Christy Hiett is principal of tiny Fruithurst elementary in Cleburne County. I met her ten years ago when we did the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools. And though she has since become Dr. Christy Hiett, she is still principal of the school she attended as a child.
Always looking for ways to make her school better, three years ago she became convinced that homework was more a hindrance than a help for her students.
As reported by The Anniston Star: “In seeking answers, Hiett consulted a wide variety of academic sources that revealed surprising statistics about the need for homework. She also learned that the most academically successful nations do not assign homework at all.
After sharing these results with the superintendent of Cleburne County schools, she was given approval to issue a school-wide ban on homework.
That was in 2016 and now, three years later, the no-homework policy is still in place and meeting with great success. Students must still study for tests, but with none of the usual homework tacked on.
In what Hiett believes is proof that homework has no positive academic impact, the school’s reading, math and English language grades are steadily increasing.
In addition, the no-homework initiative places all children, regardless of income levels, on the same playing field. “Not all children have someone at home that can help them, nor do they have the necessary items to complete the assignments,” Hiett said.
With no homework to do, students are encouraged to bring in pictures of how they spend their afternoons. “They have time for all kinds of after-school activities,” Hiett said. “Karate lessons, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, sports — just to name a few.” She created a space inside the school to display those photographs with the hashtag heading #nomorehomework.
As an added bonus, leisurely reading has become a popular pastime with students. “They are reading more than they ever have in the past,” Hiett said. That is witnessed by the increased volume of books being checked out of the school library.
In Hiett’s opinion, however, the most important after-school activity is playtime.
“I am a big advocate for children having time to genuinely play,” she said. “We have done our children a disservice by taking away play, to the point that kindergarten is now the new first grade, and that is detrimental to a child’s development. I want children to be allowed to just be children.”
The no-homework policy is very popular with parents. “They love it!” Hiett said. “Many parents work until 5 p.m. They barely have time to get home, cook a meal for dinner, get children bathed and put to bed at a decent time. Having homework limits the amount of quality time children get to spend with their family. This quality time is extremely important for a child’s development.”
Hiett has closely monitored the progress of students since the no homework policy was implemented and believes the results speak for themselves.
In year one (2016-17) reading grades increased 4.7 percent, math rose 7.2 percent and English language arts 8.7 percent. The trend continued in year two (2017-18) with reading up 6.2 percent, math 15.2 percent and English language arts 13.4 percent. Scores rose again In 2018-19 with a 9.5 percent increase in reading, 10.3 percent in math and 2.2 percent in English language arts.
But like all top-notch educators, Hiett continues to look for input re: homework. So she put together this survey in order to gain more insight. Please take a moment, especially if you are a parent of a student, and give her your feedback.