His report card told a different story however.
After 32 years in education I found myself questioning some of my core beliefs about homework. While I won’t pretend to provide definitive answers in this article – I wish that I could – I think that it is valuable to constantly question our teaching habits to look for improvement.
I know why the boy didn’t do homework. He didn’t have what many of us consider a “home” that is conducive to getting schoolwork done. Our society has changed. When I arrive at work 45 to 60 minutes before class starts, students are waiting at my door. Some are there until 5:00 at night awaiting parents who are trying trying to hold down multiple jobs to keep the family financially afloat. And this is becoming a norm. In a changing world, perhaps it is time for me to rethink my homework policy.
I recently read an article in AMLE Magazine (Association of Middle Level Education) in which three respected educators offered their ideas on the traditional homework model.
Cathy Vatterott from the University of Missouri at St. Louis claims that our traditional argument that assigning homework encourages responsibility may be flawed. She says that it encourages responsibility for working, but not necessarily for learning.
Educational consultant Lee Jenkins – who happens to be my former superintendent – says the traditional homework model leads to dislike of the educational process. He suggests that we can achieve our learning goals by assigning homework, not collecting it, and giving a quick quiz the following day on the homework questions.
The quiz should be quickly graded to provide immediate feedback to the students.
Larry Sandomir who teaches at a progressive school in New York City says that his goal is to design assignments that create a learning process instead of learning tension. Homework should help students to further their learning. Learning should excite students. It should be mindful instead of mindless.
As Vatterott notes, homework is practice. Coaches don’t keep score during practice. Instead athletes know that the practice makes them better for when it does count.
I’m not sure how we as educators will implement ideas like these, but as our society changes to a highly technologized world, we must adjust our practices so they align with a thoughtful and reasoning society.
 In a previous post I noted research that showed top performing students were more likely to resort to questionable means to attain good grades in schools where that was over emphasized.