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CMS Board Considers Homework Policy Tweak


Homework doesn’t get such great reviews from kids. But many researchers also have complaints about it. With that in mind, the CMS school board will vote on a change to its policy on homework tonight. It’s not a big change.  In fact, it comes down to two words. 

WFAE’s Lisa Worf joins Morning Edition host Marshall Terry in the studio.

MT: Lisa, how would the policy change?

LW: Right now it reads, "Homework is a necessary part of the learning process." The board is thinking about changing it to, "Homework can be a necessary part of the learning process." 

MT: That seems pretty minor. What’s the significance of it?

LW: In some ways, it is minor. CMS teachers are going to continue to assign homework. Students will likely continue to complain about it. But it certainly does indicate a shift in thinking from homework is good in and of itself to, well, it depends on what that homework actually is. Here’s Brian Schulz. He’s the district’s chief academic officer. 

BS: If we give it, it needs to be meaningful. And if it’s not meaningful then maybe reconsider another way to either deliver the information at school or refine what we’re giving the students at home.

MT: So what does he consider meaningful homework?

LW: Work that reinforces concepts students learned in the classroom. For example, Schulz says giving students problems based on the Pythagorean Theorem before they’ve talked about it in class is not meaningful. 

MT: What does the research show on the impact of homework?

LW: There’s an argument that more homework leads to higher grades and test scores. For elementary students, studies show that isn’t the case. And for the higher grades, the research isn’t straightforward.  Robert Tai is a researcher at University of Virginia. He did a study looking at the impact of math and science homework on high school student’s standardized test scores and course grades. He found it didn’t have much, if any at all.  Here he is:

RT: Kids are spending a lot of time on homework.  You have to start wondering is that a fair trade off. For the amount of investment are being asked to put into these homework assignments, is there really a payoff for them and their teachers. 

LW: Now, he’s actually a homework believer. His hunch is that it looks like a wash because teachers aren’t assigning enough meaningful homework. 

MT: Thank you, Lisa. 

LW.  Thank you. 

MT: The CMS school board votes on the homework policy change at its meeting tonight.