Saturday, April 21, 2012

Implementing the Homework Trap

I've been thinking a great deal about the question of how one implements the concepts I promote in The Homework Trap. I've had over a dozen radio interviews in the past two weeks and the question that consistently comes up and is probably the hardest to answer is how teachers respond to my model. In general, the first response is negative. Upon hearing more detail about the model, it becomes more positive. Then, I talk about what happens when parents propose my model to the school. Again, the first reaction is negative. The second reaction is interesting. It is not necessarily a positive reaction in the sense that everyone agrees with what I recommend, but there is movement in a positive direction. I've know of situations in which my recommendations get rejected formally, but then implemented informally. The parent decides to cap the time the child is required to work. This decision is non-negotiable. The teacher may not agree to modify the penalties but ends up modifying them anyway. It may be that by simply limiting the time the child works, the child ends up rebelling less and doing more of the assignments, and the teacher recognizes the effort and responds to it.

Although this happens, it can be frustrating for parents. After all, the child has different teachers every year, and sometimes, progress is made one year, only to have to go over the same issue the next year. Because of this, it may be necessary to formalize my recommendations in a 504 plan. I always refer to the learning problems as "under the radar" and focus a lot on problems with working memory and processing speed. These are the types of learning problems that should not require special education classification and an IEP but could be incorporated into a 504 plan. The most common 504 plans call for extra time, which may help the child when taking a test, but has no value when given homework to take home, since that extra time does not exist. So we need to work on getting less work into the 504 plan rather than more time.

If you are developing a 504 plan with your child's school, I suggest you mention the concepts in The Homework Trap. Keep in mind, no teacher can implement a plan that teacher has not heard of. So it is important to bring the model with you and to educate the school when asking for what your child needs.

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