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- Teachers.Net welcomes our special guest, Etta Kralovec http://www.endhomework.com
, co-author (with John Buell) of The End of Homework How Homework Disrupts
Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning. (Beacon Press, http://www.beacon.org
) The book has received a great deal of attention in the national media.
The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, Redbook, NPR, and The Today Show have
all produced stories and interviews related to the book and the homework
- Etta, is this the url for your office: http://www.tdc-usa.org/Home.html
Etta - yes, my book
website is: http://www.endhomework.com
and my home email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- Etta, your dedication in "The End of Homework" reads: "To Chelsea and
Bryn, with whom I should have spent more time baking cookies and less time
doing homework." And, "To Todd, Elisabeth, and Timothy, in the hope that
they will be able to live in a world that allows them to place sensible
limits on the work of their lives." It appears your concerns about homework
come from personal experience, and from a sense of loss. Is personal experience
the origin of your desire to write this book? For how long have you had
deep concerns about homework?
Etta - I first began
working on the topic when I was conducting a study for the state of Maine's
DEpartment of education on high school drop outs. In interviews with these
students, they all cited homework as one of the reasons why they left school.
I have been in education all my life and had never considered homework
a contributing factor to kids not making it in school.
- What do you believe are the worst side-effects from homework?
Etta - After that
study, my own kids entered middle school and suddenly our family life became
consumed with homework. So my personal and professional life converged
as it were on the topic of homework.
- Etta, did you begin advocating against homework long before writing the
Etta - The worst
side of effects of homework are that kids can never escape the role of
student or get away from their identity as a student. Another very difficult
problem has to do with the way homework effects parents relationships with
their kids. Those relationship are fragile and homework often sours them
- Certainly, dropping out of school is a terrible effect.
- The authors contend, "Homework appears to disadvantage children by assuming
they have a 'quiet, well-lit place to study,'" If we all need [such a]
place to study far away from the TV, we know a perfect place that meets
those requirements. The schoolhouse." Is homework ever appropriate, productive,
etta - The kinds
of work that is the best of homework, independent work that makes the learning
the student's own, long term research project, all have an important place
in an academic program, I just think that work should be done during the
school day under the guidance of professional teachers where all students
have access to educational resources.
Mary/PA - Are the
ill effects of homework a development in more recent years or has this
problem existed for decades?
etta - Homework has
always been a contentious issue, but with the changes in American family
life in the last 20 years, more parents working longer hours, more single
parent households, this isn't the world of Ozzie and Harriet any more and
our schooling practices need to reflect those social changes.
Renja - Actually Etta
already answered my question. I give long term assignments & only when
a student does not finish in class is the student expected to take it home
etta - Renja is lucky
many teachers today are required to assign a certain amount of homework.
- In many communities, "the homework problem" comes in two forms: "not
enough homework" and "too much homework." Teachers and school administrators
scramble to appease both sides, while attempting to meet tougher and tougher
standards imposed upon them as the result of standardized testing. With
more and more content to teach each day, what advice do you have for teachers
who believe that homework is necessary in order to help students attain
the skills for which they, and the schools, are held accountable?
etta - That is a
really tough issue that teachers face they are squeezed from a number of
different directions. Many teachers tell me that since they are being held
accountable more and more for their student's learning, they don't leave
any of it up to parents.
Mary/PA - Should the
school day be lengthened to pick up the slack?
etta - I think we
need to look at lengthening the school day in order to meet increased standards.
FrannyB - As an educator
I have always seen the positive side of homework as reinforcement of concepts
introduced in class and as a means of informing parents as to what's being
learned in the classroom. As a parent, however, I'm overwhelmed with one
project after another! I have four children. My older two have already
graduated and I feel the amount of parent involvement has changed over
the past ten years.
etta - Franny, for
years I too wore two hats and felt as you did, and yes, the amount of parent
involvement has increased in the last few years, homework has gotten "more
creative" which translates into harder.
- Etta, how is your message being received by the various constituencies
(parents, educators, politicians)?
etta - Parents and
teachers are all looking for answers and very open to the fact that the
topic is on the table, politicians use homework as school reform on the
cheap, they can call for higher education standards without calling for
increased spending, a very popular move for politicians.
