Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Homework and Student Success

Someone one once told me that when teachers have their own kids it makes for them being better educators.  My penultimate principal happened to come into my life at the same time that my own children were starting to get lots of homework from their 5th grade teacher.   At the same time my county set our homework max at 10%, Dave (principal) wanted to have late work count for no more than 20%.  I accepted the 10%, but fought the 20%.  But Dave was persistent and personable and so I tried it.  Really I went all the way.  In three years I haven't given a late grade for an assignment.  But I also went from being a teacher who could give a fair amount of (sometimes pointless homework like reading notes) homework to, in my last year, someone who never game more than 30 minutes per AP class and less for standard ones.  In fact when I left the classroom one of my best student notes thanked me for "not hating homework and my life outside the school day."

So there are a lot of things to consider.  One is it unhealthy to have lots of homework an issue the NYTimes looks into and that many kids get three times the recommended rule for homework.  Many experts talk about the ten minute rule or ten minutes per year until high school when two hours is the max which is the rule in my county, but is hardly followed.  Furthermore this article and this one claim that more homework does not correlate with higher test scores.
So now I have taken a peripheral role in my county's attempt to not have more than two hours of homework a night.  Sure if you have six AP classes this is a tough mandate, but generally as with my ex-principal's new late policy it means rethinking how you teach students.

But not everyone believes there is too much homework.  This review finds that it is less a burden in standard classes and that there are even lots of parents who do not think there is enough homework.

Anecdotally I would say that AP/IB students have too much and that the lower levels have too little whether because the teachers didn't think the students would do it or rather because the students refused to do it so often the teacher gave up.

What is clear is that educators have to change the way they teach in the class and why they give homework.  Other than reading a book for English, reading isn't as good an assignment as it used to be especially since notes can readily be found online.  Furthermore class time should be used for letting students explore the learning have having the teacher facilitate that process.  Whether homework is necessary then would be left to if a student needs more help or can start with an overview of the next lesson.  Either way we need to repurpose our students' learning.


  1. I am a parent who says my kids don't get enough homework. As a teacher I do sometimes question those who complain about the amount because I see those students saving everything to the last minute (doing projects and studying for tests the night before). If those students spaced those assignments out in the time allotted they would have a reasonable amount of work to do

  2. Up to the breaking point (2 hours seems to be the definition for homework in high school), shouldn't we re-frame it to say what is the purpose of homework rather than kids are getting too little. If it is necessary and isn't being given, then I agree with you. I also agree that planning ahead is important.