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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The new homework: reading

Elementary schools are dropping homework in favor of reading, reports Greg Toppo in USA Today.

At Marion County Public Schools in central Florida, Superintendent Heidi Maier is urging families to spend at least 20 minutes a night reading, he writes. Except for special projects, teachers have been discouraged from “sending home worksheets and other materials intended to give kids more practice.”

There’s “very little correlation between homework and achievement” in the early grades, says Duke’s Harris Cooper. However, “doing homework may bring other benefits, such as greater self-direction and self-discipline, better time organization and a better awareness of the connection between home and school.”

More nine-year-olds are doing homework than in the past, concluded Brookings’ researcher Tom Loveless in a 2014 analysis. However, only 17 percent spend an hour or more on homework nightly, down slightly.

Some schools are adopting “no-homework nights,” writes Toppo.

In Vancouver, Wash., schools plan to eliminate homework for students through third grade. In the suburban Houston Katy Independent School District, schools this year will observe six “family nights,” during which teachers will be discouraged from assigning homework. . . . But in other areas where educators have moved to take the pressure off kids, parents have pushed back. In the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District near Princeton, N.J., parents — many of them immigrants from  China, India and Korea — in 2015 complained of “dumbing down” their children’s education. “What is happening here reflects a national anti-intellectual trend that will not prepare our children for the future,”  parent Mike Jia said.

Many schools use the PTA-endorsed 10-minute rule  — which calls for 10 minutes of homework per grade level: First-graders would do 10 minutes, second graders 20 minutes and so on.

Homework assignments in the early grades often are a waste of time. I like the idea of telling kids to read instead.

I had no homework in elementary school: I usually read for three hours a day, which was enough to start and finish a book. I didn’t really kick the book-a-day habit till seventh grade, which I switched to longer books. I’m still a binge reader.

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