Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jessica Lahey and the Myth of Too Much Homework

In the NYTimes Motherlode column, Jessica Lahey opines on The Destructive "Too Much Homework" Myth.

She claims that there is no problem of homework overload, and if there is, it only applies to "uptown" middle-class parents, so it's not worthy of national attention. Thanks a whole arfin' lot.


  1. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 8, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Her middle school students listen to NPR for kicks. (Are they tuning in hoping Alec Baldwin will be on talking about his Shweaty Balls or what?) In this blog she says Joseph Heller was being interviewed on NPR after school and before she could get home, a dozen of her students and had already sent her an email about the NPR program.

    Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods- My sixth grader had 180 pages of homework for his "off-track packet," to do in the four weeks off. All of it was easy for him... spelling and vocab, grammar worksheets and the other half math... but still time consuming. No science project this time- whew. (relief)
    Tonight he's writing a final draft essay on why his class should get a science camp. (Which is pretty sad; in years past, sixth graders did go on a week-end science camp trip but the school said it lost its benefactor----so no trip this year. But hey! Have the kids write a persuasive essay on it- I guess to rub it in their faces)
    Now, since the sixth grader is back on track, that means my third grader is off track. And he too has a three pound off-track homework packet. I haven't counted how many pages yet. I'm D R E A D I N G the seventeen minute fights he and I will soon be having over it all. Plus he's doing three hours p/day tutoring for two weeks too.

  2. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 8, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    hmm. Lahey read the Brown 2012 report and of all the issues in it- wonder why she chose homework to write an article on for Core Knowledge?

    From Brookings-

    Predicting the Effect of the Common Core State Standards on Student Achievement: The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or rigor of state standards has been unrelated to state NAEP scores, Loveless finds. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state differences should have already been felt by the standards that all states have had since 2003.

  3. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 8, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    correction. Lahey is citing a 2003 Brown Report about homework.

  4. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 8, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    Lahey writes:
    When I asked teachers in both public and private schools to explain the divide between the well-publicized homework horror stories and the reality as depicted in the research, their answers pointed in the obvious direction: demographics. Anecdotally, they saw wealthier students enrolled in college preparatory schools doing more homework than students in low-income public schools, and recent "research" on the experience of those lower-income youth bears them out. “Students overall did not have much assigned homework, and reported little or no consequences if they did not complete their assigned tasks.”

    Here's the abstract for that recent research.

    The Homework Experience: Perceptions of Low-Income Youth

    Janine Bempechat, Jin Li, Shelby M. Neier, Caroline A. Gillis and Susan D. Holloway

    This qualitative study of low socioeconomic status 9th graders examined perceptions of homework as expressed by higher and lower achievers. A total of 92 students were individually interviewed, and the average of 9th- and 10th-grade GPA was collected from students’ records. Students’ comments reflected complexity and nuance with respect to their achievement goals. Despite relatively little homework and almost no monitoring of compliance, higher achievers were learning oriented in their approach to homework and had well-developed self-regulatory skills. In contrast, lower achievers were noncompliant and disengaged from their homework responsibilities. Implications for teacher practice and future research are discussed.

  5. Oh, it's our friend Janine Bempechat again. Terrific.

    And one of the researchers is actually named "Loveless"? That's perfect.

  6. "Fully half of U.S. students are assigned no homework at all, even in middle and high school."

    I just plain don't believe that. I've never encountered a middle or high school that didn't assign homework, never talked to a parent who said their kids, even their kindergartners, didn't get homework.

    I will say that when I talk to parents of high-achieving elementary school students, they often tell me their kid finds homework easy and does it in 10 minutes and even enjoys it. They are in the "more homework" camp. They seem oblivious to the fact that kids who are just average students may find the same volume of homework overwhelming, or some kids might not have parents who can help them at home.

  7. Lahey said: "when I asked teachers in both public and private schools ... " How many teachers did she talk to? It might have been as few as 2.

    In any case, she needs to talk to parents and kids. Most teachers have no clue what the homework load feels like at the receiving end.

  8. Megan, I often hear about these kids who don't mind homework, and I suppose they must exist, but not in my family. My two kids are very different from each other, but they are united in their hatred of homework, from day 1.

    In any case, even kids who didn't mind homework in elementary school may become completely burned out in middle school.

    The kids who aren't assigned homework may be in totally disfunctional inner-city districts, where homework isn't assigned because the teachers know it won't get done. This is just a guess, though. Like you, I don't personally know of any school that doesn't assign homework. Even the allegedly progressive Natural Friends assigns nightly homework, beginning in first grade.

  9. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 9, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    I'm wondering if she threw this article together in 10 minutes on a dare along the lines of, "Can I convince people to accept me as an expert on homework even as I misrepresent myself and the research I cite?"
    Lahey writes:

    Who is doing more homework, according to “The Michigan Study,” research often cited as proof of the aforementioned “skyrocketing?” Twenty years ago, the first and second graders averaged about 8 minutes a day on homework. Now they average about 17 minutes a day.

    Now? The paper she's basing that statement on is a dozen years old; a span of time greater than the span of years compared within the study.
    Similarly, "The Brown Report" she cites is 9 years old. Ironicaly, the most recent Brown report tears apart Common Core.

    Speaking of Common Core, She cites an email from Robert Pondiscio, former fifth grade teacher.
    (He's also her administrator over at Core Knowledge-
    -...Robert launched the popular Core Knowledge Blog in December 2007; he also writes and edits Common Knowledge, the Foundation’s weekly online newsletter. Prior to joining the Foundation, Robert taught 5th grade in the South Bronx for several years under the aegis of the New York City Teaching Fellows.... )

    She cites a nine year old paper (though calls it "recent") on 92 low-income ninth graders self-report and grade comparison between high and low achievers within that group. But claims it proves something else- that all low-income youth have little homework or at least less than college prep students. Astounding.

  10. Suburban Chicken FarmerMarch 9, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Wish I had editing right now.
    Correction. The Bempechat paper on low-income ninth graders is recent. The Homework Experience: Perceptions of Low-Income Youth, published Winter 2011

  11. What are your thoughts on: