I was asked to share my thoughts on homework the other day. I decided this was a conversation worth bringing up with all of you. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this topic over the years. A great article on this topic was written by Stephen Fisher and published in TOMT magazine in September of 2008. Steve included this interesting historical look at the evolution of homework in our country.
“Homework was not always the institution it is today. A 1901 California civil code forbade homework. In the 1920s, five to six hours of fresh air and sunshine were considered preferable to homework. Attitudes towards homework have changed through history; but the present role of homework as a critical tool for increasing student achievement can be traced to the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik. Since then, homework has played an increasingly dominant role in school-home dynamics.”
He goes on to include the following quote regarding some research done on the effectiveness of homework.
“In their groundbreaking book, The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning, authors Etta Kralovec and John Buell (2000) cite a significant body of research that shatters many popular beliefs about homework’s effectiveness. They argue that homework actually pushes students and families away from schools. This is particularly true for students from low-income families:
‘Like tracking, homework is a practice that perpetuates the social-class inequity that seems built into schooling. When we look at homework in the context of a poor student’s life, the practice seems almost abusive… In their world, homework simply didn’t fit in. … Homework further disadvantages these children by assuming they have a quiet, well-lit place to study, far away from the TV.’ ”
I agreed with many of the premises in the article and had done a fair amount of changing the homework assignments I gave to my students. (more…)