The Equity Problem of Homework

Mar 07, 2023


When lesson planning, I try to make sure to always allot enough time for every student who gives a reasonable effort to complete their work in class. If, by the end of class, the majority of students have not completed the work, I take this as an indicator that the time allotted was not enough, and so I build in time for them to complete it tomorrow.

If, however, there are students who did not complete the work because of choices they made in class, the work suddenly becomes (drumroll please)… homework.

Homework is not a punishment here; it’s a natural consequence.

I’m a strong believer that kids need life outside of school, so when there’s ample research that shows the ineffectiveness of homework, this only strengthens why I don’t like giving it. But I also believe school is a place where young people need to learn accountability, time management, and work ethic. This is at the heart of the take-home-what-you-don’t-complete policy.

Of course there may be some students who did not complete their work because of factors other than being distracted/laziness/poor choices, etc. I’ve always dealt with these in a case-by-case basis. For some students, continuing the work at home in a less-busy environment might be what they need. Likewise, a break from it might also be what they need.

Differentiation is key.

I also want to add, I have a third and first grader, and they usually have some form of homework every night (usually reading or math practice). I'm not always thrilled they have it since they just spent 7.5 hours in school working and need a break, but I trust their teachers' expertise and the need to practice.

And so, every night- or at least most nights ๐Ÿ™‚- I have them sit at the table and complete it. And my wife and I often sit next to them and help in any way we can. I know every kid is different, but I can guarantee you my kids would not do their homework as diligently (or at all) without the help of their parents.

This is a privilege. A blessing my kids did not earn or ask for.

Similarly, kids who do not have parents with the time/resources/motivation for this--- or no parents at all--- did not ask for their circumstances. And yet the expectation is that they complete the same amount of work at home as my kids. And if they don't, they are often penalized for it with grades, lost-recess, detentions, and more. In this (extremely common) circumstance, we are penalizing students for factors outside of their control. Just like how we are rewarding others (my children) for factors outside of their control.

My young children don't choose whether they do homework or not--- Mommy and Daddy require it.

But what if there is no parent to require and help with it? 

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