Ban homework over weekends?

Why not ban homework altogether?

Tests, too. Who needs them?

And let's shorten the school day while we're at it.

That was our first (sarcastic) response to Galloway Township School Superintendent Annette Giaquinto's recommendation that homework should not be assigned over weekends or holiday breaks.

And apparently, some members of the Board of Education felt roughly the same way: Less homework? That sounds like exactly what today's students don't need.

But the truth is, the value of homework is a contentious issue in the education community. There are arguments on either side, but this much seems clear: Homework is apparently not the universal good that it was once assumed to be.

Several recent books have been written undermining the traditional wisdom that homework is critically important to a child's education. These authors argue that it is incorrect to assume that homework automatically boosts academic achievement. They also argue that homework interferes with other activities and that children should be free to spend their after-school hours as they (or their parents) please.

Other authors have found some limited correlation between homework and better academic achievement - depending on the age of the children, the subject matter and the amount of the homework (too much is clearly counterproductive).

So the homework recommendations that Giaquinto and other Galloway school officials recently presented to the school board are, in fact, in line with the latest thinking.

In addition to recommending that no homework assignments be due on a day directly following a weekend or holiday break, Giaquinto is also recommending that the amount of homework assigned on a given night take up no more time than 10 minutes multiplied by the child's grade level - for example, 50 minutes for a fifth-grade student.

There is evidence that the older a child is, the more valuable homework can be. Besides, college is all about "homework." So we don't know if severely limiting homework in high school is a good idea. But Giaquinto's recommendations do seem to make sense on a grade-school level.

Clearly, the two extremes in the homework debate - either forbidding teachers from assigning it or requiring them to assign it - seem counterproductive.

And as much as the curmudgeon in us is inclined to believe that more work is always better than less work, the research points in the direction that Giaquinto is taking.