Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chilling Research on School Dropout

I came across an item that has direct relevance to my homework trap model, even though I’m sure that most people will miss the point. The article is entitled, “Dropout Indicators Found for First-Graders.” It suggests that one can actually predict future school dropouts as early as first grade. In my model, I talk about a life-span problem that starts in elementary school and progresses through middle school and high school in predictable steps. I agree. One can see the pattern as early as first grade.

I’ll quote from the article:

“Similarly, elementary schools very rarely handed out punishments as severe as suspensions, but more subtle behavior cues, such as report card notations of incomplete homework, more accurately signaled future problems for elementary children.”

I think most people will read this paragraph and draw the conclusion that we must ratchet up our efforts to insure that these kids get their homework done, so they can be successful in the later grades. This pressures parents to oversee the work, with the parents getting blamed in similarly subtle ways. The problems with that approach are that it rarely works and it fails to understand why some children have persistent homework problems.

Children go to school for the same amounts of time. They take home the same volume of assignments. We fool ourselves if we think this is equal treatment. The school day is defined by the clock. The homework session is not. Why do we understand that children who work slowly do not have to stay for a longer school day, but then demand that they work longer homework sessions? Homework trapped children can only thrive if the homework session is a fixed amount of time. Once we expect the slow working child to get all the work done, we set that child up for likely failure. It is this misguided expectation that is at the root of the “report card notations,” to which this article refers.


I hope that researchers, teachers, and readers of this article realize that the most rational step following this chilling research is to let up on kids. Don’t let them fail because the homework does not get done. Don’t let them get these negative notations. Teach them in school. Forget about behaviors that are out of the teacher’s control. Families are different. Environments are different. Circumstances are different. Children are different. Don’t try to make parents fit a certain mold. Use the time you have to teach the child in school. And if homework is really important, please, bound it by the clock.


For more information on Dr. Goldberg's model, read other postings on this blog, visit his website, The Homework Trap, or read his book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers. 
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1 comment:

Cindy Temple said...

I am currently a special education teacher in a Title 1 school in Alaska. For the past three years we have used Everyday Math and knowing the program I knew there was a one page homework assignment for each section to reinforce what the student learned that day in school or they may have been asked to play a math game with a friend or family member. What I saw at my current school were huge homework packages going home everyday. that was only one subject and the same teacher would handout reading and writing assignments for homework that night as well. During my first semister at that school my daughter, fifth grader at the time, attended the same school. She had already been tested into the gifted program but no differential instruction was made to the homework. After three hours of gymnastics every night she would come home and I would force the homework get completed in a very motivational approach. She knew as soon as she got to school half the class would ask her for her help because their homework was not completed.
As an educator I enjoy ending my school day coming home enjoying dinner, maybe spend 20-30 minutes on grading papers or planning a lesson. We expect children to stay after school for after school care, get home and then complete 2 hours of homework. I would love for each teacher who assigns homework to work on school work for the same amount of time their students work on homework.
My child's homework story stems from a middle class family both parents have college degrees and we live in a house with 2 adults, 2 children, and a small dog. Now lets look at the typical low-income family living situation. Both adults may work but on different shifts so only one parent is home at a time. Most of our students live in apartments or mobile homes. To save money they double up with family members so what was four people living in a two bedroom apartment is now eight. I have completed home visits and I was saddened to see children trying to complete homework in such chaos. The TV was on, kids were running around, Mom and i were trying to have a parent teacher meeting for the younger student and Auntie was making dinner. The student could not go to his bedroom because he sleeps on the couch. He worked for about 40 minutes when he needed help and the movtivation was quickly going away. The entire time all I could think was why are teachers setting students up for failure. Students homework didn't get completed because of circumstances that were out of his control but to the teacher it is an incomplete.
If teachers are sending work home to finish because you ran out of time then maybe you need to look at your time management. Stop the homework madness!!!