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Shh…. I don’t Grade Homework and Neither Should You


I have a confession… One that may surprise you. Or relieve you.

But either way… I have to confess…

 Why you should stop grading homework, NOW

I don’t grade homework.


There. I said it!


Now don’t throw tomatoes at me! Hear me out on this!


Not only do I NOT grade homework… I barely look over it. As in… I have a checklist of students that I have a parent volunteer or student check off, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t spend hours looking over papers from the night before.


I also don’t “punish” my students for not doing their homework. They don’t sit out at recess, they don’t lose points. Nothing. If a kid tells me he didn’t do his homework, I give a look and ask them to be more responsible.


That’s it.


Ludicrous, I know… You’re ready to aim! But hear me out on this one!


I’m not a fan of homework personally. I’ve written about that topic before (here). I’m a big believer in letting kids be kids. I want kids to run outside and play when they get home, not be slumped over the kitchen table as they brood over their continued lessons of the day. Didn’t they just spend the last six hours doing that?

Also, in the early grades, teachers know the majority of homework is spent with a parent acting as a task manager. Is that work on the paper even theirs? Or worse, I’m punishing a student who goes home to an empty house all afternoon and has to watch their younger sister and possibly cook dinner. How can I be upset with that student?

But, my district has a homework policy and, as the ever model teacher, I assign it.  So I justify it by thinking…homework is that it is not for me.


I’ll repeat that again: Homework is NOT for me, the teacher!


For me, homework is for the student and parent. This holds especially true for students in grades k-3. Let’s be honest folks, how many 7-year-olds do you know that are 100% self-sufficient and complete their homework without one look from a parent? Few… if any… And if that was the case, I’d be saddened by it. Homework serves as a connection of the classroom at home. It’s a time for parents to see and be involved in their child’s learning in a way that is meaningful and non-threatening. Homework should serve as a reinforcement of what’s happening in the classroom and a way for those skills to be communicated in the home.

Research on Homework

Let’s talk research, shall we? I know I like cold hard facts. There have been TONS of studies on homework. Here’s a few and their findings…

The Cold Hard Facts…

(2006) examined the correlation between homework and math achievement in forty-six countries.  Student achievement was lower in countries where homework counted toward grades, where it was the basis for classroom discussion, and where students corrected homework in class. 


(1999) examined the differences in test scores among fourth graders who either did or did not do homework. Her findings indicated no differences in math achievement scores between students in the two homework groups. 

Sum it Up… 

CenterofPublicEducation.org summed up all those numerous studies on the correlation between homework and student achievement. According to their findings, the research is all over the place and varies with grade, age, and parental involvement. But, some of the research overlapped enough to help debunk a few myths…

Does homework affect student learning?

Myth 1: Homework increases academic achievement.

What researchers say: Cooper (1989a) argues that reviews on the link between homework and achievement often directly contradict one another and are so different in design that the findings of one study cannot be evaluated fairly against the findings of others.


Myth 2: Without excessive homework, students’ test scores will not be internationally competitive.

What researchers say: Information from international assessments shows little relationship between the amount of homework students do and test scores. Students in Japan and Finland, for example, are assigned less homework but still outperform U.S. students on tests (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development 2004). Other studies find a positive relationship in math, but not in reading (Fuchs et al. 2004).


Myth 3: Those who question homework want to weaken curriculum and
pander to students’ laziness.

What researchers say: Kralovec and Buell (2001) note that homework critics rarely question the work assigned but rather the fact that the work is so often performed at home without adult supervision to aid the learning process.


See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Instruction/What-research-says-about-the-value-of-homework-At-a-glance/What-research-says-about-the-value-of-homework-Research-review.html#sthash.oU4HY5FV.dpuf

What to do instead, then?

So if traditional homework isn’t as effective in increasing student achievement, I prefer not to expound too much energy there. See the logic?

So let’s set that tomato down…on the table…(The one you used to spend hours at grading homework)

Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t be assigning homework AT ALL… I think homework in the higher grades is a must. It helps foster independence and self-pacing. Things that college-bound students need to achieve. (More research on that…)

There are definite benefits to homework in the younger grades as well. But we need to be purposeful in our assignments. Homework shouldn’t just be busy work.So here’s some food for thought…Looking at just these handfuls of studies, we can see that homework can help, if it’s done in a positive way.

Cases for making homework meaningful:

Van Voorhis (2003) examined the association between homework and science achievement in middle school grades.  Van Voorhis found that students who completed more science homework earned higher science grades on their report cards. She also noted that interactive assignments—those that require interacting with other students or with parents—and parent involvement were important factors in ensuring homework’s effectiveness.