FrannyB - Our district
recently adopted Chicago Math which expects parents to do the math homework
with the children nightly as opposed to simply checking their work when
etta - and isn't
it in Chicago where they are grading parents on their homework with their
kids? What about the kids whose parents work at night?
Renja - I am seeing
students who are VERY involved in soccer, dance, etc., . etta are you also
suggesting a longer school year? How about two types of diplomas, as in
the british system?
etta - The extra
activities do compete with school work, but kids need to do more than the
narrow types of activities that school includes. Howard Gardner talks about
multiple intelligences and how school work only touches 2 of our 8 intelligences,
so all the other kinds of activities are actually important for kids full
development and for finding kids strengths.
etta - I think we
could look at a longer school year
Mary/PA - In addition
to lengthening the school day, has anyone ever looked into the amount of
"extra" things we keep interjecting into the school calendar. It seems
that every year we have more interruptions to our normal routine that take
time away from what we have to do to accomplish the goals of the curriculum.
etta - Indeed the
school calendar is jammed with stuff, we need to be more respectful of
life in the classroom and quit interrupting it.
Renja - The new buzz
word I am hearing is global vs analytical learners, how does homework affect
etta - Help me out
on the global vs analytical learners, these are new terms to me.
Renja - global are
the ones who can work on more than one project at a time, analytical focus
on one thing at a time at least that is my understanding
Renja - an example
is that I will read more than one book at a time & keep the plots straight,
etta - I think there
are many different kinds of learning styles and that is one of the problems
with set homework times, it takes different amounts of time for different
kinds of learners to do the work.
- "Homework Does Not Belong on the Agenda for Educational Reform," Educational
Leadership 43, no. 8 (May 1986): 56
FrannyB - Don't you
think that before we look at extending the school year we should examine
current practices and "weed" the garden? It's quality not quantity that
will improve our public educational system.
- good point, FrannyB
etta - I think there
is a lot of weeding to do yes, and we certainly need to look at the structure
of the school day, I am certain that with all the good thinking of teachers
we could really come up with some very good alternatives to the way we
use our school days.
- Etta's co-author, John Buell took his doctorate from the University of
. He has taught at the College of the Atlantic and is a former associate
editor of The Progressive. His books include Democracy by Other Means http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0252064712/teachersnet
and Sustainable Democracy http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0761902228/teachersnet
- Etta, excerpt: "Perhaps children would thrive and even learn better,
not only in the long run but even on a day-to-day basis, if they had a
little more space for a world of play and fantasy, if their lives were
not fully colonized by the demands of schools or parents." Do you see that
concept catching on, or are we moving in the other direction?
etta - We have certainly
been moving in the other direction, but I think that one of the reasons
that our book has received so much press is that people are feeling we
have moved too far away from some central values that many of us hold and
also that the time squeeze that most of us feel is not healthy in the long
Mary/PA - What are
some examples of how homework hinders or limits learning?
etta - Kids are in
school for 8 hours a day and that means that when they go home and have
hours of homework their world has narrowed considerably. We all learn from
our activities in life, working in community groups, scouting, etc. when
kids have no time for other types of activities than school they are not
learning all they could learn from being in other modalities and from more
- Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS) National Network of Partnership
Schools, INTERACTIVE HOMEWORK in Math, Science/Health, and Language Arts.
Joyce L. Epstein, Johns Hopkins University Center on School, Family, and
Community Partnerships, http://www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/tips.htm
- Etta, you write about an "uneven playing field" which causes severe inequities
in children's ability to do homework, or to do it as well as others do.
Would you explain what causes that uneven playing field?
etta - educational
resources are distributed very unequally in this society. Some kids have
well educated parents, computers and massive home libraries, other kids
have parents who work at night and no educational resources in the home.
How can we expect kids to compete equally when they go home to very different
- Etta, but sometimes it is the busiest parents with the least resources
who are most anxious to comply with homework requirements (not a question,
just an observation)
- Developing Homework Policies. ERIC DIGEST http://ericae.net/edo/ED256473.HTM
By Yvonne Eddy
- Harris M. Cooper, The Battle Over Homework: An Administrator's Guide
to Setting Sound and Effective Policies http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0803961634/teachersnet
Mary/PA - Is there
a particular grade level where homework begins to interfere with life and
learning? Or is this problem found at all levels?
