Yesterday, President Obama’s pick for Education Secretary, John King, Jr., stepped into his role–and if you’re anything like me, you’re hoping for a change. I don’t need to tell you (or any parent, for that matter) that schools are currently entangled in a crazy academic system. From endless standardized tests to hours and hours of homework, it seems like kids these days are put in a pressure cooker. I say this not as a hater, but as a former teacher who loves teaching and learning.
Recently, Duke University did a comprehensive review of 180 studies headed by psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper. What the review shows is this: Homework benefits are dependent on age. Of course, this sounds obvious. A high schooler is going to benefit waaaaay differently than a 4th grader (we hope). When given too much too soon, homework has a negative influence, as it overwhelms the student. And, not surprisingly, they begin to dread school. Of course, you can’t entirely blame the teachers–as it’s often enforced within the curriculum itself–and it’s not like teachers just love grading piles of homework every night. And believe it or not, some parents want you to give their kids a lot of homework.
But, some schools are starting to realize that more homework is not the answer to brilliance. New York City’s P.S. 116 elementary school’s principal Jane Hsu abolished homework, and instead, asked families to read. Of course, this is not to say some homework doesn’t have benefits–at its best, homework reinforces what a student learns in school, while also teaches them responsibility, time management, and how to prioritize. Which, you know, are necessary skills to learn. For a 7-year-old, homework should look like a spelling sheet–for a 9th grader, it should look like a thesis statement.
This is where our buddy, the new Education Secretary, comes into play. He’s promised parents something: to give more control back over to states and local school districts. Which, in my opinion, can only be a good thing, as the teachers and administrations want the best for their students. It’s hard to always give the best, however, when you aren’t in control in the first place.