East Alabama school shuns homework, but grades are up

East Alabama school shuns homework, but grades are up
Fruithurst Elementary School in Cleburne County, Ala. (Source: WBRC)

FRUITHURST, Ala. (WBRC) - Students in an east Alabama elementary school get to avoid something most students still have to do. They don’t have to do homework.

Fruithurst Elementary School Principal Christy Hiett introduced the idea near the end of the 2015-16 school year, and the following year, 2016-17, was the first full year without homework.

Hiett says she’s tracked the students’ grades in all that time, and since then, she’s seen grades at her school skyrocket in every subject.

She says not every student has resources at home they may need to complete homework, and she believes it often takes away from family time.

"Parents may work until five o'clock, they're home by six. Some children need to get in bed between eight and nine o'clock to get the amount of rest that they need. So if a parent cooks dinner, and has to help with homework, that's the only time they have to spend together," Hiett says.

She says she’s found no academic advantages from homework and believes it’s a burden on the students and their parents. She believes the children treat it as an obligation and get nothing from it.

“I watched children rapidly complete their homework in a bus line, cram it in their locker, and run on about their way to get on the bus to go home. So children were just checking off a box to complete their homework. It had no meaning to them,” Hiett said.

In addition to higher grades in every subject, Hiett says her teachers had noted students are more engaged in the classroom and there appear to be fewer discipline problems.

Hiett credits her interest in the subject of homework to a book called “The Homework Myth: Why Our Children Get Too Much of a Bad Thing,” by Alfie Kohn. Since then, she’s done extensive research, and even found an entire country--Finland--where homework simply isn’t done.

“Something I’ve driven home with everyone who’s contacted me about this, something like this could only ever be implemented when an administrator has 100% trust in the staff of their school,” Hiett says, “because if teachers are teaching what they need to teach, for validity, for children to master those standards, then there’s not really a need for them to send something to their parents.”

Principal Hiett created a survey about homework for parents with children. If you’d like to participate, you can click here.

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