At Falmouth Elementary School homework has been eliminated for students in grades K-3. Courtesy / Falmouth School Department

FALMOUTH — Falmouth Elementary School has adopted a new policy about assigning homework to students in kindergarten through third grade: they don’t get any.

“Rather, beyond the school day, we ask families to encourage students to spend time reading to help cultivate a love of literature,” the policy states. By cutting homework, educators also hope there will be more time for students to engage in imaginative play and family activities that “foster inquiry, mathematical thinking, and overall wellness.”

Principals Gloria Noyes, who oversees grades 3-5, and Stacy White, who oversees grades kindergarten to grade 2, said the new homework policy was the result of a parent survey, staff input and a review of best practices when it comes to homework assignments.

In addition to doing away with homework for K-3 students, Falmouth Elementary is also trying to limit the amount given to students in fourth and fifth grades. Under the new policy, homework given to those students shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes to complete.

While some studies seem to indicate there’s little return value for homework, particularly for younger students, other studies appear to show there is, in fact, a correlation between homework and test performance.

According to a March 28 article in “The Atlantic,” the 21st century “has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s.”

While some educators believe that homework stifles creativity and hampers critical thinking, the article said, others believe it helps with the retention of information and also builds critical skills such as responsibility and accountability.

Meanwhile, the results of an international exam taken by American 15-year-olds in 2018 show that test scores have remained stagnant over the past decade in both reading and math, according to a story published Dec. 3 in the New York Times.

In Falmouth, Noyes and White said the new homework policy was “thoughtfully adopted” and also “provides consistency among grade levels and grade level spans.” Noyes said while the school also felt it was time “for a general review of our current practices … several parents shared that their children were experiencing academic stress in reference to homework.”

When it comes to encouraging young students to spend more time reading at home, Noyes and White said “we highly value literacy and encourage daily reading as a healthy habit for students. This includes parents or caregivers reading to students …. (because), again, we want to foster a love of reading and learning in general.”

“We hope this policy helps our students and families find a better home-school balance,” Noyes said. “We want our students to spend their time outside of the classroom exploring interests and passions, as well as focusing on overall wellness.”

“Physical, emotional, and social activities are necessary components in the development of healthy well-rounded children,” she added. “Furthermore, we believe this philosophy provides student voice and choice and fosters curiosity, creativity and a genuine love of learning.”

Another goal of the new policy is to “help alleviate some stressors at home and allow for an increase in family time,” according to Noyes and White. Without homework to worry about, students will hopefully have more time to participate in a variety of both structured and unstructured activities.

“We anticipate that due to this new policy parents will notice a positive change in their child’s overall well being,” the teachers said.

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