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Friday, May 27, 2011

Against Homework (from the Ed Archive)

Cover of "The Case Against Homework: How ...Cover via Amazon
THE CASE AGAINST HOMEWORK

BOING BOING - Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish 2006 book "The Case Against Homework" is a fine and frightening explosion of the homework myth: that giving kids homework improves their educational outcome. The authors start by tracing the explosion in homework since the eighties, and especially since the advent of the ill-starred No Child Left Behind regime, which has teachers drilling, drilling, drilling their kids on math and reading to the exclusion of all else.

Kindergarten kids are assigned homework. Kids get homework over the weekend. Over vacations. When they're away sick for a day.

What's more, all the credible research on homework suggests that for younger kids, homework has no connection with positive learning outcomes, and for older kids, the benefits of homework level off sharply after the first couple assignments.

Not that most teachers would know this -- homework theory and design isn't on the curriculum at most teachers' colleges, and most teachers surveyed report that they have never received any training on designing and assessing homework. . .

One thing the authors keep coming back to is the way that excessive homework eats into kids' playtime and family time, stressing them out, contributing to sedentary obesity, and depriving them of a childhood's measure of doing nothing, daydreaming and thinking. They quote ten-year-olds like Sophia from Brooklyn, saying things like "I have to rush, rush, rush, rush, rush, rush through my day, actually through my seven days, and that's seven days wasted in my life."

No Child Left Behind has to shoulder some of the blame here. No Child Left Behind and standardized testing not only turns your child into a slave to her test-scores, but they can even affect your property values: a school with low test-scores brings down the neighborhood property values. That means that whatever your approach to your kids, the chances are that the other parents in your neighborhood are busting their asses to get their kids great test scores, drilling them, sending them to tutors, helping them with assignments that they were meant to complete themselves. If you don't do the same, your kids will suffer by comparison.

The authors report on an elementary school in North Carolina where at least twenty standardized test books have to be replaced after their use because the stressed out elementary school kids working to them have vomited on them.

The stories go on and on, and just when you're ready to throw in the towel and send your kids into the woods to be raised by wolves, the authors supply several long chapters of strategies and sample dialogs for convincing your kids' teachers to ease off on homework, for changing the homework policies in your school district and for rallying other parents to their cause.

STOP HOMEWORK
http://stophomework.com

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