Tonight's Homework: Nothing

As the father of a high school sophomore I am familiar with heavy backpacks and late nights spent finishing up homework. While I think there are plenty of things that are easier for kids today, I am pretty sure homework is more demanding than it once was.

But I am not sure how I would feel if I had a child in Phil Lyons' class at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California. Students in Lyons' economics and history classes get NO homework. That is his homework policy: NO homework.

I think I might be like many of the parents listening to Lyons on their first Parent Night. I would think, "How on earth will my kid learn anything if there is no homework?" (You can get an idea by watching the Evening News piece in the monitor on the left...)

Lyons has been teaching for nine years. What he has learned, he says, is that homework doesn't teach kids very much. His goal is to have the students think for themselves and be interested in the world around them. That can be tough if a student spends all night with their heads buried in their homework.

Lyons says his students don't suffer, in fact he says test scores for his classes have risen every year. He's not alone in believing that the pressure for higher academic standards has increased the homework burden on students at all grade levels.

Still not everybody is comfortable with Lyons' approach. When some parents hear there's no homework, they pull their kids out of Lyons' class. More surprising, sometimes students themselves choose to move to another class with a more traditional approach to homework. Lyons says any vacancies in his classes are quickly filled with kids who think no homework is a great idea.

But don't imagine for a moment that Phil Lyons students avoid homework completely…they get plenty from all their other teachers.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.