What is California's No Homework Law?

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Don't get too excited, kids. "No homework" laws are not current California homework policy. But there was a "no homework" law in the state at the beginning of the 20th Century that the children of that era probably appreciated. Today the question of whether homework helps or hurts kids is widely debated in California.

No Homework Law in California

Is there a "no homework law" in California today? There is not today, but there was 100 years ago. The Ladies' Home Journal magazine crusaded against homework at the turn of the century, and medical professionals and doctors testified against it, saying that it was harmful to a kid's health. Some say that the actual reason society (and parents) frowned on homework was because school kids needed time to help with chores around the house.

As a result of that, a number of big-city school districts around the country eliminated homework from the school menu. California's three biggest cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento – passed regulations forbidding teachers from assigning homework. And in 1901, the state passed a law banning all homework for school kids in kindergarten through eighth grade and imposing limits on the amount of homework that could be assigned to high school students.

California Homework Policy Changes

California's no-homework laws were repealed in the 1950s. That was the Cold War period and educators and politicians felt that the country needed better-educated students to create a skilled workforce, especially in the sciences. The launch of Sputnik in 1957 boosted the call for homework, since it appeared that Russian students might be more advanced than U.S. students.

The end of the Second World War also brought great changes to the United States and significant upheaval socially. Men in the military returned to their families, more people moved from agricultural lifestyle to urban areas and children were no longer expected to do as much physical work at home.

Since then, homework has crept back into the education system. People attacked progressive education as anti-intellectual, lax and dangerous for the nation. Then, in the 1980s, the United States Department of Education came full circle, publishing a pamphlet about the techniques that work best for creating smarter students, concluding that homework was a must.

California Homework Questions Today

Today, California kids from the youngest age through high school can expect homework assignments. But that doesn't mean that the homework/no homework debate is over. Various school districts or individual schools have eliminated homework in California, and while that approach makes some people happy, it makes others very unhappy.

Some educators and researchers argue that children would be better off if homework were abolished. They argue that the research does not demonstrate any tangible benefits for students, and this is especially true for younger students. In fact, studies have shown that elementary school students get no academic benefit from any amount of homework. And, the anti-homework crowd claims, excessive homework stifles a kid's natural curiosity.

However, not all parents agree. In the competitive atmosphere in schools today, just the suggestion of abolishing homework has some parents up in arms.

And high school students in the United States – who spend 5.5 to 6 hours a week on homework – are in the middle of their peers around the world. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 15-year-olds in Shanghai spend the most amount of time on homework, averaging 13.8 hours per week, while students in Finland spend the least time, at just 2.8 hours per week. It is noteworthy that Finnish kids perform just fine on academic tests despite the small amount of homework they do in comparison to teens in other nations.

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About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.