homework. Says one parent speaking to the Burlington Free Press, "We have a first grader, and at her age [homework is] as much a chore for the parents as the kids. Instead we've been spending time reading. We don't have to rush."
Given the small sample size and speculative nature of this effort, it’s unlikely that schools will be offering up the wholesale elimination of homework, but it’s an early and important data point that will serve as a counterpoint to the prevailing belief that more homework makes for better students.