Saturday, March 08, 2008

CABE Misrepresents Homework Research

In the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) Policy Highlights email to Connecticut Board members, CABE distorts the results of two research initiatives in the news about the value of homework.

CABE's Policy Highlight cites a 2007 survey on homework by Harris Interactive (for the MetLife Insurance Company) that was released in February. The survey is wholly anecdotal depending upon the opinions of teachers, students, and parent respondents. CABE's framing of the results as supportive of homework practice is pure disinformation, inaccurate, and deceiving to CT Board members.

Here's what CABE says:
75 percent of students said they do at least 30 minutes of homework each weekday.
45 percent of students said they do an hour or more.

Here's what the study actually said:
-- Most students (77%) regardless of grade level, spend at least 30
minutes doing homework on a typical school day, while 45% reported spending
at least an hour.

Here's what CABE says:
90 percent of students said getting homework done caused them anxiety; despite the fact that most students said they had enough time.

Here's what the study actually said:
-- Students who get C's or below are more likely than others to feel
frequently stressed about homework (38% vs. 28% of "A" students).

Here's what CABE says:
25 percent of secondary-school students said their homework assignments were mostly busywork (this was down from 75 percent in a 2002 survey). By contrast, only 16 percent of teachers rated homework quality as poor.

Here's what the study found:
-- Although six in ten parents believe that their child's teachers assign the right amount of homework, fully one-third of parents rate the quality of homework assignments as fair or poor, and four in ten believe that a great deal or some of the homework is busywork and not related to what students are learning in school. Fewer teachers (16%) give such low marks to the quality of homework assigned.

Students who had the lowest opinion of homework and spent the least time on it were generally those who earned Cs and below, didn't have college plans, and rated their schools as fair or poor.

Similarly, parents who were the most critical of homework tended to be those who were the most alienated from their children's schools, the most critical of how frequently teachers were in touch with them, and the amount of guidance their children received on homework.

The study:
5. Those who view homework as unimportant or lack time for homework are associated with lower student achievement and other risk factors.

-- Students who do not believe that homework is important are more likely than other students to: get C's or below (40% vs. 27%); not plan to go to college after high school (26% vs. 15%); rate the quality of education that they receive as only fair or poor (29% vs. 13%).

-- Students who get C's or below are more likely than others to feel
frequently stressed about homework (38% vs. 28% of "A" students).

-- Similarly, parents who report that homework is not important feel
more alienated from their child's school, are less likely to have rules
about homework, and are more likely to say that homework is burdensome.

What CABE leaves out:
6. Most students are not getting enough sleep, which has an impact on their ability to get to school and pay attention in class.

-- Nearly half of students (46%) think they do not get enough sleep.
While this experience is more common among secondary school students (57%), 29% of elementary school students also report they do not get enough sleep.

-- Nearly half of elementary school students (48%) get less than nine hours of sleep on a school night, and 60% of secondary school students say they get less than eight hours of sleep.

-- Four in ten students (37%) very often or often have trouble waking up in the morning.

-- One-third (34%) frequently feel tired during class, three in ten (29%) daydream in class, and seven percent frequently fall asleep during class.

-- Teachers seem to underestimate the extent and impact of lack of sleep. On average, teachers report that only 28% of their students do not get enough sleep.

7. Doing homework is a solitary task...but with distractions.

-- Nine in ten elementary school students (89%) and eight in ten secondary school students (81%) usually do their homework at home.

-- While three in ten elementary school students (31%) report that they do nothing else while working on their homework, only one in nine secondary school students (11%) have this habit. In fact, nine in ten (89%) secondary students are doing other activities, or "multi-tasking," while doing homework, including 70% who listen to music and 51% who watch TV.

-- Two in ten students report that they are usually talking on the phone (20%), instant messaging or emailing (20%) or text messaging (17%) while they do their homework.

It gets worse. CABE goes on to cite a second study from the Center for public education.

Older students benefit from more homework than younger students. Researchers at Duke University indicated a stronger positive relationship between student achievement and homework for students in grades seven through twelve.

Older students benefit more from homework than younger students. Some studies have shown that older students gain more academic benefits from homework than do younger students, perhaps because younger students have less-effective study habits and are more easily distracted (Cooper 1989; Hoover-Dempsey et al. 2001; Leone and Richards 1989; Muhlenbruck et al. 2000).

Too much homework may diminish its effectiveness, however research on the amount of time students should spend on homework is limited.

Too much homework may diminish its effectiveness. While research on the optimum amount of time students should spend on homework is limited, there are indications that for high school students, 1½ to 2½ hours per night is optimum. Middle school students appear to benefit from smaller amounts (less than 1 hour per night). When students spend more time than this on homework, the positive relationship with student achievement diminishes (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall 2006).

Some of what CABE leaves out from CPE:
The link between homework and student achievement is far from clear. There is no conclusive evidence that homework increases student achievement across the board. Some studies show positive effects of homework under certain conditions and for certain students, some show no effects, and some suggest negative effects (Kohn 2006; Trautwein and Koller 2003).

Most disturbing about CABE's and many other spin doctors is the racial overtones assigned anecdotal studies.

A 2007 survey on homework by Harris Interactive (for the MetLife Insurance Company) was released in February and shed some light on the status of this much-debated practice: 80 percent of teachers and parents and 70 percent of students said that homework is important or very important - and support was even stronger among African-American and Hispanic parents, who overwhelmingly believe that homework helps children learn more and reach their goals after high school.

What the study actually says is:
The majority of teachers, parents, and students believe in the value of homework, with 83% of teachers, 81% of parents, and 77% of students indicating that doing homework is important or very important.
I cannot find any racial breakout of the findings. [Update: see comment] However, what CABE implies as does the CT State Board of Education is that homework is a silver bullet to success in school, that it is not the discrepancies in income and the quality of education in ghetto schools that is the problem but the laziness of students and a largely poor and uneducated minority population whose belief (largely the result of state sponsored brain-washing) are far more important than the scientific research.

This myth is sold so successfully that most Americans believe that lazy parents and students are the cause of all educational ills and that it is the lack of homework and not quality that ails public education.

This panders to racism at its most vulgar and social belligerence akin to state control of education as practiced in Nazi Germany, communist Russia, and the dwarf-Hitler nations of history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The MetLife report does provide racial breakdown of some of its findings. On page 23 of the executive summary it states "Black and Hispanic parents are more likely than white parents to believe that doing homework is important (89% vs. 77%)." It then provides a racial breakdown of various other results as well.