Scotland Schoolchildren are Getting Too Much Help with Homework

According to an article in, schoolchildren in Scotland are losing the ability to learn for themselves because they are getting too much help with homework from their parents.

The vice-chancellor of Strathclyde University says that schoolwork has become “seriously debased” because students aren’t doing it for themselves. The development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council also reports that many parents go too far when helping their children with their homework: “The real impact of parents doing homework is that their kids become de-skilled and don’t learn how to do it for themselves.” And, a professor from Glasgow University’s education department concludes from his research that 20 per cent of parents provide way too much homework help. “I do not think it is a massive problem, but it is happening. What parents need to do is to give their children direction to help them solve the question themselves, because if they just give them the answer the child is not learning anything.”

At the university level, plagiarism has become a serious problem.

Read the entire article here.

Canadian Parents Not Equipped to Help With Homework

According to a recent poll conducted by Statistics Canada and the Canadian Counsel on Learning, 62 percent of parents don’t have the necessary knowledge to help their children with homework. As reported in The Globe and Mail (registration required), the president of the Canadian Council on Learning stated, “There is a knowledge gap and it’s an expected knowledge gap, because…the disciplines change over time.”

After Studying Homework, Teachers at One Canadian Junior High Cut Way Back on their Assignments

A principal from Edmonton, Alberta, asked the teachers at his junior high school to do their own summer reading on whether homework actually works. The result, as reported by Toronto, Canada’s, Globe and Mail: “With their return to the classroom this fall, teachers at the affluent Edmonton school are thinking twice about the pages of homework they would have automatically assigned last year, casting doubt on the age-old wisdom that practice makes perfect, that rote drills lead to deeper understanding instead of boredom or frustration. A math teacher with 26 years under her belt, Judy Hoeksema now assigns half the work she would have and fewer routine textbook exercises. Some colleagues are handing out no homework at all. ‘We’ve all been under this illusion that lots of homework creates good study habits for the future.’Ms. Hoeksema says. ‘Now, we’ve realized it isn’t making much difference.'”

From a Fourth Grade Teacher

I received the following email from a fourth grade teacher in the Lincoln Consolidated School District near Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Last year we had the homework issue come up in an aggressive move from our principal to try and regulated homework across grade levels. It is so over the top!

The amount of homework he proposed was horrid! The teachers and many parents fought the battle to allow the teachers to assign what they believe to be appropriate homework per classroom, child, family, etc. It turned into a battle that we eventually won, with homework not being given by our administrators but by the teachers.

I do not believe in homework! It may surprise you how many teachers do not think homework is helping the achievement gap, but hurting it. I researched and discussed our homework issues with college professors who helped me gather data to support our approach to little or no homework. So I was so glad to see your book! I stayed up reading after a troublesome time with my own daughter and her homework, which lasted over 1 ½ hours, and she is in 2nd grade!

Thank you for the advice and the work you put into this book! I want you to know that educators are listening and are many times on the side of promoting family time verses busy work or homework! Family time is being pushed aside for homework and the children are the ones who are hurting because of it!

P.S. I must also add that not only was my administrator asking for this but many parents were too! I was amazed by that! So educating or helping parents be in the “know” about homework is so important! They need to know they can ask for less and discuss other types they think is right for their own children.

I want you to know also that I am just one of the MANY teachers who care and want less homework here at Lincoln Consolidated and at surrounding Michigan school districts. When I did my research last year I found that the teachers I spoke to followed the 10 minute rule. But I am still concerned, because many times what takes my child ten minutes, may take another child 30!

Many college professors at Eastern Michigan University, the University that puts out the most teachers in the U.S., are also advocates for less homework and more family time! When I told the professors at Eastern Michigan about this proposal, they were appalled! I had great support from them, other staff members here at Lincoln and from many parents!

