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Haunted By Homework

It is a hot topic in school districts across the country: Many students say they have too much homework, and a lot of parents complain it eats up too much family time.

Etta Kralovec, co-author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, says the workload being assigned to America's students should be reduced. She shares her views with The Saturday Early Show.

Homework doesn't necessarily make better students, Kralovec says, and it keeps families away from other activities that teach things not found in a book.

According to Kravolec, homework interrupts a family's ability to set its own agenda. What gets short changed is religious training, dance, music, sports, or other creative outlets that foster other kinds of intelligence.

And these extracurricular activities are important to those pursuing higher education. What many parents don't know, says Kravolec, is that colleges want a complete package - a well-rounded student with interests and pursuits outside of school.

Kravolec is not advocating for getting rid of homework, she says: Instead, more should be done in school under the guidance of a trained educator. She advocates extending the school day to accommodate this. Homework that takes three hours at home might only take an hour if done under the direction of a teacher who knows the material - rather than with a parent who doesn't, she says.

She points to a Rand Corporation study that examined the states with the highest rise in academic achievement. The study showed three types of reform were consistent in these states:

  • Prekindergarten programs.
  • Smaller class sizes.
  • Increased resources for teachers.
Kralovec recommends that parents push for these changes in their children's schools. And she outlines the following steps for parents to try to reduce the amount of homework being assigned if they feel it is too burdensome:
  • Sit down and talk with your kids. Ask them how homework is used in school, how much cheating goes on just to get it done, and specifically what are they getting out of it.
  • See the principal and bypass the teachers. The district often sets the homework policy, and the teachers are usually just following the guidelines.
  • Open up the discussion by talking with the superintendent and the school's parent teachers association.
There are no simple solutions and no quick fixes, says Kravolec. The problem may require a major effort to restructure the school day so that kids spend more time in school with additional supervision from educators.
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