Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Too much homework?

I don't recall doing much homework until I was in high school. My grade school kids already have quite a bit to do, although I wouldn't say it has reached an excessive level. It is however clear that school is more serious than when I was a kid. In elementary school they didn't really know what to do with me so I spent a lot of time reading in the library. For some reason our library had all six volumes of Gibbon's History and Decline of the Roman Empire and Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I could read pretty well but unfortunately no one tried to teach me any advanced math.
Atlantic Monthly: My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me

What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter's nightly workload, tries to do her homework for a week

... whenever I bring up the homework issue with teachers or administrators, their response is that they are required by the state to cover a certain amount of material. There are standardized tests, and everyone—students, teachers, schools—is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed. During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.

... My daughter has the misfortune of living through a period of peak homework.

It turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement. According to a 2005 study by the Penn State professors Gerald K. LeTendre and David P. Baker, some of the countries that score higher than the U.S. on testing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—Japan and Denmark, for example—give less homework, while some of those scoring lower, including Thailand and Greece, assign more. Why pile on the homework if it doesn’t make even a testable difference, and in fact may be harmful?

“It’s a response to this whole globalized, competitive process,” says Richard Walker, a co-author of the book Reforming Homework. “You get parents demanding their children get more homework because their children are competing against the whole world.”

The irony is that some countries where the school systems are held up as models for our schools have been going in the opposite direction of the U.S., giving less homework and implementing narrower curricula built to encourage deeper understanding rather than broader coverage. ...


Diogenes said...

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

steve has never discoursed on late roman history. gibbon blamed christianity. i do too.

i was sent to the library, but in hs. gibbon and aquinas were my pastime.

oregonlocal said...

My solid geometry/trig teacher in high school had the absolutely best homework scheme ever. Every day at the start of class he gave us a quiz on yesterday's lesson. Anyone who got an A on the quiz didn't have to turn in their homework which of course was based on the previous day's lesson. What bliss it was! A whole year without any math homework. Everyone did have to take the quiz though.

Diogenes said...

BJT THE REALLY BIG POINT which steve and any journalist will miss:

educational attainment is a very imperfect proxy for class, and education is NOT the high road to bettering oneself.

obama and his liberal imbeciles want everyone to go to college.

using educational attainment as a proxy for class is yet another americanism, like race, which allows class to be ignored, allows innate inequality to be ignored, etc.

the ENTSCHLOSSEN to the stupid people problem is not a college degree.

how long until the inner greatness and truth of national socialism is apparent to all? europeans have been fooling latin america's indigenous and blacks for 500 years.

Diogenes said...

more hw is the result of the educationists buying into the idea that if only everyone were edumacated there would be no poor people and inequality would be greatly reduced. it's an arms race, and even further enriches the american elite which is mediated by educational attainment in pushy, obedient strivers like oregon local.

anything to avoid the issue of INNATE inequality and class.

BobSykes said...

There is a very strong racial component in education outcomes, and studies that do not separate out the races are meaningless. It has long been known that if the US's PISA scores are broken out by race American whites score about the same as European whites, American Asians score like the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, and American blacks score like Caribbean black.

oregonlocal said...

"pushy, obedient strivers like oregon local"

Dude, I'm retired! Just keep sure you keep paying your Social Security taxes. LOL

I do stand guilty as charged for being an at least semi-ambitious cog in the great technocratic machine during my more professionally active years.

Raghu Parthasarathy said...

I wonder how much regional variation there is in homework amounts. Like you, I don't recall having a lot of homework when I was a kid, and I also spent a lot of time reading. K (grade 3) doesn't have much homework either, perhaps a consequence of Oregon's generally relaxed attitudes to everything. I'm not sure what I think of this -- I'm glad that K. can spend a lot of time reading, designing Lego structures, and drawing, and that he views things like math puzzles as fun rather than work. However, I don't like the cause of this being a community that thinks it's OK to have only 166 school days per year, and of course I worry that kids without external stimulation don't learn much and end up further behind. Returning to the point: there's a neat infographic to be made of geographical variation in homework time!

Richard Seiter said...

That sounds like a great idea for an infographic. I went looking for data and found http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/dataproducts.asp, but it looks like location data is suppressed in the publicly available data (even at the level of state, what a waste...). Does anyone know of a data source which includes homework time by state?

Kennon Gilson said...

My father was educated in Spain during the Franco era where homework was not required but assignments were done in the school.
At that time HS graduates were expected to have passed courses in comparative political philosophy, sociology, and did DiffyQ and what is today a US college course in discrete math in preparation to the transition to full democracy. In 1973 they began to change the system to be more like the US under pressure of the US and this caused student protests against the dumbing down of curriculum, and also introduced homework.
I wonder what the schools are like now in Spain.

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