It’s the first night of school and my tenth graders already have homework… lots of it. My daughter, once she got home–at 7:30–from a school volleyball game, estimated she had three hours of homework to do. Her twin brother, home at 5:00–he does debate-was just finishing up his homework at eight. Their teachers told them to expect 30 minutes to an hour a night of homework per class. Neither of them is taking any AP classes–this is the workload for the average tenth grader at their school.
I’m not going to write about the many conflicting studies about the efficacy of homework. Nor am I going to discuss the troubling tradeoffs that kids make to do well in our competitive high schools. (I will confess to having seen and being moved by Race to Nowhere, a compelling movie about the rat race that is high school for many American students.) No, today I am asking a question: Why can’t high school teachers assign homework a week at a time?
My daughter’s math teacher, a stellar teacher she had last year, gives the kids their assignments for the coming week each Friday. My son’s Latin teacher does the same thing. It’s such a gift to the students in their classes. Kids can organize, plan, and arrange their work. This skill set, interestingly enough, is often cited as a justification for homework. Many believe that homework teaches kids to be responsible, to work independently, and to learn how to manage their time. If those are benefits of homework, surely giving kids a week to plan would additionally sharpen those skills.
I have talked to many teachers and students about this option. Students universally think this is a great idea. Teachers, those who choose to assign homework daily, say that doing so makes it more likely that they assign the right work at the right time. I hear them–and I have the deepest respect for educators–but I think the benefits for students of teachers assigning work a week at time outweigh this concern.
What do you think? Should we ask high school teachers to be more like college professors and move more toward a weekly syllabus? Do you have high school kids with too much homework? Too little? Or, and if this is the case I envy you, just the right amount?