Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More on homework -- is it a good thing?

The debate over homework rages on this year, according to this article from last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. The question: how much homework helps students improve their academic achievement? The answer: no one knows.

"'The preponderance of research clearly shows that homework for elementary students does not make a difference in student achievement. It is hard to believe that a strategy used so extensively has no foundation,' principal David Ackerman of Oak Knoll Elementary in Menlo Park wrote in a letter to parents this autumn as he put the brakes on homework."

Based on that, "
a growing minority of educators and researchers are calling for an end to homework as we know it -- and some are out to abolish it altogether," according to Chronicle reporter Vicki Haddock.

Not so fast, counter others in education.

"'Researchers have been far from unanimous in their assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of homework as an instructional technique,' summarized the Journal of Educational Psychology. 'Their assessments ranged from homework having positive effects, no effects, or complex effects to the suggestion that the research was too sparse or poorly conducted' to say."

According to the "most widely regarded analysis of the affect of homework," conducted by Harris Cooper of Duke University, homework yields little value for elementary school students. For high schoolers, more than two hours of homework has no positive affect on achievement.

I'd argue that for our students at JIS, the question isn't so much "how many hours of homework?" -- but "what kind of homework?" It's been our experience that teachers here assign homework prudently: reading each night, math practice to reinforce lessons already learned during the day, and studying for quizzes and tests. But occasionally we see the "macaroni and poster board" project come home. The less of that, the better!

(Click here for a golden chestnut of an op-ed piece on crazy school projects, "'Crayola Curriculum' Takes Over" -- worth a read!)


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