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An elementary school has banned homework for the year to fix underperformance

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This morning I sent my daughter off to her first day of third grade.

She was excited to go. She was ready to see her friends, and genuinely loves school.

But I'm sure she'll be less than thrilled once her teacher starts assigning homework. Like many kids, I'm sure she'd be happy if homework was simply eliminated.

That will be a reality this school year for more than 500 kids at a Massachusetts elementary school.

Kelly Full Service Community School in Holyoke has banned homework for the entire year, according to ABC News. Instead, the school day will be extended two hours to give students more instructional time and help they may need during the day.

The K-8 school is part of a district that went into receivership in April 2015, after being declared "chronically underperforming." Last year, only one in three children in Holyoke public schools were reading at grade level.

Jacqueline Glasheen is principal of Kelly Full Service Community School. She told Fox News the school hopes the no-homework policy, coupled with an extended, eight-hour school day will raise performance in the classroom. Glasheen said:

At my school, it was like ‘go big or go home. We have to do something different. My school in particular has made slight gains, but my kids are well below the proficiency line. We are doing this not because we don’t think kids need homework, but because we think we are giving kids very rigorous instruction for eight hours. We want them to hang out with families, have dinner, do extracurricular activities and go to bed.

A growing number of educators and parents are questioning the value of homework. Last month, a second grade teacher’s no-homework policy went viral after a student’s mother posted about it on social media.

Brandy Young teaches at Godley Elementary School in Texas. She wrote in a letter to parents:

After much research this summer, I'm trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year. Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your 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.

Young told CBS News:

[Students] work hard all day. When they go home they have other things they need to learn there. I’m trying to develop their whole person; it’s not beneficial to go home and do pencil and paper work. Our superintendent really encouraged us to be innovators. Whether or not it’s popular, I just wanted to see if it would work. You can’t know if it’s gonna work unless you try it.

The debate over the value of homework has raged for decades.

Proponents say giving students homework increases understanding and retention of the material, and teaches skills like good study habits and time-management.

But critics cite drawbacks, including boredom and burnout, less time for family, lack of sleep, and increased stress.

Robert Pondiscio is a senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank in Washington, D.C. He told ABC News:

I still think we’re in a situation in this country where we have a far greater problem of expecting too little -- not too much -- of kids, and homework falls into that. The benefits of assigning homework also depend on what you want it to achieve. Homework may not lead to a higher grade on a test within six months, but it can encourage behaviors and foster skills that yield long-term benefits such as practice in time-management. Whenever I hear ‘homework doesn’t work,’ my first response is, ‘Well what do you want homework to do? We always want to press the easy button in these discussions, and there isn’t one.

The changes at Kelly Full Service Community School will be evaluated next summer.

How do you feel about homework? Do you think more teachers and schools should enact no-homework policies?

Join our conversation about homework on Facebook.

Paulette is a blogger for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously interned as a reporter in the Michigan Radio newsroom.
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