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TEACHERS.NET GAZETTE
DECEMBER 2000
Volume 1 Number 10

COVER STORY
Harry and Rosemary Wong are widely regarded as the most reknowned voices in teacher effectiveness. In this month's cover story, the Wongs explore the most integral factors in teacher effectiveness.
COLUMNS
Effective Teaching by Harry Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Alfie Kohn Article
Jan Fisher Column
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
ARTICLES
The Child in the Back
Integrative Curriculum in a Standards-Based World
Math Principles and Standards
What's With This E-Book Stuff?
Laughing All the Way
4 Blocks Framework Inspires
4 Blocks So. Cal. Gathering
Fundraising Award
REGULAR FEATURES
Web News & Events
Letters to the Editor
Archives: End of Homework
New in the Lesson Bank
Upcoming Ed Conferences
Humor from the Classroom
Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
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Best Sellers

The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning
by Etta Kralovec and John Buell

$14.40 from Amazon.com
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Online Meetings Archive...
Teachers.Net hosts live meetings with renowned figures in the field of education. Sign in to one of our free sessions on-line and meet such celebrities as Pat Cunningham, Harry Wong, Howard Gardner, Joe Bonsall, Joan Holub, Esme Codell, and too many others to mention! All live events are at 9pm * Eastern * in the Meeting Room, unless otherwise indicated, and are 100% free of charge for teachers everywhere! Contact Kathleen Carpenter to suggest or inquire about moderating a live event.
November 15, 2000

 

Live Chat
with
Etta Kralovec

buy this book

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 issue. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807042188/teachersnet

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 homework@mint.net

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Etta, did you begin advocating against homework long before writing the book?

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 for years.

Kathleen/Moderator - Certainly, dropping out of school is a terrible effect.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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, worthwhile?

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.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 completed.

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 this?

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, analytical cannot

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.

Kathleen/Moderator - "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.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Etta's co-author, John Buell took his doctorate from the University of Massachusetts http://www.umass.edu/ . 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 .

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 run.

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 informal learning.

Kathleen/Moderator - 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

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 homelives?

Kathleen/Moderator - 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)

Kathleen/Moderator - Developing Homework Policies. ERIC DIGEST http://ericae.net/edo/ED256473.HTM By Yvonne Eddy

Kathleen/Moderator - 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?

Kathleen/Moderator - Young children often beg for homework, sometimes because older siblings have it.

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?

Kathleen/Moderator - No, I don't recall a fifth grader begging for homework. :o )

Kathleen/Moderator - 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?

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 problem?

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???

Kathleen/Moderator - etta, I recall being forced to read lit I ended up enjoying, grateful for the assignment

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Etta, do you find more agreement about the concept of limiting homework among teachers who are parents?

Kathleen/Moderator - 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 process.

beth - Thank you. What is a parent to do if the teacher refuses to lighten up with the homework load?

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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Teachers.Net homework poll: http://teachers.net/gazette/NOV00/poll.html

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Developing Homework Policies (Yvonne Eddy) ERIC reprint: http://teachers.net/gazette/NOV00/eddy.html

Kathleen/Moderator - 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.

Kathleen/Moderator - Teachers.Net is appreciative of your time Etta. Goodnight all, and thank you.

Etta - Thank you for inviting me

Kathleen/Moderator - Goodnight!

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