This morning I've come upon an interesting article in the Parenting & Family category on MSNBC called "The Less-Homework Revolution". Some parents of elementary and middle-school students are upset about the amount of homework assigned to their children. In the article an elementary school principal discusses her school's experiment to eliminate most homework, and claims that there have been no negative results in the classroom or on test scores. What's dismaying, though, is that conclusions are already being drawn even though the school is only in it's second year of this experiment. Furthermore, the conclusions are myopic: how will these kids fare later, when the concepts they need to develop rest upon their ability to quickly access and work with the fundamental concepts learned earlier in the educational stream? How will this affect the students' work ethic? Some of the anecdotes given in the article are certainly extreme - I do agree that it's hard to imagine an elementary student requiring four hours of homework on a regular basis, and I agree that homework competes in a skills ecosystem that also needs development in family and peer relationships that only come from time spent with family and time being social with friends. It seems, though, that a group of parents and educators are looking to throw the homework baby out with the bathwater, drawing hasty and myopic conclusions. A better choice, it would seem, is mentioned only briefly - a coordination of the amount of homework with the grade level of the student (though I'd be unsure that the relationship can stay linear, particularly in high school when concepts are many layers deep).
The lessining / elimination of homework is difficult to merge with, if not contradictory to, the concept discussed in my last post about the critical importance of time spent in practice in order to achieve mastery. That post is featured in today's edition of the Carnival of Education - check it out for lots of other thought-inspiring reading.