I am a fortunate person who has the opportunity to work in a variety of capacities and one thing I get to do is work with students. . There is always something new in the field of education and the experts have much to tell us about how we are doing it all wrong. The truth is however, we are doing it all wrong.
One thing students are burdened with is a lot, and I mean a LOT of homework. This is not your Grandma’s homework with “new math” and weekly spelling lists, oh no, it’s calculus, chapters and chapters of scientific data and English literature with stacks of books to be finished and reviewed in short amounts of time. Advanced placement classes inflict pressure on kids that was unheard of just a few short years ago. This is the reality of life for a high school students who want to succeed. And the rest of the students? They are failing while passing and this the reason why education has taken a nosedive.
There is a law in this nation called “No Child Left Behind”. Maybe you have heard of it but if you haven't, ask your kids. They may not know it by name or law, but they know how it works. The kids that aren’t doing the homework are causing chaos in the classroom. They aren’t afraid of being left behind (or failed) because they won't be and they are taking a vacation from education, right in front of their teachers who can’t control them. Classes are either a place to act out or sleep, which accounts for all that homework for the ones that really want to learn. With all the acting out and/or sleeping teachers do not have time to teach. "Overburdened, pressured and stressed" students collide with the “I’m only here because I have to be and they are passing me anyway” kids and the results are the same for both groups. The G.P.A. may be different but the results are the same. Everybody passes.
A friend of mine works for a private charter school which guarantees diplomas for kids who have been kicked out of one of the worst public school systems in the nation. Most of the students are on tethers, or are there as a condition of parole. Many have children and are on State aid and school is a condition that they collect their checks under. In any case, not many are there by choice. But they leave with a diploma. Other kids spend years hauling books home and staying up until 2 a.m. cramming for tests, but in this charter school they teach the answers to the questions that will result in a graduation from high school. The teachers in this "last chance" charter school are paid to design an individual course of curriculum for each student. First, the student is assessed. The assessment placement bottoms out at second grade, in other words these high school students could actually have abilities which are less than that of a second grader, but that is as low as the testing goes. A set of courses are prepared according to the needs of the student and is designed to educate them with the exact information they need to pass core classes and move on to a diploma. Not all of them do graduate but the more students that do, the more federal dollars are designated to this facility because it is a child that hasn’t been “left behind” even if they should have been.
In "The Case Against Homework" Sara Bennett says this;
The time our children spend doing homework has skyrocketed in recent years. Parents spend countless hours cajoling their kids to complete such assignments—often without considering whether or not they serve any worthwhile purpose. The truth is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little evidence that it helps older students. Yet the nightly burden is taking a serious toll on America’s families. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development. And it is a hidden cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, creating a nation of “homework potatoes."
So let's stop and think again for a minute. WHY are teachers assigning more homework? Because half of the class has learned that they WON'T fail, and therefore aren't listening or doing assignments in class. They are throwing things, yelling, causing fights and generally making it impossible for anyone else to learn, too. Teachers can't teach but the curriculum must be covered so how do they do it? They assign homework. The tragedy is that the kids DOING the homework are lost and doing their best and the ones who are bouncing off the walls are in for a rude awakening. We keep passing them, but they aren't going to graduate. So in elementary school and middle school/Jr. High they aren't learning the fundamentals. By the time they get to high school and wake up in their junior year, the guidance counselor is telling them that even if they go to summer school and night school, they cannot accumulate enough credits to graduate. At that point, most drop out. The system that wouldn't fail them won't give them a diploma either. So are they left behind? No, they just kind of go away. And therein lies the real tragedy. "No Child Left Behind" becomes a seventeen year old on the streets. And we all know the job opportunities for a kid on the streets. If he commits a crime, gets caught, gets locked up, gets out and a judge makes it a condition of his parole that he gets his diploma, he can go to my friend's charter school and get one. But now he has a criminal record, so ditto on the job opps.
So what do we do? I understand about getting the horses back in the barn after they have been let out. It will be hard. But parents have to demand an education for their children and then back it up with support for the school system and it's teachers. If Johnny needs to fail, then let him fail. Great parents are WILLING to let their children fail under supervision. God knows they will fail out in the world, so let's start letting them learn why from someone who actually cares about them as opposed to learning it from the world which does NOT. We need to expect that children will actually learn at school, that they shut up, sit still, listen and do their work. Stay in touch with teachers and follow through at home and let's teach a real lesson. Classroom time is set aside for assignments. If you screw around at school you will have to finish at home. Homework could actually mean working at home because you chose not to at school. And if our kid actually gets an F for failure find out why and be thankful that you and your child have a teachable moment because failure creates an opportunity to succeed...... which is what school is actually supposed to be.