Saturday, September 15, 2012


My new school has very different policies on homework than I am used to.  At my old school, many teachers didn't give homework.  I gave a short assignment every night, but most of the time, less than half of kids would turn it in, and many of those were copied from each other.  I graded on completion/effort.  Homework counted for 20% of kids' grades; I figured it was a boost for kids who bothered to do it, and the practice did help some kids.

At my new school, there is required to be homework for every subject, every night.  The guideline for ninth graders is at least 30 minutes per subject.  Kids turn in homework when they first enter the building, into a "Homework First" bin each teacher keeps in the lobby.  98% of kids turn in homework on any given day.  If they don't turn in homework, or turn in incomplete homework, they get a 1-hour after school detention (per class!).  I am required to grade on correctness, which is a huge daily volume of paper and scores to manage, compared to the quick check/check-minus I am used to.  We have been grading homework in class, but it sucks up a lot of class time, and just managing the papers and entering the grades is killing me.  Other teachers have kids publicly read off their scores in class after self-grading, and the teachers never touch the homework papers.  I recoiled at this idea originally, but now I'm leaning towards doing this too, just to save myself the headache of it all.

I have a calculus student who comes late to school almost every day because she is up so late at night finishing homework.  Kids say they don't have time to join a sport or get a job because they are already spending so much time on homework.  I wonder if there is enough benefit to the work to make it worth it.  I do believe in reinforcing the day's lesson with some independent work, but this is starting to feel excessive.  What about kids who have to babysit their siblings or do other chores in the evenings?  What about having a little time for some leisure?

There is an argument to be made about the effectiveness of all this homework.  Kids at my new school score amazingly well on standardized tests, and I can't deny that there is an intellectual feel amongst my students that was lacking at my old school.  But I wonder if the homework creates that in the kids, or if it just serves to weed out or scare away lower-performing kids?


  1. Wow. I want to offer some advice, but right now all I can think about is how intense that must be. I agree with you that it is problematic if homework takes up so much free time after school that it prevents students from doing other activities. I imagine that with a policy like that the parents are on board? Do you think there's much cheating going on such as students copying each other's work or parents giving their children the answers? If I think of any advice I'll be sure to pass it along. For now, all I can say is hang in there.

  2. How do the teachers know they are assigning 30 minutes of homework, and not more (or less)? How many hours of homework are these students expected to do each night?

    Has anyone read the research suggesting that most people only have an average of 6 productive hours of work/learning each day?

    I'm not a huge fan of homework quotas. I doubt they do much to improve learning.