These are the guidelines the principal was trying to institute:

1st and 2nd grade Monday-Friday
10 minutes Phonics, Sight words or reading worksheet
20 minutes Reading practice
10 minutes Practice worksheet or flash cards for math
40 minutes total
Plus 60 minute of homework on Saturday and Sunday
20 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

3rd grade Monday-Friday
15 minutes phonics, sight words or reading worksheet
30 minutes reading practice
15 minutes practice worksheet or flash cards for math
60 min. total
Plus 60 min. homework on Saturday and Sunday
20 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

4th and 5th grade Monday-Friday
20 min. reading assignments (Described as phonics, vocab. based
40 min. reading practice
20 min. math worksheet practice
80 min. total
Plus 80 min. on the weekends
40 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

Guest Blogger: Homework In College Isn’t Useful

Today’s guest blogger is Dorian Davis, the managing editor of Republican Spectacular, who interviewed me for his online journal. During the interview, we began talking about homework at the college level–something I haven’t researched–and I invited him to write an entry. Dorian teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology, is a guest commentor on MTV’s pop culture series MTV Hits, and a graduate student at the School of Journalism at the City University of New York. He has researched and developed a political documentary for MTV, and contributed to a special for LOGO.

Here’s what he has to say:

Is homework useful in college?

By Dorian Davis


Not really.

Let me clarify that:

The college environment is very different from elementary school, and middle school, and high school. In college, we are not prisoners of the standardized test. So, we can meander away from our prepared curriculum, and stumble back into it, whenever we want. In college, we have the freedom to make learning fun. But we rarely do. Instead, we assign readings, and readings, and readings, and readings, and readings, and readings and readings. So, the biggest nuisance in college is arbitrary reading.

Reading should happen this way:

STUDENT: “I’m interested in X.”
TEACHER: “Oh, you like X? You should read Y.”

Instead, it happens this way:

STUDENT: “I’m interested in X.”
TEACHER: “Oh, you like X? It’s not in the curriculum. Read Z.”

Who are we kidding? This student is never going to read Z. So, why not point him in the direction of something interesting?

Once, as a writing coach at FIT, I asked my students to bring in a book that interested them and that inspired them to write. My plan was to let them read their books during the course of the semester and watch as they began to assume the phrasing and the writing styles of the authors they read. One student picked a book about website design and HTML. I refused to let him read it! Why? I have no idea. His book on website design seemed too unsophisticated. I was very misguided. What a snob! HTML is useful. Instead, I made him read The Scarlet Letter. Why? I suppose that, in my defense, it’s about fashion in a matter of speaking, and I taught at a fashion school, but it was utterly irrelevant to his life!

My mistake with this student and his HTML book is a good example of what happens when teachers teach to their own interests, or to their own midterm, instead of teaching to their own class. The best part of working with college students is that they generally have the maturity and the sophistication to apply what they learn in class to their own pursuits. Too often, we can pevent that kind of synergy by monopolizing their free time with meaningless work, such as my self-indulgent requirement that a computer science student read Nathaniel Hawthorne.

My advice:

Work hard in the classroom.

Read. Write. Quiz. Test.

Put your students through Boot Camp.

Then, when the bell rings, stop.

Let the students go.

After all, class is a conversation.

It’s useful.

But homework is not.

Homework forces a student to sit in a remote corner of his own house, or in his own dorm room, with his face buried in text books, watching as the sun goes down, and the clock spins around, and his whole evening evaporates. He is not having a conversation. He is talking to himself.

NCLB Leaves Experienced Teachers without Jobs

According to an article in The New York Times, “Despite a Doctorate and Top Students, Unqualified to Teach” (subscription required), experienced teachers are leaving the profession because of No Child Left Behind requirements. Under California law, a teacher must successfully complete a certification program to fulfill the NCLB mandate that there be a “highly qualifiedâ€? instructor in every classroom. The problem: many experienced teachers consider the program “an expensive, time-consuming indignity,” that lasts two years, costs around $15,000, is geared to beginners, and teaches lesson planning and classroom control.

The New York Times highlighted the plight of one teacher:

Jefferds Huyck stood in a corner of the gymnasium, comfortable in being inconspicuous, as the annual awards ceremony began one Friday last May at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, Calif. He listened as the principal named 16 of Mr. Huyck’s students who had earned honors in a nationwide Latin exam, and he applauded as those protégés gathered near center court to receive their certificates. Then the principal, Andrew Goldenkranz, said, “And here’s their teacher.� Hundreds of students and parents and colleagues rose unbidden in a standing ovation. In that gesture, they were both celebrating and protesting.

As virtually everyone in the audience knew, Mr. Huyck would be leaving Pacific Collegiate, a charter school, after commencement. Despite his doctorate in classics from Harvard, despite his 22 years teaching in high school and college, despite the classroom successes he had so demonstrably achieved with his Latin students in Santa Cruz, he was not considered “highly qualified� by California education officials under their interpretation of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

With the quality of teacher training being widely assailed as undemanding, most recently in a report last month by the Education Schools Project, a nonpartisan group, Pacific Collegiate in 2005 had what certainly looked like the solution. Out of a faculty of 29, 12 already had or were nearing doctoral degrees, primarily related to the subjects they taught.

