Friday, April 4, 2008

HOMEWORK- Where do we stand? More, Less, Status Quo?

Toronto considers limits to homework
The Windsor Star
02 Apr 2008

Canada’s largest school board is considering banning homework during holidays and long weekends, the centrepiece of a proposed policy that is sparking calls for other boards to review their practices and counter a growing backlash against a “culture of... read more...

I wanted to put on my A&E hat again and discuss this one. I am sure there are many opinions across the board and hopefully you will voice yours!

The Toronto District School Board has decided to tackle the homework question. How much is too much? Apparently Weekends and Holidays could be off limits in Toronto.

It seems like students are getting even less oppourtunity with higher expectations, or does it? Maybe homework is not the answer? In 2000 changes were made in the Secondary panel that condensed 5 years of high school for University bound students into 4. There was a considerable amount of overlap in the curriculum that was removed however, condensing a 5 year program into 4 is still translates into an increase in expectations for students. The Elementary panel was also given a more robust curriculum that demands more from students. None of this is news to a teacher but it is clear we are expecting more than in the past. The Ministry of Education dictated a new assessment and evaluation guideline that was outlined in the Ministry Document "Grades 9 to 12 Program Planning and Assessment Guide". Assessment and evaluation changed significantly for both Elementary and Secondary. The secondary policy reads:

"Seventy per cent of the grade will be based on evaluations conducted throughout the course.
This portion of the grade should reflect the student’s most consistent level of achievement
throughout the course, although special consideration should be given to more recent
evidence of achievement."

This statement actually encourages teachers to evaluate more however, teachers have been told by the Ministry we evaluate too much. They want teachers to do more assessment and less evaluation. Students need more practice and feedback before they are evaluated. This is probably true but homework is assessment and although differenciated instruction gurus suggest it is only one of many strategies that should be employed it is certainly a popular one. Do we take up all this homework anyway? Do we assign too much or too little?

So where do we stand on this issue? Would the world stop if we didn't send home homework on Friday's and before Holidays? Are PD days considered Holidays? We know where the students stand but what about the parents? Talk about a cultural shift!

In order to obtain a grade based on the most consistent level of achievement the larger the sample the better. So which is it? Does the Ministry want more or less? I have always found the Ministry to be inconsistent on this issue. Perhaps they will shed some more light on this issue in 2009 when they release their new policy document on Assessment and Evaluation.

Until then, what do you think?

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Anonymous said...

My entire division (Junior) does not give any homework. 3 years ago, I would say "whatever isn't finished becomes hmework". I had a student not doing anything in class (and there was plenty of time left to complete the work) and he said, "I'll just do it at home". EYE OPENER. Homework and projects that are sent home cannot be used as authentic assessment. It's funny that we will send this home and mark it but we wouldn't allow our students to write a test or exam at home!
Since switching to the no homework policy, our students have produced more in the classroom and marks have gradually come to a more realistic level because there are more opportunities to assess the students when they are in front of you. Homework does not make you smarter...reading and experiences do.
I would also like to add that the parents at our school "get it" and have been mostly supportive of this policy. They ask why there isn't homework. We explain. They ask what they can do. We say interact with your child, read, play games like Scrabble, Monopoly, card games. The children are happier!

Anonymous said...

With the importance placed on soccer, baseball, hockey, gymnastics...perhaps we could move to a 3 day school week to accommodate a night or two of homework amidst all these extra-curricular activities. Who knew that good parenting would be judged by how many sports your kid plays? I believe homework to be beneficial. Projects and take home assignments do need to be assessed creatively, but I would never give up the encouraged parent-student time together. Homework is also a wonderful way to instill some organization, responsibility and work habits in today's spoiled children. These students are going to be trying to enter a workforce where they will be required to demonstrate how valuable they can be to an employer, or develop their own businesses which will require those skills Homework can certain assist in developing. Today's children are going to find that the handouts stop when they reach University. Our number one responsibility should still be to prepare our children for THEIR future.
As an added know that after a few years someone else will publish a study about how valuable homework is and then all the school boards will again mandate that teachers use it;-) (It will probably be part of a new curriculum, I think we are just about due.)

Grade Three Teacher

Anonymous said...

Homework only works if you can make it fun.

I stopped giving homework 16 years ago. The kids that don't work still get bad marks and the kids who do work still get good marks. The grades never change. The classes are long enough that there is plenty of time to accomplish everything during class. A sponge can only absorb so much water. I've always had this saying, if I talk more than 20 minutes, the students have the right to tell me that I talk too much and I won't get offended. After 20 minutes most of the class is no longer listening anyway. Has sometime to do with teenage attention spans. I taught the same kids at St. Clair College for 11 years. The older they get, the less attention span they have. Nothing changes. It appears that eating lunch further reduces attention spans. We should bring back recess, or nap times or siestas. For the teachers' benefit as well.

Secondary Teacher

Anonymous said...

I personally think that banning homework is nuts. Not only does it not prepare kids for the real world of work and post secondary education, but it presupposes that teachers cannot accurately and fairly assess their particular classes to determine what their students are capable of doing. What happened to professional judgment and discretion.

Secondary Teacher

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