A Texas elementary school teacher is getting high marks from parents with her new homework policy.
Brandy Young started the school year with a now-viral letter to her students’ parents that’s been shared more than 70,000 times on Facebook.
“After much research this summer, I am trying something new,” she wrote. “Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day.”
There’s no research that proves homework improves student performance, she explained. So instead of any “formally assigned homework,” Young suggested parents spend their evenings “doing things that are proven to correlate with student success.
“Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”
Samantha Gallagher, who shared the letter, has received messages of support from parents in Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Polynesia, and Africa.
“Just goes to show how universal this subject is,” she wrote.
“It demonstrates how many parents and teachers would support this kind of policy,” one parent replied. “Especially for kids in elementary school. It prioritizes family time and youth activity. I feel eight hours a day in school for kids this age is enough.”
The homework debate in Canada
A 2008 University of Toronto study, which surveyed families across Canada, found many parents were “unsure about the positive effect of homework on achievement.”
Part of that may be because some find the homework hard.
WATCH: A 2015 study suggested parents struggle with their kids’ math and science homework in particular
When a Québec elementary school decided to do away with homework in 2014, the goal was to ease pressure on parents and improve student performance.
“The teachers were happy with the results,” Édith Aubut, the school’s principal, told Montreal Families the following year. “They saw students coming to class in the morning happier and more eager to learn because they weren’t overburdened with the stress of unfinished homework from the previous night.”
Aubut added homework often eliminated any free time the students had to decompress. When it was removed from the equation, those with learning difficulties and behavioural problems seemed to benefit most and showed more classroom decorum.
WATCH: Jennifer Palisoc explores the Quebec elementary school’s homework ban
Prince of Wales Elementary School in Barrie, Ont. saw grades go up after a similar ban in 2008.
Nova Scotia used to have one for Grade 1 to 3 students, but that ban was lifted last fall, much to the relief of parents like Madonna Ryan.
“I think they should have homework,” said Ryan, whose son was about to start primary school. “That’s something they should be doing every day.”
“I think teachers are happy students will have a chance to practice. And we know when students practice and come back to school that builds on their learning experience,” vice-principal Michael MacDonald added.
But evidence doesn’t necessarily back that claim up.
Etta Kralovec, a University of Arizona professor and author of The End of Homework, has argued elementary school students are often so busy with homework they don’t have enough time to pursue extra-curricular activities, or simply play.
“The research is very clear that there’s no benefit at the elementary school level… At the middle school and high school level, it’s more complicated.”
Montreal-based life coach Erica Diamond explained homework at the high school level makes a difference because it gets students ready for the harder curriculum in post-secondary. It can also teach students important lessons about discipline.
WATCH: Erica Diamond discusses new studies that favour play time against homework
But too much of it can be detrimental to a younger student’s academic and personal well-being, she believes.
Still, the mother-of-two admitted she’d be “afraid” if her children’s school did away with it entirely.
“The answer, in my professional opinion, lies somewhere in the middle… perhaps a homework schedule of every second day would work so we get the benefits of both sides of the argument.”
Parents whose kids don’t get homework are encouraged to spend the time as a family or on extra-curricular activities. Not on screen time.
— With files from Dave Squires, Global News and The Canadian Press