One night last week, my 3rd grader did homework for three hours. She’s on the Honor Roll. Homework isn’t hard for her. So imagine the other kids. How long did it take them? The following night, I stopped her after an hour and a half and wrote a note to her teacher saying we didn’t have time to complete the assignments and would do it another day.
What exactly is the point of doing all of this homework? Her teacher and the administration tells me that its to prepare them for the marathon of standardized tests, and that more homework will help them to better. Experts say that assertion is, well, bull.
A series of 60 studies by Duke University Professor Harris Cooper led him to conclude that “while it’s clear that homework is a critical part of the learning process… too much homework can be counter-productive for students at all levels.”
Experts also reject the staple of homework assignments: the worksheets. They argue that it would be better for teachers to think about which assignments students need to extend at home with additional activities, rather than assigning homework sheets simply as “something to do.” One of my best homework assignments (according to the parents) was when I had the students look through their kitchen cupboards to see how many products contained corn. That wasn’t something they could do during class, but it extended their understanding of the Social Studies project about how food got to their table.
Cooper recommends the “ten minute rule” where beginning at 1st grade, students have 10 minutes of homework a night, and that increases by 10 minutes every year, up to 2 hours. After that, Cooper finds there’s no benefit to adding additional time. Which means my 3rd grader should be doing 30 minutes of homework, not 3 hours of it.
According to a Slate article, Japanese schools (whose students scored much higher than U.S. students in reading, math and science) have nearly abandoned homework, while U.S. schools are assigning more and more of it. The same article quotes 3 sets of experts who have done studies that show too much homework is bad for kids, but that information seems to have no impact on schools.
We want better achievement for our students, but the evidence that shows how to get it is being ignored. Why?
Articles about homework:
Washington Post “Checking it out” http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/homework/checking-it-out-studies-on-hom.html
Slate.com “Forget Homework” http://www.slate.com/id/2149593/
“Abusing Research: The study of homework and other examples” http://wwww.alfiekohn.org/teaching/research.htm
Books about homework:
[Image from: http://dadz.com/back-to-school-homework-tips]