Put an end homework designed to make teachers look tough

Dec 26, 2013 by

Jay_MathewsJay Mathews – In the torrent of e-mails and comments that greeted my request for a solution to high school stress, one point was repeated so often that even a former grade-grubber and homework-lover like me had to notice. Madison High School junior Maddy King had inspired my column with the same idea. King told her Fairfax County principal, “If you could talk to the teaching staff as a whole — let them know that we do not need thirty-six math problems if we’ve grasped the concept after nine.”

This had sounded a bit like adolescent sloth to me until I read an e-mail from retired Fairfax County English teacher Bernadette Nakamura, one of my wisest correspondents. “I believe that too often teachers give unnecessarily long, burdensome homework assignments to please parents, to show that they are demanding teachers, or to cover material they didn’t manage to get to during the class period,” she wrote. “I agree with Maddy that all that should be assigned is that which is useful in reinforcing the concepts introduced so there will be carryover until the next class meeting. More is not always better.”

She was not the only experienced educator who had this view. Peter D. Ford III, a stellar public school math teacher in Los Angeles, said there are teachers who “dump a lot of work on students just to put on a façade for the parents, as well as trusting these hard-charging parents will supplement their weak teaching with tutoring.”

Amelia Crabtree, a student at Fairfax County’s Marshall High School, said some teachers betray their disdain for their own assignments. “Giving us homework just for the sake of giving us homework, and then taking more than a month to grade it, has no point to it,” she said.

Readers had several ideas for discouraging such mindless overloading. Montgomery County parent Joann Tell suggested that students should have an option. “They have to do 10 math problems but there might be 25 problems,” she said. “If they get all of those 10 problems correct” — and, I presume, are confident of their answers — “they don’t have to do the extra but they can if they want.”

via Put an end homework designed to make teachers look tough – The Washington Post.

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