Susan Ohanian, Burlington Free Press - Twenty years as a teacher and more years as a researcher have shown me the negative effects of homework policy in elementary school. Homework drains family energy and actually results in students spending less time reading.
When I taught third grade our school in a working class neighborhood in New York divided children by reading scores on standardized tests, so we had three classrooms: High Readers, Middle Readers, and Low Readers. I had been a longtime reading specialist, so when I transferred to a classroom position, I was entrusted with the Low Readers. Our school had a policy that teachers must assign homework every night. My assignment was constant: Read 30 minutes. Parents initialed a sheet that this was accomplished.
We started our school day with 50 minutes of silent reading. I read, too, so kids saw an adult poring over a book. They liked to check the number of pages I got through.
When these Low Readers took the standardized test in reading in the Spring, all but two scored as proficient. Amazing to me, they scored at very high levels in spelling. But that’s another story, revealing more about the test than the kids.
Thirty years later, the deaf child in that group who was attending public school for the first time and for three months cried, “I’ve never done this before,” contacted me to let me know that figuring out the verbal antics of Amelia Bedelia transformed her life. This transformation includes a college degree.