Homework in most schools isn’t limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important.
Rather, the point of departure seems to be: “We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have to do every night (or several times a week).
), or that it “reinforces” what students were taught in class (a word that denotes the repetition of rote behaviors, not the development of understanding), or that it teaches children self-discipline and responsibility (a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists).
Above all, principals need to help their faculties see that the most important criterion for judging decisions about homework (or other policies, for that matter) is the impact they’re likely to have on students’ from learning,” says education professor Harvey Daniels.
Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isn’t just dubious; it’s nonexistent.
It’s not as though most teachers decide now and then that a certain lesson really ought to continue after school is over because meaningful learning is so likely to result from such an assignment that it warrants the intrusion on family time.Is it about wrestling with ideas or mindlessly following directions? We should change the fundamental expectation in our schools so that students are asked to take schoolwork home only when a there’s a reasonable likelihood that a particular assignment will be beneficial to most of them. What are its other effects on their lives, and on their families? Suggest that teachers assign only what they design.When that’s not true, they should be free to spend their after-school hours as they choose. In most cases, students should be asked to do only what teachers are willing to create themselves, as opposed to prefabricated worksheets or generic exercises photocopied from textbooks.What parents teachers need is support from administrators who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom.They need principals who question the slogans that pass for arguments: that homework creates a link between school and family (as if there weren’t more constructive ways to make that connection!(As one mother told me, “It’s cheating to say this is 20 minutes of homework if only your fastest kid can complete it in that time.”) Then work on reducing the amount of homework irrespective of such guidelines and expectations so that families, not schools, decide how they will spend most of their evenings.Quantity, however, is not the only issue that needs to be addressed.There is no perfect assignment that will stimulate every student because one size simply doesn’t fit all.On those days when homework really seems necessary, teachers should create several assignments fitted to different interests and capabilities.It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts: 1. They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning.Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved. The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.