Piling on the homework doesn't help kids do better in school. In fact, it can lower their test scores.
That's the conclusion of a group of Australian researchers, who have taken the aggregate results of several recent studies investigating the relationship between time spent on homework and students' academic performance.
According to Richard Walker, an educational psychologist at Sydney University, data shows that in countries where more time is spent on homework, students score lower on a standardized test called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The same correlation is also seen when comparing homework time and test performance at schools within countries. Past studies have also demonstrated this basic trend.
Inundating children with hours of homework each night is detrimental, the research suggests, while an hour or two per week usually doesn't impact test scores one way or the other. However, homework only bolsters students' academic performance during their last three years of grade school. "There is little benefit for most students until senior high school (grades 10-12)," Walker told Life's Little Mysteries.
The research is detailed in his new book, "Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
The same basic finding holds true across the globe, including in the U.S., according to Gerald LeTendre of Pennsylvania State University. He and his colleagues have found that teachers typically give take-home assignments that are unhelpful busy work. Assigning homework "appeared to be a remedial strategy (a consequence of not covering topics in class, exercises for students struggling, a way to supplement poor quality educational settings), and not an advancement strategy (work designed to accelerate, improve or get students to excel)," LeTendre wrote in an email. [Kids Believe Literally Everything They Read Online, Even Tree Octopuses]
This type of remedial homework tends to produce marginally lower test scores compared with children who are not given the work. Even the helpful, advancing kind of assignments ought to be limited; Harris Cooper, a professor of education at Duke University, has recommended that students be given no more than 10 to 15 minutes of homework per night in second grade, with an increase of no more than 10 to 15 minutes in each successive year.
Most homework's neutral or negative impact on students' academic performance implies there are better ways for them to spend their after school hours than completing worksheets. So, what should they be doing? According to LeTendre, learning to play a musical instrument orparticipating in clubs and sports all seem beneficial, but there's no one answer that applies to everyone.
"These after-school activities have much more diffuse goals than single subject test scores," he wrote. "When I talk to parents … they want their kids to be well-rounded, creative, happy individuals — not just kids who ace the tests."
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2016-2017 Regional Teacher of the Year
Toppenish School District - 3rd grade teacher
Jose Corona started his teaching career at Toppenish's Kirkwood Elementary School in 1996. There, he designed literacy center rotations and daily individual student conferences in writing for his students, developed math centers for the school, created grade-level math homework packets for Kirkwood's students, and mentored new teachers at the school. He also taught English classes for the parents of Kirwood's students. The 1991 graduate of Sunnyside High Schoo took science classes from his immediate predecessor as the ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year, Joyce Stark.
Read more about Jose on page 5 of our Fall 2016 "Class" newsletter.
"Adversity should not be an excuse that impedes growth. It should serve as the catalyst for advancement. I relay to students that one should not quit when things get difficult but, rather, persevere."
2015-2016 Regional Teacher of the Year
Sunnyside High School – Science teacher
Joyce Stark began her teaching career at Sunnyside's schools in 1977, initially as a middle and junior high earth and physical science teacher before moving to teach at the high school in 2001. There, she incorporated science research programs into her classes, including an option for students to obtain credit for research conducted after schools or during evenings and weekends. Stark was also recognized for her 33 years of service as the director of the Mid-Columbia Regional Science Fair for 6th-12th grade students from 14 counties throughout central and eastern Washington.
"I believe that to learn science, students must do science. I enjoy seeing students making discoveries on their own, learning from their mistakes, and working as scientists."
2014-2015 Regional Teacher of the Year
Sunnyside High School, STEM teacher
Spencer Martin translated his experiences as a machinist's mate during his 20-year career in the U.S. Navy into teaching young people lessons about science, math, and engineering when he started his second career as a teacher at Sunnyside High school in 2006. He developed the high school's strand of classes in robotics, applied physics, and aerospace engineering, then launched Sunnyside's chapter of the Technology Student Association. Spencer even added an early morning section of his engineering course in order to help meet student demand. Read more about Spencer on page 3 of our Fall 2014 "Class" newsletter!
"I believe that the key to impacting your youth is working together as a cohesive team, and working across curriculum lines. This will show our students the importance of each subject."
2013-2014 Regional Teacher of the Year
Harrison Middle School (Sunnyside School District) – Math coach
Josh Schlegel helped guide the dramatic upswing in student math scores at Harrison Middle School, which has rocketed up into the top 4% in the Washington Achievement Index for math after being ranked in the bottom 14% just a few years ago. Since becoming math coach in 2009 and helping rewrite the school's math curriculum, achievement of state math standards have tripled to 60% among 7th graders, have more than doubled from 25% to 57% among 6th graders, and have nearly doubled from 25% to 42% among 8th graders.
