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The issue with homework

December 17, 2013
By JIM MACKEY - Review Managing Editor ( , The Review

I never remember liking homework. Not in grade school. Not in middle school. And especially not in high school. In college it had to be dealt with, but, you guessed it, I still didn't like it.

Surprisingly there's been times when I've had homework from The Review, but most was self-assigned and the majority was sports-related. I enjoyed that.

I bring you this because of recent discussion at the East Liverpool Board of Education meeting, in which one board member, Scott Dieringer, brought the issue of homework before the board.

A letter written by Westgate Principal Carole Sutton and addressed to "Westgate families" early last month spoke to the issue of homework. In the letter, Sutton wrote "Homework should be to school work what practice is to a sport or musical instrument, PRACTICE. While students are required to complete assigned homework, it cannot be used to negatively affect their grade."

Apparently not all instructors at Westgate require homework, and although there does not appear to be any type of true policy regarding it, the building's leadership team "recommended" not counting homework toward students' grades this year, that according to James Herring, the district superintendent.

Westgate houses the district's fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Fact Box

the reporters' take

Devin Bezeredi

I sympathize with students and parents bombarded with bland, tedious worksheets Xeroxed out of a textbook and passed off as homework. Homework should not be handed out arbitrarily or as "busy work." Homework assignments should be meaningful and engaging. Quality, not quantity, is the key when it comes to homework.

On the other hand, homework teaches kids discipline and willpower and conditions them for their lives as adults. To me, a good bit of adult life consists of doing boring, frustrating tasks that you don't want to do.

In my opinion, well-adjusted adults are those who remain attentive and enthusiastic despite this daily dosage of tedium and frustration from the "real world."

In a sense, homework is "practice" not only for academics but for living as well.

Steve Huba

My gut reaction is that kids probably get too much homework, and this, combined with the early school start times, is one of the reasons why students, especially teenagers, aren't getting enough sleep.

But my other thought is regarding the value of homework. At least from what my sons tell me, homework is an integral part of classwork - not necessarily because it's graded, but because it involves information that students are tested on later. Not everything can be taught in class, so teachers rely on homework to cover all the material.

Not keeping up with homework can put a student at a significant disadvantage, especially when it comes to test time.

Richard Sberna

The role of homework in education today, and the idea of what it really is for, needs to be closely examined. I believe that homework certainly plays a role in the equation, but the emphasis should be more on quality rather than sheer quantity, as often seems to be the case.

I agree with (EL Superintendent) Herring's philosophy about homework being a "fine line" proposition, if not with how he eliminated it as a requirement when he was a teacher.

Westgate principal Carole Sutton's letter to parents acknowledging concerns about the quantity and quality of homework assigned is justified and fits into debates that parents and teachers are having across the country.

In an article titled "My Daughter's Homework Is Killing Me," published in the October 2013 issue of The Atlantic, writer Karl T. Greenfeld takes readers through a recent experiment. Alarmed by how much time his 13-year-old daughter's homework load seemed to be consuming, Greenfeld would do her homework for a week to gauge it for himself. The result: His daughter's eighth-grade homework required an average of more than three hours each night for him to complete.

Greenfeld also points to a 2005 Penn State study showing no correlation between the achievement scores of students in countries where more homework is assigned versus those from countries where less homework is assigned. "Some of the countries that score higher than the U.S. on testing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study-Japan and Denmark, for example-give less homework, while some of those scoring lower, including Thailand and Greece, assign more."

Dieringer was adamant about his position, stating "I don't understand how we can't count homework." It was his belief that this move would result in students not completing homework assignments.

"Homework should be handed out and graded," he said.

Herring, during the meeting, said "I have no problem (not counting homework). When kids take a test, they can't take it home. (The teachers) are trying to get across what kids know here (at school)."

As for Sutton's practice reference, Dieringer countered, saying the lack of practice doesn't aid ones abilities.

"That's why certain players play on game night and others don't," he said. "Homework is like practice and the game is important."

Me? I'm on the fence on this one, to be honest.

There's a big part of me that says teachers should put in all the time necessary within a classroom setting to make sure the student understands the subject matter. Therefore, homework would not be needed.

That, you could say, would be the perfect scenario in a perfect world. Fact is, we don't live in a perfect world.

I like to think that every teacher cares enough about every one of his/her students to make sure that happens. But then many would call me a fool. Again, we don't live in a perfect world.

I'm sure there are some bad apples among teachers -all across this land - that simply put in the hours it takes to get that paycheck. That's sad.

On the other side of the fence, having experienced homework as a student, I see it as a rite of passage, of sorts. Something that one generation to the next needs to experience.

If done correctly, homework can serve its purpose when it comes time to be tested on the material. However, if mommy or daddy assists on homework in a way in which the student gains nothing from it, then when it's time for the test, the student most likely doesn't comprehend those questions presented in front of him.

It's tough.

The majority of students, if asked, would overwhelmingly push homework to the curb. No doubt. Teachers also may feel the same way.

I would have to say parents are split on the issue. Some would argue that more homework takes away from a child's time outside of the classroom setting. Others would argue that more is needed to aid the student in his studies.

We recently had this watercooler-type discussion in the newsroom, and as you would expect, it garnered a mixed bag.

My question is what do you, our valued readers, think of the homework issue? How important is homework to our students' education? Let me know. Let others know. Send in those letters to the editor.

(Jim Mackey is managing editor of The Review. Reach him at


What's your opinion?


Letters must include the writer's signature, name, address and telephone number

Letters may be sent one of four ways:

- mail (210 E. Fourth St., East Liverpool, Ohio, 43920)

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