Outside of dealing with parents whose children can do no wrong, there is probably no more contentious issue between a school and home than homework assignments. The issue is clouded with research that indicates that has been proven that homework hurts students, doesn’t make any difference, helps students, or all of the above. In other words there clearly is no final word on the benefits or harm done by asking a student to work outside of school.
The reason that homework has been an issue may not have anything to do with education, but with power. Who controls a student’s time; is it the child, the parent, or the school? This power struggle is further hampered by No Child Left Behind in its test driven fury. Some schools find there isn’t enough time in the day to cover the required materials so they pile on homework in the hopes that some will stick and add another point to the final tally.
There has been a wide variety of studies about homework; ERIC alone has 3660 listed. But they may ignore a basic value of homework as the meeting point between school and home. Active parents can provide help, and keep track of their child’s progress. They can quickly inform a teacher of concerns and seek remediation. Homework is where the teacher, student, and parent come together. However, this does require a respect for the system. A parent who sees education as a means to an end promotes homework completion as part of this inculcation of values. The parent who does not care or sees such assignments as infringements on their rights is another matter. These parents may feel that playing sports, taking music lessons, or even school time vacations are better uses of their child’s time, and who can argue with that belief.
So what is a teacher to do? First, give as many homework assignments as you wish, but make them important to the topic. There are four main reasons teachers assign homework such as practicing, adding depth and variations, instilling time management and responsibility values, and finishing work not completed in class. All of these could be done if a teacher were given enough time in the school day and if the class sizes were not overwhelming. On the other hand, there would be no important meeting of the school and home. This latter concept cannot be emphasized enough.
Parents have a complicated task when homework is involved. They have to make sure there is a place for it to be done, free from distractions and yet not so private that supervision is not convenient, especially if the Internet is involved. Next, the parent needs to insure consistency. Placing a calendar on the refrigerator and having a student write down the homework assignments when they are given makes it easy to check. As well, an appointment calendar is important for them to carry. Finally, and perhaps the most difficult, parents must not be afraid to seek help if they don’t understand the homework. This usually happens with math. There are an abundance of homework help sites and all major textbooks have help sites as well.
Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, Calif., and makes staff development presentations nationwide. In addition, he serves as an audio-visual evaluator and design consultant for his county department of education; a tutor to multi-cultural students in English and art; and an Internet consultant.
Haskvitz's career spans more than 20 years. He has taught every grade level and core subject, has been recognized repeatedly for innovative teaching and has received the following honors, among many:
USA Today All Star Teacher
100 Most Influential Educators
Reader's Digest Hero in Education
Learning Magazine's Professional Best
National Middle Level Teacher of the Year
National Exemplary Teacher
Christa McAuliffe National Award
Robert Cherry International Award for Great Teachers
In addition, Haskvitz publishes articles on successful educational practices and speaks at conferences. He has served on seven national committees and boards.
Haskvitz maintains credentials and training in special and gifted education, history, administration, bilingual education, journalism, English, social studies, art, business, computers, museumology and Asian studies. He holds these credentials for Canada, New York and California. His experience also includes staff development, gifted curriculum design, administration, community relations and motivation. His background includes 10 years of university education.
As a teacher, Haskvitz's curriculum increased CAP/CLAS test scores from the 22nd percentile to the 94th percentile, the largest gain in California history. In addition, Haskvitz and his students work continuously to improve their school and community. His students' work is often selected for awards in competitions in several subject areas. For more details about Alan and his students' work, visit his page on the Educational Cyber Playground.