"Together, we can achieve unprecedented success. Together, our capacity is limitless. Together, we are destined for greatness. Together, we are champions."
2012-2013 Regional Teacher of the Year
2013 Washington State Teacher of the Year
2013 National Teacher of the Year
Zillah High School – Science teacher
Jeff Charbonneau began teaching science at Zillah High School in 2001. He created the Zillah Robot Challenge, co-created Zillah's Leopard Pathfinders hiking program, and offers his students up to 24 college credits through his high school classes. Learn more about Jeff Charbonneau in our article on his selection as Washington State Teacher of the Year (page 3) and our article on his selection as National Teacher of the Year. Watch his announcement on YouTube as the 2013 Washington State Teacher of the Year and his announcement at the White House as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year!
"I firmly believe we are a nation of succeeding schools. It is time that the real message of education is shared, that the students of public educators in the United States of America have some of the best opportunities to succeed." (Excerpt from Jeff Charbonneau's acceptance speech at the White House Rose Garden)
2011-2012 Regional Teacher of the Year
John Campbell Elementary School (Selah School District) — 4th grade teacher
"I believe in learning alongside my students and learning from other teachers. I believe in laughter in my classroom and in the workplace because if you are not enjoying what you are doing, then you are doing the wrong thing. Life is too short not to give and expect the best and that is what my students, parents, and colleagues deserve."
2010-2011 Regional Teacher of the Year
Valley View Elementary School (Ellensburg School District) — 2nd grade teacher
"I like the connecting with the kids, the connecting with parents, and connecting with my colleagues in the hallways. When connections occur, bells ring."
2009-2010 Regional Teacher of the Year
Garfield Elementary School (Toppenish School District) — K-5 reading coach
"It is so rewarding to watch our students learn to read. They are so excited, which motivates them to read more. When they realize they have mastered something difficult, it gives them confidence to continue, knowing they can do it."
2009 Washington State Teacher of the Year
2008-2009 Regional Teacher of the Year
Cle Elum-Roslyn High School — Language arts teacher
"The best part about being a teacher is when students have that realization of understanding and new growth, no matter where they are. It's the 'aha moment' they have as they move along on that growth. They learn that what they do matters, and that the world needs them."
2007-2008 Regional Teacher of the Year
Toppenish Middle School — Language arts, social studies, and literacy teacher
"I thoroughly enjoy diagnosing reading difficulties, developing a plan for remediation, then watching students thrive as they unlock the secret of successful reading."
2006-2007 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Wahluke School District (Mattawa) — 2nd grade teacher
"Second grade is the best ever! The kids have a joy for learning. They're sponges -- just very eager to learn. It's a perfect grade."
2005-2006 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Whitney Elementary School (Yakima School District) — 3rd grade teacher
"One of the joys of teaching is creating a classroom community whre the enthusiasm, interest, and learning are contagious."
2004-2005 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
2005 Washington State Teacher of the Year
Mabton Junior and Senior High Schools — English teacher
Tamara was also one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.
2003-2004 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Harriet Thompson Elementary (Grandview) — 4th grade teacher
"I get to go to school each day and look forward to opening the door to 28 special and unique young individuals."
2002-2003 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the YearAlix Carlson
Arthur Smith Elementary (Grandview) — Elementary math specialist
2001-2002 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the YearJulie Wysong
Harriet Thompson Elementary (Grandview) — 2nd grade teacher
2000-2001 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the YearSandy Jetton
Naches Valley High School — English teacher
1999-2000 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the YearDave Carlile
Zillah School District — Music teacher
1998-1999 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year[ESD 105 does not have this information in our files. If you can provide information on who was selected as the Regional Teacher of the Year during the fall of 1998, please contact us!]
1998 Washington State Teacher of the Year
1997-1998 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the Year
Naches Valley Primary School — 1st grade teacher
1996-1997 ESD 105 Regional Teacher of the YearVance Jennings
Naches Valley High School — English and drama teacher
[ESD 105 is seeking further details on other Regional Teacher of the Year honorees prior to the fall of 1996. If you have information, please contact us!]
1977 Washington State Teacher of the YearDan Zeutenhorst
Yakima School District
1974 Washington State Teacher of the YearRobert Tormey
West Valley School District