The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an article that discussed the "growing movement" to abolish homework. Apparently a teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto has moved in the direction and has noticed a growth in students passing the Advanced Placement exam in Economics. He states that the reason is that students are more focused in the classroom, allowing for a less stressful home life and overall better academic performance.
The rest of the article is an argument about whether or not homework helps or hinders academic progress.
Homework has become less of a focus in my class for a variety of reasons. I've seen better academic progress by my students over the years, but can't say with certainty that less homework has something to do with it. I would hope that my teaching getting better would be the more reasonable conclusion. The main reason I've given less homework is simply that I'm not interested in spending every free moment grading homework. "Busy work" serves so purpose except to let teachers sit in classrooms and relax, and save the work to grade for a more comfortable situation at home. I'd rather not have the kids get the busy work (that is useless anyway), and then I won't have to grade it. The next reason that I've eased up on homework is because I don't consider "studying" as homework. I quiz like a mad man, which is an effective way to make sure that things get done. Then there is the issue of giving out projects or essays and having students give me updated sections, which I consider homework. See, in the end the idea should be that teachers actually do the teaching in the classroom, with some reinforcement or critical thinking taking place on the homework front. One of the complaints that I heard last year from one of my foreign exchange students was that teachers were simply giving work to do outside of class and doing no real teaching in the classroom. Not very effective for the bottom line.
In the end, homework is necessary, but let's remember that the greatest place for learning is in the classroom.