Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The School Ate My Homework

Menlo Park Says Goodbye Homework
David Ackerman, principal of Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park wrote to parents at the start of the school year which in part said:

1. Schools have required more homework over the years.
2. Schools give homework because parents expect it, because they believe it indicates a rigorous program, it keep kids busy, and they believe that it is important to support the school. (The Hoover Digest cites those reasons)
3. Principal Ackerman believes this:
The preponderance of research clearly shows that homework for elementary students does not make a difference in student achievement. It is hard to believe that a strategy used so extensively has no foundation. Even the most ardent supporters of homework have only been able to produce evidence of associative rather than causal relationships. In addition, it is not surprising that there is no research that demonstrates that homework increases a child's level of understanding, improves their attitude towards school or inspires a love of learning. For a large number of students we know the opposite is true-- large amounts of homework stifle motivation, diminish a child's love of learning, turn reading into a chore, negatively affect the quality of family time, diminish creativity, and turn learning to drudgery.
Principal Ackerman doesn't believe that homework teaches our children responsibility. He feels that there are very few choices in homework and that kids only complete work that is required based on complying with adult demands. Ackerman says, "Comply or suffer the consequences. This is not my idea of responsibility."

Here is their policy:
- We will promote reading as the central aspect of our homework. Preferably, reading of the child's choice.
- We will not provide weekly homework packets that have not been differentiated based on individual student needs. Weekly packets help parents and students manage time. However, packets of this nature almost always include homework of which the child has demonstrated in class that he has absolutely no need to complete.
- At no time will homework exceed the district maximum time limits.
- We will not assign homework for homework's sake.
- Homework, other than reading, will be assigned when a specific need arises, when it's necessary to practice a skill or complete important work.
Oh my goodness! An educator that GETS IT!!! Can someone nominate him for educator of the year or something?

That was one of the reasons that we chose to homeschool. The school system was monopolizing my children's time as well as mine! Yes mine.. they were sending homework home for me to do! Isn't it sad that these kids spend all day in school only to come home to do 3 hours more? How would you feel coming home after a long day at work and then asked to do more work? Somehow it is just not fair, and it is so sad that our kids do not have time to discover themselves. And then they wonder why kids today stay up till all hours of the night on their IPods or computers socializing. When else do they have time to be themselves? What is even more tragic is the rush to give kids in lower grades homework. Pre-K and kindergarten kids are even getting saddled with homework! It seems to me that homework is also used to make up for the lack of teaching in the classroom now.

I am heartened to see the action of this principal and I am glad to see that there is a body of studies out there that show empirically that homework has no correlation to performance. More work doesn't translate to better - smarter more capable students. Look here and here and here.
National Public Radio (NPR) even did a segment. Listen here.

It's about time.

1 comment:

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Judy,

When I was teaching in schools, I was well aware of the studies that demonstrated that homework was useless unless it was truly independent practice--that is, the child had been taught the lesson and had demonstrated through "guided practice" in the classroom that s/he knew how to do the work. However, in most cases if that happens, the homework is unimportant anyway, since the child has learned the material.

Another important point here is that the school you mentioned is suggesting that the children read. In several studies that I read over time (I will have to ferret them out again), two things done at home were linked with student success. Reading as a family and having family time together. In other words, homework may actually work against student success by cutting into the time for families to read together and to spend time being families.

Finally, I got a real kick out of your comment about homework for you to do! I once sent my ds's third grade teacher a note that said in part: "...I have already been to third grade. I have already done science projects--in fact given that I was a research scientist for 15 years, I hardly think I need any more practice..."

When I took my ds out of school, I was amazed at how peaceful our days were and even more amazed at how peaceful and relaxed our evenings have become.

And I think I am actually working toward my ds's academic success!