Thursday, May 06, 2010

How Much Homework Is Too Much?

I'm a firm believer that except perhaps for some reading, elementary school students shouldn't be doing homework. I don't know that I've ever seen a reliable study showing that it does any good for them. Homework should start in junior high.

But how much is too much? One local school district is considering limiting homework:

Students in the Davis Joint Unified School District will be assigned less homework in the fall if the school board adopts a new homework policy tonight...

Forty percent of elementary school parents and 48 percent of secondary parents who took the district's survey said they favored less homework.

Many parents said they would like to see more quality assignments sent home instead of busy work.

I can't argue with that. On the other hand, I doubt there are more than a few teachers who would admit that their assignments are "busy work", and no doubt "busy work", like beauty and pornography, is in the eye of the beholder.

The current homework policy allows teachers to assign 10 minutes of homework beginning in kindergarten and increase it by 10 minutes for each grade level. The maximum time for high schoolers is three hours.

The current policy doesn't seem exceedingly stupid to me, although I wonder how any one teacher can know if the homework they assign will cause a high school student to go over the 3 hr mark (and 3 hours does seem a bit too much to me).

The proposed policy would permit kindergarten through third-graders to have 10 minutes of reading homework. For fourth-graders, 30 minutes of homework could be assigned; fifth-graders, 35 minutes; and sixth-graders, 45 minutes.

Fourth- through sixth-graders can be assigned 10 additional minutes of music homework.

Middle school students in seventh and eighth grades could have 15 minutes of homework for each class, which generally would equal one hour of homework a night.

High school students would be given a maximum of 30 minutes for math or English classes and 20 minutes for other classes that are not Advanced Placement or honors courses. Generally, that would mean a maximum of two hours of homework.
Now we get to the rub. How is this to be enforced? One student may take 15 minutes to complete an assignment, another student may take 45 minutes. Does the parent of the 2nd student get to berate the teacher for assigning too much work?

Policies like this are well-intentioned but for the most part unworkable.


mmazenko said...

My AP Lang classes have very little homework because the classroom is where the learning happens - it's not a content-heavy, but a skills course. And my 93% pass rate (60%+ of 4s and 5s) would indicate it's a successful model.

Ellen K said...

For some reason all of our incoming freshmen think that homework is optional and deadlines mean nothing. Consequently out of my total student roster of 90 students, more than 20 are failing. While I don't regularly have long homework assignments, even simple things like "find a photograph" is too overwhelming to accomplish.

Darren said...

Find a photograph? Damn, no wonder your students are failing, you taskmaster.

maxutils said...

The Davis proposal included half an hour each for English and Math, as a starting point. Probably enough to reinforce skills in math, do reading outside of class where it should be done, and too little to allow for the most horrific creation in the history of English classes . . . the 'reading log'.

mrelliott said...

At my school, we've all but eliminated homework because of the lack of responsibility by the students in completing their homework.

The "photograph" assignment at my school would be frowned on because, "If a student who was too poor to afford a newspaper, magazine, or computer should not be penalized, or made to feel bad for their poverty".

But I have to ask how this lack of homework, or restricting homework prepares students for college?

There was a news report on one of our local stations that talked about how graduates at all 4 high schools in our community are not making it their first year in college....even at the local junior college.

Well, their not prepared for rigorous academia.....duh!!!

Geena said...

I don't agree with limiting homework to just reading in elementary school because without the homework I would have no idea what or if my kids are learning. Only in schools where the teaching/curriculum is superior can a parent sit back and expect that their children are receiving an education. I have to reteach my children math on most nights. Without home assignments my children would never have anyone correcting their handwriting and grammar. My children do not ever have any science or history homework though Darren; however, the reason is not because the teachers want to limit homework it is because they do not teach these subjects.

If my kids attended Core Knowledge schools or a classical school of some sort I could agree with you about limiting homework to reading. Since only a tiny fraction of students have this luxury, I'll keep hoping for more homework.