De Jong, Westerhof, and Creemers (2000) Through their multi-level analysis, the researchers found that the amount of homework was the only factor related to achievement—and that
it accounted for only 2.4 percent of the difference in achievement between students who did homework and those who did not. Notably, the frequency of homework assignments and the amount of time students spent on them were not related to achievement.
See more at:

Meaningful Homework



(Notice spelling words 3 times each is not on here… )

So, the takeaway? Don’t stress over homework.  Don’t spend your valuable time grading it and checking it in! Your time should be better spent on more effective teaching practices, like giving meaningful feedback, designing
interdisciplinary lessons, and teaching kids! Instead, use it as a way to communicate to parents at home as to what their child is learning in school. Also, make the homework as meaningful as possible.
Projects, creative writing, research: all great things that can be done at home that add to the classroom experience.

And for goodness sake:


If a child is struggling with completing homework, find out why. Is it because it is too hard? Too easy? Or is it because they are busy taking care of themselves when they get home? Once you’ve figured it out, you can adjust your homework accordingly. Let’s make it a more meaningful experience instead of a dreaded one.

So, I’ll just take that tomato now… and you’re welcome for crossing one thing off your to do list this year. 😉

What’s your take on the homework debate? I’d love to keep this conversation going. Comment below!

One teacher's plea to save your sanity and STOP grading homework. Her reasons? Unbelievable!

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31 Responses

  1. I agree with you 100%. I give my 4th graders no more than 40 minutes of homework each night, which is the requirement. Most of it is reading and I give a spiral math review. I don't grade it either and the students self check the math in the morning.

  2. Love! Love! Love! this post! I HATE homework and could not agree with you more. My district last year required us to do it so math and spelling was sent home twice a week. I HATED it. Gosh I hated it. Most of the time, they would turn it in and I would just throw it away without looking at it. Great post friend!

    Saddle Up For 2nd Grade

      1. You are definitely not alone! I do the same thing in my first grade classroom.

  3. Tomatoes? Are you kidding? I'm buying you Starbucks and chocolate, girl! Your post says exactly what has been in my head for YEARS! (Which is also how long it's been since I've corrected homework, too!) I. LOVE. THIS!

  4. Thank you for your great post! As a 2nd grade teacher considering this, I have some questions for you. 🙂 First of all, do you explain up-front to parents (like at Curriculum Night) that homework will not be corrected/graded? Do you check off students that turn it in, for your records (or in your case, for your district since it's a district requirement)? Do you return the homework or recycle it? What do you do about kids that NEVER do their homework, ever? Do you just let that go? Thanks so much!

    1. So many questions! I hope I can answer them all here! I explain to parents that homework is a time for students to practice skills from the day at home. It is a way for me to communicate to parents what we are working on. I have a student or parent volunteer check off on a list each work as to who's done their homework. This allows me to answer the age old question: is my child turning in their homework? 😉 I recycle it. I try to only give one or two sheets per week to reduce waste. As for the kids who NEVER do their homework? I investigate the cause. Most students aren't completing homework for a reason: too hard, too easy, or no support from home. If it is something I can control (like too hard or too easy) I adjust their load. If it is because their is no support from home, I try to reach out to parents, but I work at a Title 1 school and the majority of my parents work long hours or more than one job. So, I make sure to reiterate that if nothing else get done, I want them to read to their child every night. Make it a special time. Parents can usually commit to something small like that. Hope this helps!

    2. Leigh, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my many questions! 🙂 Your answers make perfect sense. Our school does weekly homework packets. I've been slowly moving closer and closer to making the switch to not grading it (for the reasons you listed)–I think this is the year I make the jump. 😉 Thanks for helping me!

  5. Thanks so much. I do give a small amount of homework each evening… a review of math skills taught that day and on Wednesdays a leveled reader to read. I also tell my parents at the start of the year that homework will not be returned to them. I ask them though to please jot me a note if there was difficulty in finishing it so that I can go over it with the individual student. Those are the homeworks that I send back home so that parents can see how it is done (many times in Math, they don't understand) and that their child has a better understanding of it. I do check it in each day and pick and choose if I want to correct for a homework grade. Again, thanks for your post. I hope many read it and follow! Have a good school year!

  6. Was looking at your BTS blog and you have cubby labels as a freebie. They are teal backed numbers. Any chance those could be editable so that I could make the background yellow instead of teal? Thanks, Karen

  7. Love it! I previously taught MS and am moving to the HS level. This was actually a question in my interview. I mentioned that using class time was my priority, not just throwing extra work at them before they leave. I still don't plan on assigning extra work, and almost always, what doesn't get finished in the previous class period can be completed the next day, with me, in class. I believe in not short-changing my students, and they know up front that when they come to my class, there's not a minute wasted.

    (Sorry to mention this, but as an English teacher, I can't let it go. In the beginning of your post, you say "loose points" but it should say "lose points."

    Have an awesome school year, and I will be sharing this on my FB page 🙂


  8. I love this post! I do assign homework…follow up to in class lessons, probably no more than 30-40 minutes (4th grade) but I know for some it takes less time. I believe that kids should have a break after school and be kids. My own son, 6th grade, expresses this daily. "Why do we have to have homework??" I get it. I do check it in and my class does earn DoJo points if they have it in all week…builds responsibility, but I have never been really good about correcting it in class. 🙁 I am hoping parents did this at home. Anyway, I enjoyed your post.

