Will Homework Ban Ease Student Stress?

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Alarmed by indicators of student stress like cheating and substance abuse, a handful of San Francisco Bay Area schools are reducing an education staple: homework.

Oak Knoll Elementary in Menlo Park has mostly banned homework — except reading, special projects or catch-up work. Palo Alto's Addison Elementary and the Berryessa School District in San Jose are discussing the issue.

For two decades teachers have been under pressure to raise academic standards and test scores, but CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports that many are now questioning the value of burying students in homework.

The changes have come as a University of Missouri study found high school students benefit tremendously from homework. In middle school, the results were not as strong, but homework was still found to be beneficial. But on the elementary school level, the same study found homework had no effect on students.

The principal at Oak Knoll Elementary says first-graders spend about six hours a day doing school work, and they shouldn't have to do more work when they go home.

Not all homework at Oak Knoll has been eliminated — for example, third-graders will still practice their multiplication tables at home.

Critics say homework steals time that increasingly busy children need to play or spend with family. Homework proponents argue that it teaches students to be more responsible and manage their time.

At Duke University, Harris Cooper tells CBS News his research has shown that homework does help learning.

"All students can benefit from homework, but the amount and type that is done at each age level should be different," Cooper says.

Fueled by parent complaints, the too-much-homework issue has taken root primarily in wealthy communities with high-achieving schools. Struggling schools are still trying to involve parents in their children's education.

Some schools are trying to find a balance. Ohlone Elementary School in Palo Alto assigns homework to the parents.

Oak Knoll principal David Ackerman says the majority of parents have been supportive of the change. He says other districts have contacted him and are now rethinking their homework policies.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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