a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:10 am
To Paly Parent, village fool, CrescentParkAnon, and Experienced - Thanks for sharing the feedback,experience and insights. I, too, thought your quote was relevant, village fool, thank you for reposting.
I feel the discussion over whether homework is good is bound up in how we choose to educate children. Is the goal for each child to reach their potential, or is school a giant sorting mechanism? I think it should be the former. Nobel Prize Winner Marie Curie apparently homeschooled her (Nobel prize winning) daughter irene with a group of other university parents. She insisted on no more than two subjects a day, finished by noon, then the kids went to museums in Paris and other enrichment during the day. Yet Irene writes much about how she learned about hard work. Curie chose this after realizing Irene was a "dreamer like her father" (father Pierre who also was a "terrible student" according to his own mother who, rather than blame him and crack the whip, realized he needed something different and also homeschooled and tutored him.)
There is a transition overhead to constantly changing subjects every 45 minutes, I've read it's about 15 minutes. There's probably a cost on both starting and end points. With seven subjects and actual transition time, thats a few hours a day just sacrificed to switching gears. What if teachers had to figure out how to teach the same material without giving homework? Would scheduling be enough to make up the difference?
I suspect that even with different scheduling, there would still be opposite ends of the spectra in terms of desire for homework. Different people have different educational needs, and I think we've never been in a better position to meet them than now. Please realize I am not suggesting one group does intense academic work and the other plays video games all afternoon. To me, it's more a difference of autonomous versus directed learning styles. I was happier myself with the latter, but I am old enough to wish my schooling had emphasized the former more. The former is also what I would prefer for my child, because that's the way he is. Having no homework won't mean learning stops when he leaves, it means he has more autonomy.
The question is, if parents had a right to draw those boundaries, would schools have to care about these differences? Would they have to equally serve everyone by innovating and changing so that the educational outcome (whatever they decided on) was equal rather than time spent in school and doing homework being equal for everyone?
Again, I just want to know the legal framework for homework. The Constitution established public education (but did not mention homework).
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm
@This is why,
Thanks for the quote. You bring up a good point about the studies supporting homework. The trouble I see is that this is a very narrow view of success, it doesn't fully account for what is being given up for that homework that may enhance the child's education far more — for some the trade may be worth it, for others, not — and it doesn't mean those results can't be achieved by different practices during the school day. You can also get those kinds of improvements in test results just by increasing room ventilation and providing generally good indoor air quality in schools.
I thought this was interesting:
It's an article on the homework debates, but on the subject of the legal basis for homework:
"One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won a ruling that exempted their two children from all homework.
I also find this very recent publication to be spot on and mirrors our experience: Homework and too many structured activities kills intrinsic motivation:
"Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, <Web Link; published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer 'self-directed executive function,' a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.”
The reality is that most of the data the decision to give homework is based on are just not applicable now because the world has changed so dramatically in the last five years, and the landscape for blended learning is completely different.
I wonder, though, if the situation isn't waiting for some Constitutional challenge: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."
Many families could probably make a good case that the lack of boundaries between school control and home life constitutes an unreasonable intrusion. Again, maybe once homework was the best learning opportunity available to most kids, but it's just not the case now. However, I would hate to see a ban on homework result from something like that, rather, I wish someone who challenge it in a way that families could set better boundaries and have more say. I know I keep saying this, but there is a spectrum of educational needs.
But would it take a case like that Candian family waged to end homework as we know it, and what would be done in its place? If people think homework is hard, try a federal case (literally)!
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:23 am
I agree with Paly Parent, Mr. Recycle. I know in some systems, not doing homework won't have serious consequences, but here it would. While no one is forcing anyone to do homework, the homework is a part of the educational program and if someone refuses to do it, they may well flunk out and the consequences may be that they don't get the public education they are due. Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education -- it's a fundamental right that comes from the US Constitution. The Constitution does not mention homework, though, or the subject of such boundaries, except perhaps in how we might interpret the 4th Amendment.
I would go further to say that I think it's unreasonable for a a school to have unfettered priority with my child's time 24 hours a day in order to receive a free and appropriate public education.
I didn't realize traditionally disadvantaged groups were essentially hurt by the homework. I would love a link or further information. I was assuming that traditionally disadvantaged students would be better off for having homework because they might not have similar access to outside opportunities. I wonder, though, if all these new computer-enabled knowledge environments are changing even that. I think back in the day, when (at least in for most people) there was no Internet, less access to educational reading material, less interaction with other people, homework was the best educational opportunity. There were few alternatives unless it was music lessons for those who could afford them. I was assuming the disadvantages would extend to all these new opportunities because of the digital divide, but maybe there is enough access especially with mobile computing to actually begin leveling the playing field, I don't know. But my assumptions made me wonder about the wisdom of, essentially, a ground-breaking boundary-setting litigation over the issue, because traditionally disadvantaged groups might be hurt if homework were not an assumed part of the education but nothing was improved during the school day. Maybe that's another circumstance that would improve by soul-searching over boundaries between school and home.
