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Mt. Homework will only get steeper — oh, great!

Submitted by on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 2 Comments

As of this moment, I will cease and desist griping about the amount of homework Big Guy is assigned.

OK, except for the occasional gripe about its busy-work nature. And I’ll sometimes whine that its focus on the diabolical DIBELS has only a loose connection to real learning.

For the most part, though, I’m going to sit quietly and be happy that so far Big Guy and I endure only 45 minutes of frustration a night — 30 of actual study time, 15 of pencil-flinging. Because a briefing released today reinforces what every parent of older children has told me recently: It’s only going to get worse.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most teachers assigned 20 minutes of reading homework and 10 minutes of math a night to the first grade class of 1999-2000. By third grade, most of those same students were doing 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of math. By fifth grade, it was 30 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of math. Plus more than half the teachers were assigning homework five nights a week by fifth grade. Or more — yikes!

The data start two years before No Child Left Behind, so I’m wondering if those numbers have increased. Because everyone knows homework is the key to teaching the tests … er, I mean, the key to learning.

Or is it?

“National policies aimed at simply increasing homework amounts are unlikely to produce increases in average student achievement scores,” Penn State University education policies professor Gerald LeTendre wrote after studying the issue in 2007.

That study, of which LeTendre was the lead author, showed a negative relationship between higher homework amounts and student achievement in elementary schools in the United States, and only a very small benefit in middle schools.

Even today’s issues brief admits there are reasons other than “student achievement” — which in the NCLB post-apocalyptic world usually is a euphemism for “test scores” — for homework.

Homework also can reinforce concepts learning in the classroom — OK, I’ll buy that — and promote “parent-child interaction” — OK, I’ll resent that.

I don’t need a packet of worksheets to interact with my kids. We’re getting along quite nicely this week, now that Big Guy’s off track, and our supply has been cut off. Better, in fact, because we’re painting, coloring, reading and baking without the frustration of time spent tracing letters Big Guy learned a year ago.

Dang it. I feel into the trap anyway. I think I need reinforcement.

I’m grabbing the pencil and writing 100 times, “I will not rant about homework.”

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Melissa Van Diepen said:

    You just wait! Most of the first-grade moms in Abby’s class are moaning about the workload. Many of the kids are spending an hour a night if you count the 20-30 minutes of reading. I haven’t complained but that’s bsc the gods have blessed me with a kid that actually likes doing it and I don’t have to nag.

    Hope everything is well. I enjoy the posts.

  • Sara Bennett said:

    “For the most part, though, I’m going to sit quietly and be happy”

    Why? From this post and some of your previous posts, it’s obvious that you know that there’s no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school. So why should you and your son “endure 45 minutes of frustration” for no discernible reason?

    I am the co-author of The Case Against Homework and I also run Stop Homework, a project devoted to changing homework practice and policy. I encourage all parents to advocate on their children’s behalf. I hope you will, too. You would be an articulate voice for change!