And if the performance of the school mattered for anything, which unfortunately it does not in the credentialing issue, then Pacific Collegiate could show results. Admitting its 400 students in Grades 7 through 12 by lottery rather than by admissions exam, it recorded an average of 1,982 out of a possible 2,400 on the three-part SAT and sent graduates to Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among other elite universities.

Yet when Mr. Goldenkranz became principal in September 2005, he was informed by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education that, as he recalled in a recent interview, “in no uncertain terms, we had to develop a path to compliance with N.C.L.B.� Once the teachers were certified, Pacific Collegiate itself would have to pay $6,000 per teacher to the state for their enrollment in a program devised to improve retention of new faculty members.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Children Need More Time to Play

According to a new report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and reported in its journal, “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” The report, “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds,” reminds us “that the most valuable and useful character traits that will prepare children for success come not from extracurricular or academic commitments, but from a firm grounding in parental love, role modeling and guidance.”

Here are some excerpts, but it’s worth reading the entire report:

Currently, many schoolchildren are given less free time and fewer physical outlets at school as many school districts responded to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by reducing time committed to recess, the creative arts, and even physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics. This change may have implications on children’s ability to store new information, as children’s cognitive capacity is enhanced by a clear-cut and significant change in activity. A change in academic instruction or class topic does not offer this clear-cut change in cognitive effort and certainly does not offer a physical release. Even a formal structured physical education class may not offer the same benefit as free-play recess. Reduced time for physical activity may be contributing to the discordant academic abilities between boys and girls, as schools that promote sedentary styles of learning become a more difficult environment for boys to navigate successfully.

In response to the increasingly rigorous college admissions process, many secondary schools are judged by the rates in which their students are accepted by the most prestigious centers of higher learning. Partly in response to this, many students have been encouraged to carry increasingly rigorous academic schedules, including multiple advanced placement courses. In addition, many students are taking prep courses for standardized entrance examinations. These students are left with less free time because of the home preparatory time needed for their classes.

There is a national trend to focus on the academic fundamentals of reading and arithmetic. This trend, spearheaded by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, is a reaction to the unacceptable educational performance of America’s children in some educational settings. One of the practical effects of the trend is decreased time left during the school day for other academic subjects, as well as recess, creative arts, and physical education. This trend may have implications for the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. In addition, many after-school child care programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity.

Palo Alto High School Teacher Refuses to Assign Homework

A Palo Alto, California, high school teacher, has stopped assigning homework to his world history and advanced placement economics students, according to an article in, After years of teachers piling it on, there’s a new movement to … Abolish homework.

The teacher has found that his students achieve a 94 percent pass rate–a rate that increased once he abolished homework–on the advanced-placement test. That 94 percent pass rate is one of the highest in the country.

Homework as Muse

I’ve been getting heartbreaking email from students, mostly highschoolers, about the role of homework in their lives. Today, I received a refrigerator magnet poem from Becca, a 17-year-old eleventh grader from Bainbridge Island, Washington:

I am not motivated in school
make good grades
do homework
complete work
accomplish, study, test
my love is imagination

Parents Mired in Their Children’s Homework

The National Education Association, in conjunction with Leap Frog, released a report last week detailing the results of a poll of parents of children ages 8-13 and a poll of students ages 11-13. Parents say that in an average week, they help their children with homework 2 hours and 45 minutes or more. Fifty-seven percent of the students say that their parents help them at least 1 hour a night. Here are some of the other results from the survey, which I obtained by calling the National Education Association:

  • 79 percent of the 8-13 year olds are doing homework 4 nights a week
  • on average, the 8-13 year olds are working between 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours a night
  • 56 percent of the parents report that their children get more homework today than they did when they were that age
  • 39 percent of the parents report that they sometimes or often feel that their children have so much homework that it’s impossible to finish in one night, even with parental help. Sixty-six percent of the parents overall say that they have felt this way at least on occasion
  • 26 percent of the parents say that can’t help with homework because it’s too difficult
  • 48 percent of the 11-13 year olds say they’ve gone to school with their homework unfinished because it was too difficult