One Giant Step Backwards, One Baby Step Forward

Palm Beach County, Florida, instituted a new homework policy over the summer, allowing for 60 minutes of homework in third grade and 90 minutes in 4th and 5th. According to an article in the Florida Sun Sentinel, parents are up in arms. (If you’re one of those parents, please let me know.)

At the same time, also in Florida, the Collier County School District in Naples instituted a new policy of abolishing the grading of homework. Its new policy came about after the District, in response to parental concerns, looked at research into best practices. According to Naples News, the Chief Instructional Officer wrote in a memo to middle school principals, “Research advocates that homework receive teacher feedback versus a grade; the concept here is that we should have the opportunity to practice before we receive a grade. Think of it as learning to drive — you must have the opportunity to practice on many occasions — with feedback — before you go to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to be tested.”

14 Comments on “One Giant Step Backwards, One Baby Step Forward”

  1. PsychMom says:

    “the concept here is that we should have the opportunity to practice before we receive a grade. Think of it as learning to drive — you must have the opportunity to practice on many occasions — with feedback — before you go to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to be tested.”

    I’d love to hear from some teachers in the adult education world…..
    What are the differences between teaching adults and teaching children? Why do educators constantly rely on the adult world in setting expectations for young children?

    I don’t know of too many 5 year olds who go to the DMV. I don’t know too many 5 year olds who learn anything in preparation for a test!

    September 16th, 2009 at 11:17 am
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  2. HomeworkBlues says:

    Palm Beach County, Florida, instituted a new homework policy over the summer, allowing for 60 minutes of homework in third grade and 90 minutes in 4th and 5th. According to an article in the Florida Sun Sentinel, parents are up in arms. (If you’re one of those parents, please let me know.)

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This is outrageous. But I believe it can be turned around in a heartbeat if parents rebel. Don’t do it, don’t do it.

    Further proof that educators know and assign anyway. With all sorts of ridiculous justifications. Dress up a bad practice any way you want, it’s still a bad practice.

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:36 pm
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  3. April says:

    I’m really glad I don’t live in Palm Beach County!

    I am encouraged by the baby step, though. The only value I can see in homework is the opportunity for a teacher to ensure that the students have understood the lesson.

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:37 pm
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  4. HomeworkBlues says:

    From the article: “To prepare for the change, elementary school principals this summer agreed to set homework expectations: A maximum of one hour daily for third-graders and 90 minutes for fourth- and fifth-graders.”

    But you know what? That’s what it was for my daughter.
    The school just didn’t admit it. In fact, it was even considerably longer than these times. If you spoke up, they’d say, but it’s only supposed to take a half hour! By whose standards?

    Do educators truly believe that an eight year old, who’s been sitting still in school (or trying to) for six and a half hours, is going to be able to get an hour’s worth of homework done in one hour? At the end of a long day, when he’s already tired? Would someone research how much recess third grade gets at this school district?

    That’s not an hour’s homework, as onerous as that already sounds. That’s an all night affair and it’ll cut into his sleep time. Not only will the children gain weight, they will come to school distracted because they were up too late doing homework. Been There Done That.

    Funny thing is? If it really was a half hour, he might do it. Even effortlessly some days. Not that I advocate for even thirty minutes. School thinks, thirty minutes worked, let’s try forty five. Well, that seemed to have worked. Now let’s go an hour.

    It’s like the frog in the hot water. Throw a frog into boiling water and he’ll hop out. Put him in cold and turn up the heat slowly? He’ll never notice and eventually die. Except in this case, the little froggies won’t die. They will rebel! Should have stopped while you were still ahead?

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
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  5. PsychMom says:

    April…I’d like to follow up on what you said.

    “That way the teacher knows if the students understood the lesson”

    What if she actually had time to look at the homework of all 30 kids in her Grade 4 class? What if she found 5 kids that didn’t “understand the lesson”? So what? 3 kids didn’t do the homework at all…5 didn’t do it correctly..So a quarter of the class is not on the same page. What does she do then? She’s on to the next topic and won’t have time to go back and just assigns more homework the next night.
    It’s pointless…it is without point….it is full of no point!

    But, what if she doesn’t assign any homework and uses the time that she would have spent checking homework to review what she talked about the day before and engages the kids in talking about what they did in class the day before. She could zero in on the ones who she already knows didn’t get it, and run at the topic from a new perspective, all the while building in new ideas for the ones who got it and need more. The teacher needs to spend more of her day interacting with the kids…that’s how she’ll know that they understood. You ask questions, you engage…any parent knows that you don’t ask a kid, “How was your day at school?” You ask “who did you play with” “Did the puddle dry up in the school yard?” …..anything that draws them back into what they were doing all day.

    Homework doesn’t teach anything but how to do homework.

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:55 pm
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  6. Sara Bennett says:

    Imagine how much time is spent on homework in the average classroom–collect the homework, go over the homework, assign the next day’s homework, mete out discipline to those who didn’t do the homework. (It adds up to about 20 minutes of class time.) Teachers who have stopped giving homework always comment on how much more time they have for teaching.

    September 16th, 2009 at 1:24 pm
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  7. HomeworkBlues says:

    PsychMom wonders: “But, what if she doesn’t assign any homework and uses the time that she would have spent checking homework to review what she talked about the day before and engages the kids in talking about what they did in class the day before. She could zero in on the ones who she already knows didn’t get it, and run at the topic from a new perspective, all the while building in new ideas for the ones who got it and need more. The teacher needs to spend more of her day interacting with the kids…that’s how she’ll know that they understood.”

