Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homework in the News March 3

Grading Upgrade: Warren Local

Here is another school district which is taking steps in the national movement to revise homework policy. The notion of a grading floor is essential and I am glad they recognize the mathematical problems factoring zeros into the grade. The article appears related to high school. I would be interested in knowing what the school district is doing in the lower grades, where it is critical, as children form their sense of self, that there be modification of grades, and increased respect for parental authority in the home.

Homework ruins childhood

Here is a child's opinion about homework. I'm glad this newspaper saw fit to publish the comment. The general message is that we should include the children's voices in the discussion, not just discount them because they are children.

Arlington program helps students keep up with their homework, peers 

My guess is that a few students may have been "helped" by this program, but that the school is deceiving itself thinking that it helps most students, and that students who are persistently unable to complete their assignments are going to benefit from missing lunch day after day. Sure, there may be some students who get behind one day and it helps them catch up. But lunch matters. Socialization with other youth during lunch hour matters. I don't think this can serve as a long-term solution.

How Head Start Can Make a Difference

This story is not directly about homework, but I thought it was worth commenting on. Here's the comment I submitted to The New York Times.

 I have no doubt that Head Start helps. What happens after that is multi-determined. One common factor that affects parents who lack means differently from those of means is over placement. There are many children who are developmentally not ready for kindergarten even if they qualify by age. Children who are born premature are even less likely to be ready for school. In the suburbs, parents of boys born one or two months before the school registration cutoff date typically hold their children back one year. It is what those kids need, and it is possible because they can afford to pay for that extra year of preschool. Further,  many suburban school districts provide for that transitional K or 1st grade class whereas overstressed city schools cannot. Then, there are the problems that develop once homework gets assigned. Not an issue in preschool, homework can exaggerate differences between families. The fact that parents love their children and are deeply involved does not mean that their circumstances and homes are set up to support homework demands. I see many low income parents in my clinical practice who are completely stressed out because of this. Lessen the homework requirement. Teach kids in school. And I think you'll see better long-term results.

Faulty thinking patterns won’t help kids grow

This article raises a question about why children lie about homework. The author, a psychologist, supports the parents in punishing the child for not doing her work and for lying as well. If this is the one and only time Amanda has not done her work or made up such lies, then I might agree with what the author says. In my experience, situations like this are persistent, and develop over many years of homework noncompliance.  What gets missed is that the child is confronted with a situation that she cannot manage, for one reason or another. I call these reasons under the radar learning disorders and argue that the focus must be educational, not moral or behavioral.  Children who are persistently homework noncompliant learn to lie, cheat, procrastinate, misplace and forget as adaptive strategies to the unrelenting pressures placed on them by parents and teachers alike, to do something they cannot do.

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