Friday, September 6, 2019

Homework teaches ... nothing, really

Just last week, I read a Q & A in the Long Beach Post with longtime Long Beach Unified School District superintendent Chris Steinhauser. The headline was "Chris Steinhauser is sorry he gave your kid so much homework."

Much more is in the Q & A than that tidbit, but Steinhauser does point out that there is no evidence that homework works. "It's one of those old urban myths," he said.

Thank you!

I've been barking my first-hand experience about how homework doesn't work for years to anyone who will listen, and it was nice to see the Sup tell the truth. As for well-researched books that build on a similar thesis, I recommend The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006) by Alfie Kohn.

It's disheartening to me that our children are still bombarded by homework yet often escape our schools with little skills or education that sticks. The kids are forced to do a compliance dance that doesn't work for anyone who truly wants to be educated. Instead, they do this homework stuff and play short-term memory games.

Now, I know that there are popular arguments out there in favor of homework. In Kohn's book, he seriously considers them and proves why they don't work. I find the best argument in favor of homework to be that repeated practice is necessary in certain subjects, such as math, and there just isn't time for that in class.

First of all, where is the time going? Is it all direct instruction? Then, the next point is that for a typical class, students' skills will be all over the map with homework. Typically, the homework will be too easy or too difficult. To have "sweet zone" homework that is at the exact level for the student mathematically will not happen.
Alfie Kohn is a progressive thinker and educator. Like Jonathan Kozol, he is a hero to me. He's done extensive work on the trouble with standardized testing, grades and rewards, discipline woes and traditional schooling. I love his stuff.

Among traditional teachers, I have long learned to "slow my roll" with them. Some have the capacity to reflect. Some do not. Good school leaders have the skills to build that capacity.

At the end of the day, I still believe in our public schools, and, of course, there are some elite private schools out there that are progressive and excellent. The one thing all good schools tend to do is not assign homework. They understand that the real work is done in classrooms. It's easier to learn in a room of 30 than a room of one.

So I urge any teacher who still thinks homework is a worthwhile part of learning to read The Homework Myth. I also give a shoutout to any teacher who eschews homework and busts his/her butt in the classroom. We need more like you.

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