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Homework gets put to the test
Quality over quantity is the way to better grades, teachers say
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For decades, homework has been the bane of many students’ existence. And although most students probably still feel the same way today, homework, at least from the teachers’ perspective, still has a prominent role to play in today’s education.

But some caution that homework given just for the wrong reasons — namely for busywork — could be detrimental.

“In our schools, I’ve found that the emphasis is not on whether an assignment is class work or homework, but is instead on meaningful work,” said Laurie Ecke, international baccalaureate coordinator at West Hall High School. “There is no place for quantity over quality. If homework is relevant, significant and/or even fascinating, I believe the impact on student learning is great indeed.”

A recent study out of Indiana University’s School of Education found no direct correlation between homework and higher grades in class, but did find an association between homework and higher standardized test scores.

The study, which examined data of more than 18,000 high school students from 1990 to 2002, concluded: “Contrary to much of the published research, a regression analysis of time spent on homework and the final class grade found no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not. But the analysis found a positive association between student performance on standardized tests and the time they spent on homework.”

Some, however, see homework as one of the catalysts to student success — both on a report card and on a standardized test.

“I believe that, but there’s no real statistical way for us to measure (the relationship between homework and academic success),” said Elaine Dunahoo, a teacher at Flowery Branch High School. “As teachers, we just know the students that do their work have better grades and that’s kind of common sense. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about school or sports — the people that practice do better in the big game.”

There has been plenty of research to back that up.

An article in the March 2007 edition of Educational Leadership highlighted both schools of thought when it comes to assigning homework. The article referred to multiple studies that concluded homework had a direct tie to student gains.

But it also shared some of the arguments against it, including homework “as a matter of policy ... may produce little or no benefit — it may even decrease student achievement.”

It seems many teachers are in tune with both.

“I do (think it helps with grades and test scores),” said Debra Jackson, a teacher at Flowery Branch High School. “I don’t think it’s a guarantee. I don’t think you can necessarily say that if a student works ‘X’ number of problems tonight they’re going to know how to master that concept. But I do think it’s a part of the whole process of learning.”

Some teachers see the practice of assigning homework as a slippery slope, and don’t necessarily think there is a direct correlation between at-home work and grades.

“Quality over quantity is the key in relation to homework,” said Juliana Dean, a teacher at Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy. “As an elementary school teacher, I must ask myself when assigning homework: Is there a reasonable purpose or a clear value to the work I’m assigning? If there is not, then why waste sacred family time with homework that does not seek a reasonable purpose? “

And as teachers develop their philosophy on assigning homework, students have their own take.

“I think that more than homework, studying helps just in general,” said Sara Hayes, a junior at Gainesville High School. “Assigned homework, I don’t think, contributes much to any success. Maybe for some students, but for some of the higher level classes, studying and doing your own thing helps with getting better test scores.”

As students climb the academic rungs, potentially to postsecondary education, that ability to study becomes essential. Homework, some say, helps establish that.

“I think it’s a good tool because it allows students to work on their own, to gain that individual sense that the classroom doesn’t give,” said Pep Brown, a senior at Gainesville High School.

But regardless of what camp teachers support over the quantity of homework, a common thread ties the two together: effort.

“Effort equals success, no matter what you’re talking about,” Dunahoo said.