    There doesn’t seem to be room for rational debate. That’s too logical. It makes sense. Why go the sane route? Better to spend gobs of our tax dollars in this economic downturn, spend precious hours of teachers’ “in service” training time, time that is better spent on actually preparing for the new year, and dreaming up these cockamamie homework stunts.

    September 16th, 2009 at 1:43 pm
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  8. HomeworkBlues says:

    Sara, your case is exactly what my consultant made when I needed some hand holding back in 7th grade. I was nervous and although my gut was screaming for a new exciting approach to learning, one that banished sleep deprivation, play deprivation, family deprivation, art deprivation, reading deprivation, writing deprivation and joy deprivation, I was still playing devil’s advocate.

    People pointed out all the time that is wasted just running the homework machine. Collecting, assigning, punishing, rewarding. Why, there’s no time left over to actually review the homework!

    My allies, not anti school, not rabid, not wing nuts, just countered my devil’s advocate. They made me see (and I’d already come to this conclusion) just how much time is wasted at school. And above all, how much time and fear go into just cracking that homework whip. We might justify it if lead to something good. But if doesn’t even do that!

    Can you imagine twenty minutes lost to homework administration? And Sara, I’ve seen actual breakdowns of how time is used at school and twenty minutes is conservative. And once students have one teacher per subject, you can pretty much multiply that by seven. No wonder homework gets sent home. There’s so much wasted effort in the classroom, there’s no time to actually learn anything.

    September 16th, 2009 at 1:53 pm
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  9. zzzzz78759 says:

    I’ve been wanting to ask (though I’m too polite to do so) if, perhaps, the teacher could stop on over at my office for a couple of hours every evening and do my work for me. I work 50-60 hours a week (single, working mom) and am then expected to spend another 10 – 15 hours a week educating my child so it only seems fair that the teacher should reciprocate, right?

    September 17th, 2009 at 6:46 am
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  10. PsychMom says:

    Hi zzzzz…..oh, your teacher doesn’t have your schedule? E-mail it to her/him. In fact you should send a monthly calendar at the beginning of each month for the next 9 months with the days highlighted when you expect her over. And be sure not to ask….it is a partnership afterall.

    I love the way you think.

    September 17th, 2009 at 7:59 am
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  11. HomeworkBlues says:

    You know how some teachers create a minute to minute home schedule for a child’s after school hours? This to demonstrate that if they work like a clip, take no time off, never get distracted, stay seated, it really can get done in one hour. Remember the middle school teacher who posted such a home schedule? She made a minor error, assuming early adolescents only needed eight hours sleep. She allocated time for tv but no pleasure reading! After all, she’d already scheduled twenty minutes of reading earlier, why would you ever want to do more?

    Why don’t you do the same for school? Send in a note, explaining your expectations and what you expect to be accomplished while your child is at school. All unfinished work is sent home…to the teacher! With a note, please sign this log…

    September 17th, 2009 at 8:18 am
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  12. HomeworkBlues says:

    zzzzz, you’re a single mother, trying to put bread on the table and raise an ethical moral curious child? You only work 60 hours a week? C’mon, girl, get crackin’ here.

    No excuses, woman. Single mom, long exhausting hours, maybe you bring work home from the office, long commute, cobble dinner together, maybe you have more than one child, mortgage to pay, lawn to mow, piles of dirty laundry to handle, clean the house, pay bills, make lunches, take the car in for repairs, you forgot to order your DMV tags so now you have to run over, grocery shop, check personal emails and maybe, just maybe, get a moment to read the newspaper.

    Not enough, woman, not enough. That’s nothing compared to how hard your child’s teacher works :).

    No excuses, woman. Surprise! You have been chosen to be the teacher’s involuntary unpaid teacher’s aide. After all, you don’t do enough and we need to give you more worries, more deadlines, more anxiety, more guilt, more fatigue.

    I too love the way you think! And good luck to you. You’re a hero in my book. After the day you describe, you deserve to come home, put your feet up on the table and have a long tall drink. When you’re done, you deserve to go outside, bicycle with your child, build imaginary fortes in the woods with her (him?), read to her, play scrabble together, take her to a movie or bowling, and have a warm hugging laughing bedtime hour together. That is the evening you deserve. Not endless hours playing homework enforcer.

    September 17th, 2009 at 8:26 am
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  13. zzzzz78759 says:

    Oh man…that reminds me…I forgot to get the oil changed in the car! I was too busy sewing my daughter’s Halloween costume and cleaning the house. And all that other stuff, of course 🙂

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:01 pm
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  14. Erin says:

    I am a teacher and I think that 30 minutes on homework is suitable. By the way, we do check that homework that we send home…that becomes our homework. Just because the children leave at 3:00, doesn’t mean that our job is over. As far as ensuring that a student understands, I personally take the time to meet with students individually if it appears that they do not understand the concepts. So, my point is, before you start complaining like you are, take a walk in a teacher’s shoes.
    By the way, don’t give me that old argument about having 2 months off in the summer. We use those by taking college courses (spent on our own dime: as if pay isn’t small enough!) to keep up our certification, and plan for the next school year.

    September 27th, 2009 at 10:47 pm
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