No homework? Some Marion County students disappointed

By Sarah Panko, Marion County Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, August 10, 2017, 11:08 PM EDT

More than 38,000 Marion County students were back in class Thursday -- but elementary students went home without homework.

The district this year enacted a "No homework" mandate.

Harbour View Elementary School teacher Kim Dally says last year she would send her fourth grade students home with about 20 minutes of homework.

This year, Dally isn't giving out any homework.

"Probably 1/4 of my class was disappointed that they didn't have homework, but I assured them that I'd still give them a list of learning activities that they could do," said Dally. 

The mandate from the school district ends traditional homework assignments. The district prefers students read with their parents for 20 minutes. 

"I’m actually kind of sad because if we did have homework, we get to learn the homework better," said student Kaydence Burnham. 

Principal Heather Guest say families were spending a lot of time on homework.

"I know there's still parents that want extra work for their students at night and I would be one of those parents as well, so we're still giving them learning opportunities at home,"​ said Guest. 

Guest says the learning opportunities are optional and no teacher will grade them.

The push against homework

Anchor Ybeth Bruzual interviewed Marion County Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier on the decision to end daily homework for elementary school students. See that interview below.

Marion County's superintendent, Dr. Heidi Maier, based the decision on the research of a University of Tennessee professor who had done research on the effectiveness of homework.

"The traditional homework, the worksheets, the tedious assignments that we moms end up doing for our kids anyway, didn't end up making a difference in the child's learning," Maier said in an interview last week. "So what does make a difference is reading with your child, at least 20 minutes a night, and engaging together and making reading fun and a bonding experience."

"We still don't have people who understand the rationale," Maier added. "We're not saying we don't have high expectations, because districtwide our expectations are even higher for our teachers and our students now. But what we're doing is providing common sense ways to get to the high expectations."

Maier said the district also suspended many of the assessments they were doing to increase instructional time for the teachers. She says the district also reinstituted mandatory recess, before the state passed a mandate last June, and mandatory physical education.

"So we are going back to what makes sense for our kids," Maier said. "Our administration is making the best decisions for kids."

Middle school students can expect an hour to 90 minutes of homework, while homework in high school will vary.