Crescent Park Dad,
I think your points deserve their own deep conversation about what prepares kids for life and college. Just tonight we were sitting with colleagues who discussed their disappointing experiences as employers with employees who were the straight-A intense academic types. The feedback was, the hires didn't know how to do anything of their own (they didn't put it that nicely). They were good at regurgitating, but not very independent. The research seems to back that up. Although life has taught me many lessons in the interim, I look back and feel the same about my own education -- I thrived on the intense academic experience and really enjoyed pushing against that structure, but while I was extremely resourceful, I was not very autonomous.
While I'm not trying to say everyone is the same, the world of work is not like school. Like This is Why, please don't assume the alternative to homework is essentially goofing off. The alternative in our home would be far more high-level educational pursuits, including the unpleasant grunt work necessary to get any major thing done. It's just relevant to achieving something real, not busy work. But if someone wanted to goof off, why shouldn't they have time of their own every day, and why should they have to account for it to the school? Schools that run 24 hours a day are called boarding school, that's not what most of us chose.
My kid got a sheet recently in relationship to a class final exam, ostensibly to help plan time in to study, but it asked kids to account for their time 24 hours a day for a few weeks. I was horrified at the intrusion. It again exemplified the assumption that the school had priority in the use of my child's time, and by extension, my family's time, for all waking (and some sleeping) hours of the day.
I don't think making kids more and more miserable with busywork homework prepares them any better for college either. In my experience (at MIT), the kids who were burned out from high school did not do well. My own brothers who were not stellar high school students all went on to be stellar students in top colleges, and successful in life. The seeds of each of their success began in outside activities, to a one.
When I say the world has changed, I mean the landscape for what kids can learn, do, and achieve has dramatically changed in the last 5-10 years.
Per student stress -- I love Thomas the Tank Engine videos for how they highlight a fundamental motivation: To the engines being "really useful" is life and death. So it is with humans. Most of us need to feel useful in life, to follow our interests, to feel competent. Keeping kids on the homework hamster wheel 24/7 robs them of the ability to pursue so many opportunities available in this new world that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Some kids need that intense structured academic sorting to be happy. Some kids will be doing intense productive educational pursuits of their own if allowed time to be autonomous. Why should children in the latter camp have to choose between that and a high-quality public education? Especially since the education is a right, and homework (and by extension giving up all right to personal autonomy 24 hours a day) doesn't seem to be legally a part of the deal.
A second-grade teacher in Texas recently rekindled the annual debate over whether kids spend too much time on homework.
The teacher said she did not plan to assign homework this school year because it has not proven to correlate with achievement (not true) and because no homework would allow families to eat together and read together, and children to play outside and have an early bed time. If only dropping homework could make these things happen!
Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that students who do homework do better in school than those who don’t.
But research also suggests the amount and type of homework must take into account the child’s developmental level. Teachers refer to the “10-minute Rule” – homework time on any given school night should be equal to the child’s grade level times 10. So a second-grader should have 20 minutes of homework. The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association agree with this philosophy.
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My internet searches have never uncovered a school policy that differs greatly from the 10-minute rule. If a second-grader brings home two hours of homework, that’s not good. If an 11th-grader does five hours, that’s too much. The amount of homework kids bring home generally does not diverge from those school policies.
The perception that American kids do too much homework is also belied by a national survey that asked parents, “Do you think your child’s teachers assign too much homework, too little homework or the right amount of homework?” Sixty percent said just the right amount, 15 percent said too much and 25 percent said too little.
Beyond achievement, homework can also lead to the development of good study habits and a recognition that learning can occur at home as well as at school.
Homework can also foster independent learning and responsible character traits – essential skills later in life when students change jobs or learn new skills for advancement at work.
And homework can give parents an opportunity to see what’s going on at school and learn about their child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Two parents once told me they refused to believe their child had a learning disability until homework revealed it to them. Maybe that 20-minute assignment should involve parents and replace screen time, not dinner or interactive play.
Opponents argue homework can lead to boredom with schoolwork because all activities remain interesting only for so long. Homework can deny students access to leisure activities that also teach important life skills. And parents can get too involved in homework – pressuring their children and confusing them by using instructional techniques different from the teacher’s.
Regrettably, research on these effects of homework are rare. In the absence of data, common sense suggests that any of these effects can occur depending, again, on the amount and type assigned.
In my experience, the complaints over too much homework come from a definable but relatively small segment of the population – parents with conflicting desires to have their children excel in school and lead balanced lives that include school, play, aesthetics, citizenship and spirituality. Homework is an easy target to express their anxiety.
Educators also find themselves caught between irreconcilable alternatives. To them, it is the same parents who rail against homework who permit (encourage?) their children to load advanced placement classes into their academic schedules. More homework comes with these classes.
Educators also question whether homework really takes five hours or whether that time includes hours clicking back and forth between homework and texting, tweeting, Facebooking.
Time on homework reaches a point of diminishing returns; too little does no good, too much does more harm than good. Teachers should base their practices on what sound evidence and experience suggest is optimal. If the amount and quality are appropriate, parents won’t complain.
Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, is author of “The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers and Parents.”