Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Is Packed into Twelve or Thirteen

Do we truly know how much homework we give?

When I assign five chapters from a novel, how much work have I assigned? If I estimate by the reading rates of my students, I assigned a wide range of homework expectations. For some kids, my expectation might be like being put through a meat grinder. For others, it might not.
Reading Rate Formula 
Read a text for ten minutes.
Multiply the number of pages read by 6.
Double it.
The total is how many pages that person should be able to read in two hours.
Since reading rates change from student to student and since reading rates are different for every text, do I really know how much homework I've assigned?

Is it fair for me to say I've assigned an average of twenty minutes per night for every kid? Is it a reliable guess-timate?

Yes and no. Kids can read for twenty minutes per night, but they won't reach the same page. And they may not have the same questions, observations, or experiences. This is why assigning a packet of arbitrary questions about a novel compounds the homework question. Similarly, assigning a series of tasks for each chapter read extends the time spent on the task by the students.

How can we say how long reading and responding will take, or reading and note taking?

Furthermore, why do it?

Credit: Andre Netto, Time Series 16
Have you read for twenty minutes recently? As an adult, it isn't an awfully long time. Twenty minutes of reading and I am just getting into a zone of visualizing and absorbing the text--and I can't recall a single novel where I needed to stop every twenty minutes to record my thoughts or notes on conflict. Truthfully, the state of homework today is due to the expectations of standardized testing.

Consider math. Surely reading rate applies to reading math--a very specific skill.

Consider science. Surely reading rate applies to science texts--a very specific skill.

Consider social studies. Surely reading rate applies to these nonfiction texts--a very specific skill.

It just strikes me as really difficult to ascertain how much homework we are assigning as individual teachers, let alone among a group of (disconnected?) teachers across any one student's schedule.

All of our kids leave school with different homework experiences packed into them. There is no other way to see it.

For an added twist, consider what education leader Alfie Kohn writes, "If we're making 12 year-olds, much less five year-olds, do homework, it's either because we're misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says."

So, are we disconnected from each other AND disconnected from the research?

Would you be surprised to that researcher Adam Maltese, using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study and the Education Longitudinal Study found "no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not."

Maybe we ought to be looking at the research.

Whether we believe middle school kids need homework and can just be whiners, or they procrastinate and create their own problems, or sincerely work on schedule and handle it beautifully, I am beginning to doubt--or at the very least question--that middle school kids take home the same amounts work per night.

And "taking home" has nothing to do with what is packed in their backpacks, but what is packed into being twelve and thirteen.

How much homework are we assigning to middle school kids?

Maybe we ought to be talking about it.

1 comment:

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