Schools Turn Down the Heat on Homework

Nancy Keates:

Some of the nation’s most competitive schools are changing their homework policies, limiting the amount of work assigned by teachers or eliminating it altogether in lower grades. There also is an effort by some schools to change the type of homework being assigned and curtail highly repetitive drudge work.
The moves are largely at elite schools in affluent areas, including the lower school at Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif., Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles and Riverdale Country Day School in New York City. The effort is by no means universal, and in fact some national statistics show that the amount of homework is continuing to grow.
Still, the new policies at such schools are significant because moves by institutions of this caliber are closely watched by educators and often followed.
Seventeen-year-old Jacob Simon endorses the new approach. When he gets home from school, he usually watches sports on TV. But the senior at Gunn High School isn’t slacking off: He’s taking five Advanced Placement courses this year, including calculus and physics. What’s changed is his school’s efforts to — in the words of one of its teachers — “make the homework assignments worthy of our students’ time.” Mr. Simon says, “It’s nice to be able to relax a little.”