Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Case for Homework
I remember my elementary aged son coming home from school, dropping his backpack, grabbing some food and then running out the back door and tearing around the yard for hours, playing.  I also recall him working on a video with friends, in the back yard, filming, shouting French phrases, laughing, and then spending hours upon hours editing which was long and arduous, but he kept at it (this was a homework assignment).  I recall my daughter cranking out essay after essay for her senior English class during, groan, “boot camp.”  (Which later in college she said helped her learn to write more than any other experience). I was thinking about homework and how there is value in having students complete work outside of school.  This teaches both academic content and discipline.  However, our ire rises when a child is home, not wanting or able to do the work -- or we feel the angst of a parent trying to help their son or daughter who is exhausted or reluctant, or when homework creates a conflict around vacation or family time.
Perseverance is a trait cited repeatedly by colleges and industry as necessary for success.  We all know that those students who have sticktoitiveness and keep at the work learn valuable and necessary life lessons.  The questions becomes, how much of this is good?.  What is the role of homework? Everyone has opinions.  What kind of homework, how much, how hard, how often?  As you can imagine there are strong opinions on all aspects of the homework question.  Some feel as though completing homework is essential to success.  Others feel that children should only have focused and specific types of homework, yet others feel there should be limited or no homework. Often, when discussing homework, an individual might say “Research says that.....” and cite one of many studies.  
Homework is well researched over time, geographic locations, age groups and content areas.  Cooper, Robinson and Pitall (2006) wrote an in depth analysis of all of the homework research over a 16 year period --they looked at ALL the research into homework.   Their conclusion is that homework does improve achievement, but there are limitations, optimum amounts and other factors that influence both the impact and success of homework.
Several weeks ago the high school literary magazine hosted a showing of Race to Nowhere.  This film discusses some of our cultural values around our schedules, pressures and homework.  The film presents a perspective around homework. Following the viewing, a panel of teachers and students replied to questions and discussed homework.  I was refreshed by the student led event, and the current work of students at the high school who are sharing thoughts and opinions about homework.
As we move forward, I ask that we all take pause to look at the accumulated research. As a Supervisory Union, we have a policy on homework and with  that policy comes specific guidelines.  It is my role to develop those guidelines, and I invite all community members (PreK through 12th grade) - students, parents, teachers, to one or some of our four forums- two are in physical locations and two are digital through twitter and google+. During the forums, I will very briefly (five to ten minutes) share summaries of the research about the purpose and impact of homework.  I will then ask for your experiences and insights so I can use  information, along with the research,  to help craft inclusive and  appropriate homework guidelines. Please join in the conversation!

Monday April 15th Brown’s RIver Middle School Library 7 pm to 8 pm,

Tuesday April 16th Camel’s Hump Middle School Library 7 pm to 8 pm
Wednesday April 17th @jencesuvt #cesuvt Twitter conversation 7 pm to 8 pm  
Wednesday May 1st Google+Hangout - Join Jennifer Botzojorns 7:30-8:30 pm

Cooper, H., Robinson, J., Patall, E. (2006).  Does Homework Improve Achievement?  A Synthesis of Research 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research. Vol. 76, No. 1. pp 1-62.