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No better time for an all-out assault on that perennial threat to 11- and 12-year-olds everywhere: homework. For elementary school students, there is no connection between homework and academic achievement.In a recent series of books and articles — including Alfie Kohn's "The Homework Myth," Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish's "The Case Against Homework," and sympathetic pieces in Slate, Newsweek, Time, and The Washington Post — a wide-ranging group of writers has channeled a sometimes startling amount of anger into discrediting the work that children do after the 3 p.m. Not unlike the buffet at Red Lobster, these criticisms have something for everyone: Homework destroys creativity. Indeed, in-class study is shown to be more effective — a state of affairs that barely improves by middle school.
Suzanne Capek Tingley started as a high school English/Spanish teacher, transitioned to middle school, and eventually became a principal, superintendent, and adjunct professor in education administration at the State University of New York.
She is the author of the funny, but practical book for teachers, How to Handle Difficult Parents (Prufrock Press).
While affluent students are treated to stimulating camps and Shakespeare in the Park, impoverished minority students spend a good portion of those three long months losing everything they've acquired over the previous nine.
When it succeeds, homework is, in those rare instances, the poster-child example of an educational policy that overwhelmingly advantages rich students with well-educated parents.
But there was also a bleaker interpretation: that schools — public and private — just might not make all that much of a difference in students' lives.
What if academic success is so overwhelmingly predetermined by outside factors that schools can do little to change the situation?
And when they do so, they aren't apt to have computers or reference books on hand to help.
The point here is not that debates about educational policy are always a bad thing.
As Richard Rothstein details in "Class and Schools," those differences are not slight: Disadvantaged parents are less likely to help their children and, when they do, their help is likely to be less valuable.
Affluent children are likely to have rooms or workspaces of their own, while many underprivileged students must carve out a nook in more crowded housing.