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Opinion | Is Homework Necessary for Student Success?

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To the editor:

On “The Exercise to Get Homework Done Wrong” by Jay Caspian Kang (Sunday Opinion, July 31):

Finland proves that success in education doesn’t require homework. We have very little homework and one of the best education systems in the world. In America, we have plenty of time in class to do what is currently being assigned as homework.

Students who attend expensive private schools, underserved public schools, or schools in between are tasked with hours of additional after-school work that encourages play, reflection, creative thinking, relaxation, and intelligence. Unnecessarily deprived of time for personal growth.

Kang sees hard work and demonstrating personal responsibility as a key raison d’être for homework. He sees schools as places where students can differentiate themselves and pursue upward mobility. But ranking a student in homework writing favors a student who has a quiet place to go home, good her Wi-Fi, and access to a tutor or parent who can provide help. . In other words, it favors students of high socioeconomic status.

Making homework an important part of student assessment perpetuates both educational inequality and the myth of meritocracy. The first step in improving our education system is certainly the abolition of homework.

Drushka Wiley
The author is an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of the District of Columbia.

To the editor:

The value of homework is unclear to young students. But by high school and college, homework is absolutely essential for students who want to excel.

In both my own teaching and my 20-year career as an educator, I have observed that students who spend the most time doing homework tend to learn the most and get the best grades. And this also applies to athletes and musicians. Top performers often spend far more time perfecting their craft than their lesser competitors.

This isn’t to deny natural talent or to suggest that everyone starts at the same place, but most importantly, it’s about spending time. As Jay Caspian Kang points out, “Kids need to learn how to practice things.”

Justin Snyder
New York
The author is an assistant dean at Columbia University and also teaches undergraduate writing.

To the editor:

In my own practice as a high school math teacher, I investigated why students were not doing their homework in certain classes and found that many students struggled to solve problems. When I flipped it, I assigned a quick introductory video to my homework and started solving more difficult problems in class.

Students watch videos and solve problems to get credit. The class is then ready to tackle more difficult problems. This has significantly increased the rate of homework.

In other cases, we’ve created “homework clinics” after school to teach students how to tackle assignments and determine if they’ve done enough. Groups of students sometimes gather at homework clinics and enjoy helping each other.

I don’t think of homework as having to be done “at home”. We see this as an opportunity for students to work independently, explore new ideas, and put them into practice.

This is one approach to improve fairness without reducing cognitive demand.

Joyce Leslie
highland park, new jersey

To the editor:

Telling students that “a lot of the work you’ll do in life is meaningless” is a ridiculous justification for repetitive and meaningless homework.

Allen Berger
Savannah, Georgia
The author is Professor Emeritus of Reading and Writing at the University of Miami, Ohio.

To the editor:

Now I see why Jay Caspian Kang can’t imagine a school that can educate his children well without resorting to homework, rankings, classifications, and other meritocratic traps. Never seen anything like that. However, some schools offer a rigorous education that reinforces personal responsibility and skill acquisition without emphasizing who is better than whom or even homework.

To see this in action, I encourage Mr. Kang to visit any of the strong public Montessori schools serving low-income communities across the country. And yes, many Montessori schools take a minimalist approach to homework.

Annie Fraser
Decatur, Georgia
The author is Executive Director of the Montessori Partnership of Georgia.

To the editor:

I agree with Jay Caspian Kang that one of the values ​​of homework is for students to practice independently until they master the skill. However, homework has another important benefit that can increase social mobility.

Homework gives students the opportunity to practice their responsibilities. This is definitely an important ‘soft skill’ that will pay off in the workforce later on. In the classroom, students practice compliance. In other words, do what the teacher says. Homework provides students with the agency to practice time management (remember to do a task and make time to do it) and material management (take home the right notebook and get it back on time). increase.

To ensure a level playing field, teachers can teach these skills directly by offering strategies to students who may not have adults at home. Schools can further support students by providing unstructured time (free time, study rooms, after school, etc.) for students to independently do this homework under supervision. Learning responsibility should be her fourth R.

Barbara Richman
Hawthorne, New York