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Ending Homework? Many Parents Disagree with Summer Homework: The Homework Debate

August 10, 2009
CHONGQING, CHINA - MARCH 5:  A student does ho...
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I’m a teacher, with a background in neuropsyche, so I should be all for homework, right?  Well, I am not.  Most homeowork is meaningless busywork that often fails to complete it’s objective:  help children learn something at home.  School districts have long had summer reading lists, and even Harvard had one for my grad program which was never followed up on.  I am here to tell you that summer homework sure isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Here are the facts  you may not know about:

  • Most curricular decisions are based on the lowest student performer. In this case, it cause curricular changes over the summer: low-income students tend to “lose” the most over the summer, and then the school district mandates summer homework.
  • Homework values, when assessed, rarely meet the expectations of the the assessment protocols: in other words, homework may not be an effective way to teach a lesson.
  • When teachers assign homework, they assume a means to complete it, and this is often a faulty assumption.
  • Homework, as a concept, is dangerous in that it reinforces the idea of teacher-enforced study times, as opposed to the student-directed study habits needed for higher education programs. (College is all about a few hours of instruction followed by lots of self-study.)

I think that the idea of summer schools, summer reading lists, and extending the school years are borne out of good, but hallucinogenic intentions:  namely that students/children actually want to focus on the same things their teachers want them to.  But realistically, if homework may not be effective, may not meet the goals assigned to it, and reinforces bad study patterns, why have it?

Not all teachers agree with summer homework, as one teacher states that it puts incoming students at a distinct disadvantage:

Ruth Radetsky, who teaches math and statistics at Balboa High School in San Francisco, says most AP teachers give summer homework, but she doesn’t. “At my school, in my subject, summer homework is either make-work or it puts students who join the class in the fall at a disadvantage,” she said.

But, not only are the incoming students at a disadvantage, but so are the teachers, starting off the semester with a backlog of grading.  Some parents seem to like the idea of summer school, because otherwise “kids get too long of a break,” but when you really think hard about that statement, it sounds ludicrous.  We are talking about children here, and a “break” from math worksheets won’t define an academic career.

One researcher argues that literacy levels correlate with higher paying jobs, and that literacy skills go up among children who like to read; however, one writer goes on to make the faulty assumption that simply reading more equals higher literacy levels and equals higher paying jobs.

Kim added that most research on summer learning losses has involved elementary school students, not high school, so whether summer homework benefits teenagers is not known.

But he offered some additional food for thought: Studies show leisure reading overall is down in the U.S., and there’s evidence the “frequency with which you read predicts your literacy levels.” Literacy levels are also “highly correlated with the kind of job you have and how much money you make,” he said.

So if you’re having trouble getting your 16-year-old to finish “Lord of the Flies” or “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” tell them that someday, how well they read might determine a lot more than how they fare in AP English

Deciding who gets jobs in this economy is dicey as it is–I wouldn’t predict that reading over the summer makes kids get better jobs.  But then again, I don’t think homework equals a steady return all the time.  I do think that most kids should be encouraged to read, but material they choose.  Even in elementary school, there are correlations between school experiences and rates of high school drop-outs’ experiences.  In other words, if kids hate school at an early age, they are less likely to finish their education. It doesn’t take a neuropsyche degree to figure that out.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. alwaysright101 permalink
    April 27, 2011 6:53 am

    I am strongly anti-summer homework if not homework in general.

    I’ll never forget how disgusted I was when I went to an elementary school recently to observe 2nd graders and saw all the school work they had to do. When I was in 2nd grade back in 1997-1998 we had maybe 1 or 2 homework assignments the entire year as an introduction. We didn’t have real homework assignments until 3rd grade. I just can’t believe teachers are okay with depriving children of learning to like school early on by making these prison sentences for them. That is what homework essentially is because one it starts, it never ends…

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