Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three components to a coherent homework policy

Here's a comment I made when I learned that a school district was looking to create a new policy on homework.

I think there are three components to a coherent homework policy which are absolutely essential. First, homework "time" should be measured by the clock, not by the assignment. Adults work fixed hours. A child's school day starts and stops with a bell. No child should have to work an open-ended period of time.The prevailing standard is ten minutes per night per grade, M-Th, with the weekends off. Your school district may want to tweek those numbers, but under no circumstance, should any child be required to work more than that amount. If the child is having trouble getting the work done, observe the child, identify the problem, and teach the child to use the time well.

The second critical component to a coherent homework policy is to modify the penalties. Homework, depending on the grade, should take about 10% of the child's education day (school and homework time combined). So homework should not account for more than 10% of the grade. Further homework should not pull grades down below an ordinary F, so there should be a penalty floor (60%) below which the homework grade cannot drop even if nothing at all has been done.

Third, there needs to be a clear understanding that parents are the heads of their homes and that homework is assigned with their tacit permission. In the end, when homework difficulties arise, teachers should defer to parents in deciding what to do.

Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. Author of The Homework Trap.

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