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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Shalynn Nelson helps her children Jared, Chessa, and Kate with their homework at their home in West Jordan Wednesday, June 22, 2011.

Enough with all the homework.

Parents around the nation and in Utah are protesting how much homework their children are being asked to do, and school boards have begun to vote to limit homework, even cutting back how many minutes a night is required in certain grades.

A New York Times story late last week began with the parent of a second-grader from New Jersey whose son had an hour of math problems one night. She complained to the superintendent, who said the school board was already discussing a proposal to limit weekday homework to 10 minutes starting in first grade and then adding 10 minutes on for each additional grade (i.e. first-graders would have 10 minutes, second-graders, 20 minutes). The proposal, which will be voted on this summer, also does not allow homework on the weekend, holidays or school vacation days.

The paper noted that part of the reason for this is "concerns that high-stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, particularly in elementary grades."

One administrator in California told the Times that the school is cutting back on homework because "parents want their kids back." Other principals were quoted as saying that for kids under 11, the homework is mainly to help parents feel connected. And researchers told the paper that "there is no proof that most homework as we know it improves school performance."

In Utah, some schools like Bountiful Elementary in Davis have put a limit on the amount of homework a certain grade level can have. For example, first-graders are supposed to spend approximately 30 minutes a night on homework, four nights a week — 20 minutes on reading and 10 minutes on math, according the school's Academics and Homework Policy.

Other districts like Alpine have not stated a limit on homework in their district policy, saying "homework varies according to individual teachers and the subject matter."

One school district in New York has only set a minimum of time students are to do homework each night, according to PelhamPatch. Students in K-2 are to have at least 20 minutes of homework, while sixth graders are expected to have at least 60 minutes.

The author also quotes a study that "suggest(s) reading for pleasure is a better predictor of test scores than quantity of homework" and that "reading for pleasure drops sharply after age eight. The number one reason: too much homework."

One writer for the Star Ledger, Ali Skylar, applauded school districts that have cut back on homework in a piece she wrote Thursday titled, "A homework revolt might just save the American family."

"Instead of spending hours helping my son complete his schoolwork, I want to come home from work, make a healthy meal for my family, sit down to a family dinner and look forward to an evening of peace where we solidify our family connection so that my kids can go out into the world the next day feeling supported, loved and ready, willing and able to do life in school in a productive and successful way," Skylar said.

There have been several books published about homework time, including "The Case Against Homework," "The Battle Over Homework" and "The Homework Myth."

The authors of "The Case Against Homework" say that the amount of homework required of American students has skyrocketed over the years and say "It robs children of the sleep, play and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional and neurological development. And it is a hidden cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, creating a nation of "homework potatoes."

One writer for Slate wrote about these books saying that Japanese schools have been cutting back on homework over the years while American schools have been dumping more homework on kids, yet the Japanese are performing better on international tests.

Yet those against the movement say homework is a part of growing up and is an important part of learning.

KidsSource Online has a page devoted to the importance of homework.

"Although there are mixed findings about whether homework actually increases students' academic achievement, many teachers and parents agree that homework develops students' initiative and responsibility and fulfills the expectations of students, parents and the public," the group says. "Studies generally have found homework assignments to be most helpful if they are carefully planned by the teachers and have direct meaning to students."

The author of The New York Times article wrote another piece on the site's parenting blog called "How Much Homework is Too Much Homework?" She asked for parents to comment on the question: "What are your feelings about your child's homework?"

Some parents complained their children had hours and hours of homework with little free time, while another parent said that "maybe 'the point' (of homework) is that sometimes in life we have to do things that aren't all fun or interesting … that practice makes perfect."

Another commenter, who says she is a math teacher, says that "drill sheets and rote memorization actually work … the only way to master a subject is through practice."

EMAIL: slenz@desnews.com