I was asked to contact you regarding Joe and the recommendations I made about him. For sure, please feel free to call me (on my office or my cell phone) if you have any questions. From what I was told, it appears that there is agreement on my recommendations for Joe, but that the concerns have more to do with the impact they may have on school district policy and other children as well. If that is the issue, I can speak about that briefly here.
Several years ago, Professor Jay Kuder, of Rowan University, and I presented the model from which these recommendations evolve at the annual conference of the National Association of School Psychologists in New Orleans. There, we got positive feedback, yet most people attending the workshop thought that teachers would never accept what we had to say. I understand that the model we propose has broad implications on education (specifically homework) policy. Yet, it is quite important that these adjustments occur, not just for the sake of young people like Joe but for the schools as well.
A member of a child study team once told me that 50% of all referrals she received centered on issues of homework compliance. The truth, which many people fail to understand, is that behavioral problems are an outgrowth of homework problems, not the cause of them. Chronic homework problems are typically learning problems in disguise (I call them under the radar learning disabilities), ones that are not severe enough to warrant classification, but significant enough to make homework completion difficult, and, far more difficult than to have classroom success. Because the child seems bright and functions well in school, teachers make the understandable, but still erroneous, assumption that they can complete the work at home. Then, when work fails to get done, parents and teachers meet together. The child’s reaction is to resist. The resistance is deemed a behavioral problem, the child study team gets involved, and rather than deal with the academic issue, we’re dealing with behavioral problems. This is frustrating to teachers as it disrupts their classrooms and interferes with what they love to do – teach children. It is disruptive to school administrators as they spend their time managing disciplinary problems which got manufactured by the system itself.
It is because of this that I wrote The Homework Trap. Although my book was directed to parents, I agree with Dr. Cathy Vatterott, author of the well-regarded (No. 1 result on an amazon.com homework search) book, “Rethinking Homework,” who said “It should be required reading for all teachers, school counselors, and principals.” The Homework Trap actually covers two primary issues. First, I provide an explanation about what happens to homework trapped kids under constant homework pressure. Then, I offer my recommendations. The letter you received focuses on my recommendations, but does not include my analysis of what is actually happening from the child’s point of view. Regardless of what decisions your school district makes, I think it is important that such decisions take place with an accurate understanding about what common strategies to get children back on track are actually doing.