Instead of worksheets, elementary students will be required to read for 20 minutes each night.
One Florida school district is taking a radical stance on homework. Starting in fall 2017, the Marion County public school district has decided to replace all traditional homework with 20 minutes of mandatory reading time for its elementary school students. This goes against the current practice of sending students home with worksheets and assignments based on their daily lessons in the classroom.
The driving force behind this unusual decision is Heidi Maier, the new superintendent of the district. She told the Washington Post that she has based her decision on research that clearly shows the benefits of reading, both silently and aloud, for young children, whereas the benefits of nightly homework have yet to be backed up by legitimate studies, despite the fact that many schools and parents act as if it is.
Maier has been influenced by the work of Richard Allington, an expert on teaching children how to read. Allington told the Post in an email:
“The quality of homework assigned is so poor that simply getting kids to read replacing homework with self-selected reading was a more powerful alternative. Maybe some kinds of homework might raise achievement but if so that type of homework is uncommon in U.S. schools.”
Some parents are suspicious of Maier’s change, worrying that their kids will fall behind in school, but but the majority is supportive. The change has potential to be a lot more fun for both parents and kids. It’s certainly easier to sit down together with a book than fight over a set of math problems after dinner. Students will be allowed to choose their own books, with teachers’ guidance if desired, and those without reading support at home can use audiobooks.
I think this is wonderful news, and definitely a step in the right direction. I’ve always maintained that if schools are unable to complete the necessary academic tasks within their six-hour window, then they’re not using time efficiently.
After 4 p.m. children should be allowed to take a break from schoolwork and do other important things, such as helping out around the house, caring for pets, playing outdoors or exercising, making music, and, of course, reading. The same work-life balance that adults advocate for each other should apply to children, too.
For a school board to recognize reading as a crucial home activity is a fantastic step in the right direction. Now, if only the district would extend its recommendation to middle and high schools, too.