- Young children often beg for homework, sometimes because older siblings
etta - It seems that
when kids get to around 5th grade homework starts becoming a problem and
in middle school things escalate.
etta - Do you hear
them begging by the time they get to fifth grade?
- No, I don't recall a fifth grader begging for homework. :o )
- Etta, do you consider assigned reading of literature one of the homework
assignments which should be more limited?
etta - I find the
use of the term comply telling, we talk about homework being the communication
link between the family and the school and yet parents comply with school
policies on homework, where is the communication in that process?
- etta, for young children we often assign tasks that require participation
by parents, such as sharing a book, making a project. Is that always a
etta - Lots of kids
love to read and spend their summers with books, I find it sad that my
kids always had assigned reading in school and never got to read books
for fun, unless they had a great English teacher who let them read novels
of their own choosing, but that was the exception rather than the rule,
I was an English teacher in high school for many years and I still wonder
if I killed any of my student's love of reading by all the assigned reading
I gave for homework???
- etta, I recall being forced to read lit I ended up enjoying, grateful
for the assignment
- Etta, I say that to make you feel better, not as an argument that it's
always a good idea to select the lit for the students
etta - I think that
it is really important that parents are involved in their child's education,
but I think parents have educational agendas of their own that they need
time to pursue. I think it is a problem when parents have a full day and
then have to sit down at night and do the unfinished work of the school
day. I don't send topics to school for my son's teacher to teach, why should
teachers send assignments home to me as a parent?
Mary/PA - Parents
often seem to like homework because it gets the kids "out of their hair."
What suggestions do you have to offer teachers when pushed for a response
when parents ask for homework or more homework?
etta - Mary, I think
teachers need to play a leadership role on this issue and help parents
understand the complex process that we call teaching and learning and also
help parents understand that piles of homework is neither the sign of a
good teacher, school or a rigorous academic program. Parents are cross-pressured
on this issue. They want their children to succeed and they also suffer
from tremendous disruptions in their homes. As educators, we need to work
this problem through with parents. There was a really good piece on this
very topic in the New York Times, Oct. 29 issue in the editorial section.
- Etta, do you find more agreement about the concept of limiting homework
among teachers who are parents?
- Etta, as a parent I've appreciated homework, projects which were due
at least a week after assignment. With adequate time, many assignments
felt appropriate and caused much less stress.
etta - Teachers who
struggle with homework at home certainly have a different view of the problems
with homework. There are many teachers who are as overwhelmed with the
practice as parents and who are concerned that they are being held accountable
for work that they have no idea who is doing, when homework goes home,
the teacher has no control over who does it, and has lost their ability
to know the learning level of the student. For many teachers, in this age
of greater teacher accountability, they want more control over the whole
beth - Thank you.
What is a parent to do if the teacher refuses to lighten up with the homework
etta - I encourage
parents to work in teams and to go to the principal, teachers typically
have no control over how much homework they assign, homework policies are
usually set by the school boards for an entire district. the teacher is
as trapped in this process as the parent. Visit the principal with other
parents who are concerned about homework levels.
- Teachers.Net homework poll: http://teachers.net/gazette/NOV00/poll.html
- Etta, I don't think a teacher who hasn't experienced the frenzy and stress
of life with homework can fully understand the problem.
Etta - I agree with
you Kathleen that folks who aren't parents have a hard time understanding
what all the fuss is about. And yes, I do present at professional conferences,
I was a professor of education for over 10 years and did all the usual
professional meetings and lots of women's studies conferences because I
do think this is a very big topic for women especially and I also do in-service
for school districts.
- Developing Homework Policies (Yvonne Eddy) ERIC reprint: http://teachers.net/gazette/NOV00/eddy.html
- Etta, thank you for coming to chat with us on the topic of homework!
And thank you to all who participated by posting questions or reading along
out there in cyberland.
- Teachers.Net is appreciative of your time Etta. Goodnight all, and thank
Etta - Thank you
for inviting me
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