  9. I'm not criticizing and please delete as soon as you read. A lot of people misspell lose…lose the extra "o" in "loose". That's how I remember 🙂

  10. I agree with not grading homework. It's not fair to students who have parents who can't or won't help their students. However, I do consider homework a responsibility grade. Can the student take it home, bring it back and turn it in on time (finished or unfinished) without losing it–even if it never leaves the backpack at home.

  11. I teach high school. I will always be giving homework, though it is usually either reading, or chunking (for example, students need to do part of a bigger project…write a thesis statement, find quotes, etc.).

    I try to not give reading homework, but I find students do better when they have it. Without questions / an assignment for homework they score better on tests. I don't know if A. They don't do the reading without questions or B. They don't retain without questions.

    I tell my students at the start of the year we'll try a few chapters without questions, but if their scores are lower than I'd like, then I'll start assigning homework. This helps me because it motivated them to try, and then they don't get upset when they see that the questions are helping them.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I hated homework as a kid. I hated it more as a parent. I hate it even more now thst I'm a teacher!! Great insights.

  13. Thank you! I agree!! I am a lower level teacher and know the parents are "over helping" during homework time, it's not beneficial to learning. I refuse to send projects home for that reason. Tons of homework cuts into valuable family time too!

  14. I agree 100%! Parents get upset with me and the school principal (since its 15% and I give it to all of them). Kids grow up too soon, become frustrated and do not want to be lifelong learners. The example I give to my parents is: When you come home from work, what would you like to do? Go and start a new shift? or sit down with your kids and family, read a book, anything? Thats how a child should be. They don't need a second shift. Some parents say that it takes the child 2 hours to finish their homework, I tell them if it takes them more than a half an hour close it and let it be, don't make the kid finish it! They look at me like Im insane every time!

  15. I like your take on it for the "littles" – assign it, but don't stress over it. I like that you are assigning something for which they are responsible. It's my opinion that homework in the lower grades does nothing for academic achievement right away – but it does start them down the path of building good habits and being responsible when it's going to count in the upper grades. I teach 8th grade math, and I've had plenty of students who have never done math homework before. They are passive. Getting them to start being responsible for their own learning and active participants in their education takes work, then. My homework assignments are minimal – 5 to 10 questions that directly correlate with the notes we took in class – but meaningful. The point for me isn't "drill and kill," it's to get them to look at their notes one more time before they go to bed at night (feed the hippocampus!) so that when they come in tomorrow, they have a better chance of remembering what we did, today. I do believe some memorization is helpful (frees up the RAM if your processor doesn't have to "draw an array" to calculate 8X7 every time!) but what we really want is for the students to build a deeper understanding of the "why" we do this math and how it is all connected. That takes more time and thought than I can provide in one 45 minute class. I do take a grade on it, but homework is only 20% of their average. Surprisingly, I usually get a participation rate of more than half the class most of the time. More students tend to get on board when they see that the kids who are doing the homework are the ones having more success.

  16. I feel totally validated!!! Thank you! I get so much flack for not grading homework. It is required in my school (I teach second) so I just send home a practice sheet of skills we’ve learned that week as a review. Out of 28 kiddos last year…I had maybe 8 that were consistent in returning it. As a parent, I HATE, yes HATE homework in the early grades. It was time consuming and not worth it. Thanks again for your article.

  17. Sorry. I still have my tomato. As a parent who spends a lot of time helping with homework, I want to know ahead of time if you are not looking at the homework. I don’t want to figure it out or not be told. For some kids concepts don’t come easy and while a simple worksheet may seem easy, they can take a lot of time. If the teacher is not even going to give it a once over to see what concepts the child is getting and what they aren’t, then TELL ME AHEAD of time so we don’t waste time. If I know you don’t care, I will give them ten minutes to put anything down and move along my way. My husband and I have stopped re-teaching concepts beyond just a review because we feel if the kids really don’t get it the teacher needs to know and address the concern. But if you don’t see the homework how do you as the teacher know? We have seen our kids come home and repeat the same mistakes over and over and the teacher has no clue. If the kids have to do it you should at give it a once over to see where they are in understanding the information. Also the idea of parents correcting at home is also frustrating. One, not every parent has the ability to do so, and two, the school is not paying us to grade papers and get the kids to master the material. That is the teacher’s job. Most of us have our own jobs thank you very much. As for it being a special time for parents and kids, I can bond or have special time with my kids at other times, pointless homework not needed.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your opinions on homework from a parent’s perspective. I do tell my parents that I do not grade homework and that it is a way to communicate what their child is learning and how they are doing. As for the not understanding the homework, I hope you would inform your child’s teacher of the issues so the teacher can remedy them!

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Before responding to this article, I realized I needed to address my concerns with one of my kids teachers (I just figured out she has the same philosophy, but it was not communicated). Hoping we can come to a positive resolution. Appreciate your perspective.

        1. I’m glad I was able to help! Strong communication with parents is so important, so anything you can do as a parent to keep those lines open is imperative!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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