The debate on how homework helps teachers continues in education with cheers and jeers on both sides of the issue. Students and many parents are cheering that the new school trend is helping to eliminate the excessive loads of homework that lead to the reduction of quality family time. Teachers are left wondering why would an education board of directors eliminate one of the needed tools that help to reinforce classroom instruction and activities. Without homework, teachers will need to develop additional strategies that help their students meet achievement outlined by state standards and assessments.
According to the article, Another School District Says ‘No’ To Homework, the superintendent of schools in Florida’s Marion Country has done away with homework at their elementary schools. Heidi Maier of the Marion County School District has directed the teachers at her county’s 31 schools to stop providing homework to their students. According to the superintendent, “The research showed that students who are given a preponderance of homework do not perform better, or get better grades, than those who do not.” However, there will be exceptions for special projects and research papers, but gone are the days of time-consuming homework packets being sent home in backpacks every night. Instead, the teachers will encourage parents to read with their children for at least 20 minutes each evening after school lets out.
Maier came to this decision after studying research from University of Tennessee professor Richard Allington. Allington, a professor of theory and practice in teacher education, put forth the idea that students benefit from being relieved of the stress of school work when they get home, and that reading to kids has more benefits.
This new strategy will backfire for several reasons. The first reason that this strategy will backfire is due to the implementation of the strategy utilized by the superintendent. The research is isolated and the superintendent should have piloted the new strategy at one of the elementary schools before making it a district wide initiative.
Effective leaders challenge processes by using pilot groups to solve problems. However, the superintendent has taken a power over top down approach. Top-down leadership approaches assume the right idea and legitimate authority will ensure organizational change without considering that midlevel and lower level positions create ways to undermine and overthrow transformation initiatives.
You cannot get people to do things by forcing them. Ordering teachers will not help to solve problems related to the new initiative. Adults see problems as an incompetence indicator and create defenses that prevent problem recognition.
Teachers will undermine the initiative because they know that homework helps to reinforce daily instructional activities. When challenged, teachers will resort to their union representation as an alternative to provide students with additional homework. They may even resort to labeling it as “supplemental activities”. This initiative is doomed to fail.
Even though the parents are on board with the elimination of homework, when a student is failing they will blame the new initiative as the source of the students failure. The students failures will be reflected in achievement measures associated with state standardized assessments.
The other factor regarding how homework helps teachers is related to student progress. When students are completing homework on a daily interval, teachers have an opportunity to assess their learning progress. Without homework, teachers will have to rely on informal classwork assessments and students responses to gauge their progress. This will not be enough to keep students from struggling with the subject matter.
Finally, to request that parents read to their children for twenty minutes, falls short of the reason for learning how to read. the focus of reading is reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is the ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning. This will make the difference in the student’s progress!!!
Another question that needs to be answered is; What content area will dominate the focus of this initiative?
The alternative to the no homework initiative could become costly for many parents. When their children begin to struggle, it will result in additional cost related to after-school supplemental instruction and activities. All in all, homework helps teachers to become better at the craft of educating our children.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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