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Students from less educated families are most in need of the boost that effective homework can provide, because they’re less likely to acquire academic knowledge and vocabulary at home.And homework can provide a way for lower-income parents—who often don’t have time to volunteer in class or participate in parents’ organizations—to forge connections to their children’s schools.
And while one study found that parental help with homework generally doesn’t boost students’ achievement—and can even have a negative effect— another concluded that economically disadvantaged students whose parents help with homework improve their performance significantly.
That seems to run counter to another frequent objection to homework, which is that it privileges kids who are already advantaged.
Focusing on those distinctions could be illuminating.
A study that looked specifically at math homework, for example, found it boosted achievement in elementary school than in middle school—just the opposite of the findings on homework in general.
Rather than giving up on homework because of social inequities, schools could help parents support homework in ways that don’t depend on their own knowledge—for example, by recruiting others to help, as some low-income demographic groups have been able to do.
Schools could also provide quiet study areas at the end of the day, and teachers could assign homework that doesn’t rely on technology.
One possible explanation for the general lack of a boost from homework is that few teachers know about this research.
And most have gotten little training in how and why to assign homework.
In 2016, a second-grade teacher in Texas delighted her students—and at least some of their parents—by announcing she would no longer assign homework.
“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance,” she explained.