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The homework blues

There are many experiences I look forward to sharing with my girls as they grow up. Homework is not one of them. I’m kind of hoping for this attitude to catch on.

The Spring Branch school board has ordered a committee to review the district’s homework policy to make sure students are benefiting, rather than burning out, from the extra assignments.

In school districts across the country, educators and parents are debating the value of homework as schools face growing pressure to meet state and federal testing standards and to prepare students for college.

While most students still can expect a backpack full of spelling words to memorize, math problems to solve and maps to label, a few schools nationwide have gone as far as banning homework.

“There was this trend where the amount of homework was equated with how rigorous your program was,” said veteran teacher Steve Antley, president of the Congress of Houston Teachers. “What you’re seeing in Spring Branch and in other places is a backlash to that.”

Spring Branch’s current homework policy spells out time limits for homework at the elementary school level — no more than an hour for grades 2-5 and half that for younger students. But some board members want to place stricter rules on what teachers can and cannot assign.

“I’m not a believer in sending home 25 algebra questions as homework when five would let the teacher know if the student gets it,” said trustee Mike Falick, who has two school-aged children. “Homework, to be useful, has to be graded and has to have prompt feedback. It can’t be done for completion only.”

I think trustee Falick hits the nail on the head. I don’t see any value in homework as busy work. Quite the reverse, in fact. Kids are smart enough to know when they’re doing something useful, and they’re smart enough to figure out ways around it if they’re not. I don’t think that’s the lesson you want to be teaching.

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5 Comments

  1. RWB says:

    So you acknowledge that there can be good homework and bad homeowork? I worry a bit that anti-homework policies will be too broad and lack nuance. For example, there are projects that may take weeks to do that are done at home but not exactly homework. Book reports, science projects, theses, art projects, etc. Do these have value (I think they do, generally)? Would they be covered under a “no homework” rule the same way that “fill in the blank” vocabulary homework is?

  2. Charles Hixon says:

    Sounds like this is an exercise in how much workload a teacher is assigned and not about the student at all.

  3. I have told my students for years that if we work at school we won’t have to take piles of work home. This applies to myself and my students.
    Kenneth D. Franks
    Democratic Candidate
    Texas House District 9

  4. I agree with Kenneth. It is the same thing I have told my students for years. The vast majority of them listened.

  5. RWB – Yes, there is “good” homework. For the most part, if it’s not busy work and it’s not too much, it’s okay by me. I mostly speak from the experience of being assigned 50 division problems when ten would have sufficed.