Why all schools should abolish homework

…some elementary school kids have workweeks comparable to adults’ schedules? For most children, mandatory homework assignments push their workweek far beyond the school day and deep into what any other laborers would consider overtime

Studies have long shown that there is no academic benefit to high school homework that consumes more than a modest number of hours each week. In a study of high schoolers conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), researchers concluded that “after around four hours of homework per week, the additional time invested in homework has a negligible impact on performance.”

As parents and students, we can also organize to make homework the exception rather than the rule. We can insist that every family, teacher and student be allowed to opt out of assignments without penalty to make room for important activities, and we can seek changes that shift practice exercises and assignments into the actual school day.

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How To Commit Education Suicide

Walt Gardner writes on the state of High School Education and the misguided priorities of reformers:

No matter how compelling the evidence to the contrary, reformers persist in the fiction that a college-preparatory curriculum is the best way to prepare students for the future. By refusing to acknowledge reality, they are doing a terrible disservice to countless students whose talents and interests lie elsewhere. In the process, they’re aiding and abetting educational suicide.

The truth is that thousands of graduates from four-year colleges and universities are not only unemployed but also likely unemployable. As Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal wrote in an acerbic essay: “Through exertions that – let’s be honest – were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree” (“Stephens: To the Class of 2012,” The Wall Street Journal, May 7).

We can continue in the delusion that college is for everyone and that without a four-year degree students have a bleak future. But we better be ready to accept the consequences. Not only have too many students majored in subjects of no importance to employers, but they have also saddled themselves with debt that cannot be discharged even through personal bankruptcy. That’s what I call committing educational suicide.

The Trouble With Homework

Excerpts from a New York Times article by Annie Murphy Paul:

Do American students have too much homework or too little? Neither, I’d say. We ought to be asking a different question altogether. What should matter to parents and educators is this: How effectively do children’s after-school assignments advance learning?

The quantity of students’ homework is a lot less important than its quality. And evidence suggests that as of now, homework isn’t making the grade.

“Spaced repetition” is one example of the kind of evidence-based techniques that researchers have found have a positive impact on learning. Here’s how it works: instead of concentrating the study of information in single blocks, as many homework assignments currently do, learners encounter the same material in briefer sessions spread over a longer period of time.

A second learning technique, known as “retrieval practice,” employs a familiar tool — the test — in a new way: not to assess what students know, but to reinforce it.

Another common misconception about how we learn holds that if information feels easy to absorb, we’ve learned it well. In fact, the opposite is true. When we work hard to understand information, we recall it better; the extra effort signals the brain that this knowledge is worth keeping.

Why do parents send their kids to private schools?

There are some obvious reasons 5 here, 5 more here.

Private school teachers rarely have to worry about discipline. Students know that if they cause problems they will be dealt with swiftly and without recourse. A teacher who doesn’t have to be a traffic cop can teach.

While the major focus at most private high schools is getting you ready for college, your personal maturation and development go hand in hand with that academic preparation. That way, hopefully, you emerge from your high school with both a degree and some great purpose for your life and understanding of who you are.

In a private school it’s cool to be smart. That’s why you go to private school. In many public schools the kids who want to learn and who are smart are branded as nerds and become the objects of social ridicule. In private school it’s cool to be smart. The smarter you are, the more the school will do its best to stretch your intellect to its limits. That’s one of the things private schools do rather well.

Most private schools do not have to teach to a test. As a result, they can afford to focus on teaching your child how to think, as opposed to teaching her what to think. That’s an important concept to understand. In many public schools poor test scores can mean less money for the school, negative publicity and even the chance that a teacher could be reviewed unfavorably.

Statistics on Private vs Public High School attendance

According to a longitudinal study analyzing statistics on private and public schools attendance at University of Michigan in 2008 there were definite differences between the results of students.  Out of the study group there were 76% public and 24% private students.  Of the public school students there were 72% that graduated high school and 28% that did not.

Of the students that graduated public high school 65% attended college,  and 79% of private school students went to college. Of the 65% that attended college only 36% received a bachelors degree or higher.  However, of the 79% graduated private schools, 52% received a bachelors degree or higher.

As a result of this study one can see that there is a measurable difference in the statistics on private and public schools attendance.  One could conclude that there is definitely a higher rate of private school students who actually attain a degree.

[Full Article]

Do American Students Study Too Hard?

This Wallstreet Journal Article takes issue with the premise of Race To Nowhere.  I didn’t care for the article but the comments are very interesting.  I don’t even know what the title of the article is implying.  Are American student’s overachievers?  Race To Nowhere is about an education culture that unnecessarily puts too much pressure on kids.

Race To Nowhere


I’m THRILLED that this documentary movie was made which will facilitate a national discussion on the important topic of our education system.   Click the video above, or Go here and watch the trailer!

From their website:

Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

What exactly is an AP class?

Definition: Advanced Placement or AP courses are college-level classes taught on high school campuses. They generally involve significantly more challenging curriculum and more rigorous homework than non-AP classes, and they culminate in a high stakes exam, administered by the College Board on high school campuses in early May.

The spring exam costs around $86 per class, runs two to three hours, and is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with a 3 constituting a passing grade and a 4 or 5 being even more desirable. Many universities offer course credit for a high score, or allow students to skip the corresponding class in college. APs also give added heft to a college application, because they tell admissions officers that the applicant has taken – and succeeded at – college-level work, and the grades are “weighted,” i.e., a B in an AP class is worth an A in a regular class.

Also Known As: Advanced Placement

Example:
Because Jane scored 5s on so many of her AP classes – calculus AB, German, European History and so on – she started college as a second semester freshman.

Reference

From the Lake Travis High School 2010-2011 Course Catalog:

Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) in High School

Students will receive high quality, rigorous instruction in all courses at LTHS. Students may choose to take advanced classes appropriate to their interests and academic strengths. Pre-AP courses are open enrollment and are designed to prepare students to be successful in AP classes. The number of Pre-AP courses varies with the students’ motivation, self-discipline, and available time outside of class. Students are not expected to enroll in Pre-AP courses in all core subject areas.

Recommended Prerequisites include:

  • A grade of 85 or higher in a related academic content area course
  • Scores at the commended level on the most recent corresponding TAKS test

Characteristics of a Successful Pre-AP Student:

  • Excellent study and organizational skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Persistence in pursuing goals
  • A strong sense of responsibility
  • The ability to become an independent learner
  • A desire to be academically successful
  • Proficient oral and written communication skills