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The Great Homework Debate
posted by: Alix | July 01, 2011, 03:48 PM   

What are your thoughts about homework in today's world? Conventional wisdom suggests students need homework to teach them to work independently and to reinforce curriculum after an initial lesson. While this is the intent of home-based projects, parents and students have been complaining that evenings filled with piles of worksheets can take away time from extracurricular activities and can be unfair to students without the proper home support. As a result, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the school board has enacted a new policy that homework can count for only 10% of a student's overall grade.

Before you accuse Los Angeles area students of being more concerned with soaking up rays, consider the intent of the policy. Faced with countless problems stacked against an overwhelmingly urban, low-income, and minority population, the district concluded that homework was either acting as an unfair advantage or biggest road block to students' grades.

According to the new policy: "Varying degrees of access to academic support at home, for whatever reason, should not penalize a student so severely that it prevents the student from passing a class, nor should it inflate the grade."

Despite the district's intent to level the playing field for students, teachers in the LA district are calling the policy detrimental. Teachers worry that the new policy will enable students to slack off assigned work and even reward those who already disregard assignments. Others argue that it could penalize students who are working hard independently on homework assignments regardless of their access to help.

The district's policy has raised many questions about what kinds of homework assignments are appropriate for students across the country. While homework has never been popular with students and even many parents, in recent years it has been particularly panned as counterproductive. Parents and students call homework everything from busywork that doesn't contribute to learning, to too costly and time-consuming in a busy world where students are not only expected to deliver academically but in extracurricular activities and community involvement.

Whether you're for homework for students or against the evening grind, there are studies to support your theories. Some research shows it to be a waste of time for younger students, but many conclude that it is strongly related to higher achievement. Homework has been found to have much less benefit in elementary school and more useful for older students with the relevance of assignments being key to student achievement. Some suggest overly lengthy homework for young children can lead to burn out and resentment. Clearly, homework assignments need to be tailored to their audiences.

The debate yet again plays into the larger conversation about how to evaluate students. Is there a perfect formula on which teachers can rely to gauge student achievement? Depending on the expert, the perfect combination of testing and homework varies significantly.

Should we reevaluate our emphasis on homework?
Comment below.

Comments (5)Add Comment
Homework helps!
written by Jenn, August 25, 2011

Well, I'm a student, and I find homework helpful, but only to those who are willing to do it. Other students not willing and just copying off others gain nothing from homework. I do homework and find it quite enjoyable and helpful, although sometimes if there is too much at once it creates stress and burden. So, I believe teachers should find a balance for the amount of homework given. For example, some teachers just pile on a whole essay and expect the final copy due by the next day. Instead of doing this, teachers can improvise and assign maybe 2-3 paragraphs a day.

-Jenn 13
Homework is Necessary
written by Jeff from Indiana, July 05, 2011

I teach physics at the high school level, primarily to lower-level students. In my opinion, homework is necessary for several reasons:
1) Homework helps students practice new skills, such as problem solving techniques. It enables students to see the problems on at least 2 different occasions (school and home), plus it frees up more time in the classroom for instruction.
2) Homework teaches students to be disciplined and manage their own time. If students don't learn how to set aside time to take care of repsonibilities, how will they be successful in college or in the workforce?
3) Homework provides a opportunity for students who struggle with test-taking to succeed. Test anxiety, language barriers, and special needs can all limit the ability of some students to succeed, whereas homework gives another opportunity for these students to succeed.
4) In my experience as a teacher, many of my students will not study at all, or have poor study skills. When I do not assign homework related to a certain topic, the students never learn it.
5) I think we've all had tests that we bombed due to outside stresses (such as breakups, family issues, or extended illnesses). Homework provides a buffer against a poor test grade.
Homework Is Essential to True Education
written by Linda, West Palm Beach, FL, July 03, 2011

Homework should NEVER be "pointless and busy work [sic]." If a teacher cannot assign homework appropriate in content and length, that "teach[es students] to work independently and ... reinforce(s) curriculum after an initial lesson, then the teacher is poor and should find another line of work. If students fail to do homework, their grades must necessarily suffer, as they will not have adequately learned the material. Assuming good testing, the result can only be poor test results.

The teacher must EXPECT students to do assigned homework (whether or not they do), and students should be unable to follow along with the next day's classwork if they have not. Resources at home or parental assistance should be neither necessary nor desired. The contract is between the teacher and the student. Parents need notification only when they have requested it.

This issue and its ramifications comprise the cornerstone of the argument describing the failure of our education system. High school graduates--even those who go on to become teachers--are not being truly educated.
Modify it without crippling yourself
written by Archangelo, July 02, 2011

I began last year by not assigning homework at all. I was tired of spending time checking what a third of the students would not do, and then doing record keeping and parent notifications, to boot. My new policy lasted a month, until half the parents expressed their desire to see their kids working at home. That just about fit the HW completion rate for the rest of the year: half the students would do it, even though it was required. More time spent on useless checks and notes home to no effect. And then, of course, there were the students who had perfect homework done every day, polished by their parents, and having absolutely no effect on their actual knowledge.

This coming year I'm considering a modification to my homework practice. We are not allowed to use worksheets, we are cutting back on textbooks, and my students cannot be expected to accurately copy problems to complete at home. Therefore, homework will consist of written reflection: each student must use a 3x5 card on which to write a reflection on what was learned during the day in one or more subjects with a detail or example. On arrival at class, each will insert his/her card into a prepared pocket chart which will facilitate checking-at-a-glance. I have yet to determine consequences for missing cards, or a system for parental notification. Any ideas?
written by Lauren, South Dakota, July 01, 2011

I absolutely agree. I am not a teacher yet, but I am in my final year of college and will be student teaching in the spring. Not only does piles of homework really cause a lot of problems for students, but high school homework is often completely pointless and busy work. And think about it: kids spend about 8 hours in school daily. Should we really expect them to go home and spend another 4 hours on homework? It's an insane expectation.

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