Posted on February 4, 2007
At long last . . . this week’s Thursday letter. After a number of unexpected meetings on Thursday and Friday, I finally sat down to complete this week’s letter. If you were looking for it on the elementary website, thanks for your patience.
In early November, 141 of 217 families (66%) of kindergarten through fifth grade students completed a homework survey. Prior to the survey, the faculty and I had been discussing the practice of assigning homework and had read various perspectives about the topic. We were interested in finding out what you think about homework — its effects on child and parent, the perceived relationship between doing homework and academic success, and other factors related to homework issues. We also surveyed the students and asked similar questions. It’s our intent as a faculty to review the survey results in light of current research about the practice of assigning homework to students in elementary school. In this week’s letter, I’d like to report the results from the most important survey items answered by parents and students (only students in grades 1-5 completed a survey; first and second graders completed an abbreviated version). Analysis and editorial comment will follow in next week’s Thursday letter.
Across kindergarten through fifth grade, 68% of you feel that doing homework is essential to your child’s academic success (Kindergarten, 77%; Multiage 1-2, 78%; Multiage 3-4, 61%; Grade 5, 61%). In addition, 45% of all K-5 parents feel that doing homework is essential to their child’s intellectual development. The key word is “essential,” that is, the practice of doing homework, beginning in kindergarten, is necessary for both academic success and intellectual development. The most common explanation for both survey questions is the belief that doing homework reinforces concepts or skills learned in the classroom. Students in kindergarten through grade five share the same ideas about homework. Well over 90% of the students taking the survey believe that homework helps them to understand what they learned during the day. Several parents explained that having their child do homework helps “keep parents abreast of their child’s progress.”
Many of you also link homework with the teaching of values — self-discipline, good habits, good character, time management, self-confidence, and responsibility. Many parents think homework helps children start establishing good habits and routines that “will pay off as students head for higher classes” (Kindergarten parent). Others added: “Homework helps develop discipline and a good work ethic” (M 1-2 parent); “Independent study is necessary for developing time management” (Grade 5 parent); “ … allows my child to gain confidence in what he knows” (Multiage 3-4 parent).
We were interested in the amount of time students spend on homework. According to parents, 92% of the respondents feel that the Kindergarten teachers assign the right amount of daily homework, varying between 10 to 20 minutes. Most Multiage 1-2 parents report that their children are doing 30-45 minutes of homework daily. 44% of the M 1-2 students think they’re given the right amount of homework, and 34% would like even more homework. Multiage 3-4 parents estimate that their children do 30-60 minutes of homework each night, and more than 70% of the students think that they should be spending between 30 and 60 minutes of daily homework. More than 80% of the parents in multiage classrooms felt that their children were doing the right amount of homework. 36% of the fifth grade parents indicated that their children are doing the right amount of homework; 40% said too much homework, and 24% said too little! Although 70% of the fifth grade parents told us that their children were doing more than an hour of homework daily, 54% felt that their children should be doing no more than an hour.
We learned that from Kindergarten through grade five, most parents (65%) are nearby in the same room or in the same area, available to help their children with homework. A higher percentage of parents in the primary grades describe positive, happy, and enthusiastic interactions with their children over homework, compared to the stressful experiences of fifth grade parents and students. The younger learners enjoy having their parents assist them with homework, though 92% of the fifth graders were ambivalent about having their parents help with homework. In multiage 3-4, more parents indicated levels of frustration and stress when helping with homework, and 54% of the multiage 3-4 students expressed ambivalence about their parents trying to assist. About half the number of fifth graders feel positive when doing homework, and the other half feel less enthusiastic, more stressed and frustrated.
There are two more pieces of information to consider – the amount of activity our children have after school and what parents and students thought were the “best” homework assignments. From Kindergarten through fifth grade, over 75% of our students are involved in after-school sports. About 50% have arts enrichment (music, dance, etc.), and 25% are in some kind of tutorial activity. When asked which one or two homework assignments parents thought were the most engaging and which taught their children something meaningful and valuable, Kindergarten parents listed hands-on projects, inquiry research, and handwriting practice. Multiage 1-2 parents preferred inquiry work and reading (we did not ask multiage 1-2 students this question). Parents of Multiage 3-4 students cited daily reading, book reports, and inquiry research, compared with their children who mentioned a variety of math assignments and book reports. Fifth grade parents thought research projects (e.g., inquiry in social studies and science) and book reports were the best assignments. Fifth grade students reported a variety of math and science assignments and inquiry research in social studies.
The faculty and I continue to discuss the survey results. In next week’s letter, I’ll share some of the research about homework and how the teachers have taken parent and student feedback into consideration.
The Kindergartners celebrated the 100th day of school (February 6), an opportunity for students to share their number sense about this quantity and ways of representing 100. I saw a number of displays in the classrooms. To name a few of their collections of 100 pieces — sharks’ teeth cleverly glued to a poster illustrating the open jaw of a shark, origami pieces forming “MPI,” pet photos, coins and buttons in jars, cotton balls, toy soldiers, bead and cereal necklaces, aluminum can flip tabs, seashells, and Lego pieces formed into trucks. The students have also learned to count by 5’s and 10’s.
The Honolulu Police Department paid us a friendly surprise visit on Friday. The students gathered at the turnaround and listened to five solo-bike officers from the traffic division share information about their jobs. Students asked a wide range of questions and got a close-up look at the motorcycles. The officers taught the children how to recognize a “real” police officer (badge number, name, and uniform patch) and remind them that an officer’s duty and responsibility is to protect and assist those in need and to enforce the law. The children were clearly impressed!
We have already mailed the invitations to our annual Grandparents’ Day celebration on February 28. If a grandparent has not received an invitation, please let Ms. Jacobson or Mrs. Schultz know as soon as possible. If your child does not have a grandparent, then you, a favorite relative, or family friend may attend. Please make sure the office has an address so that the invitations can be mailed this week.
Now that the Punahou Carnival and Super Bowl excitement is over, we hope to see all of our students rested after this busy weekend of activity and ready for learning this week! Hope you took advantage of the gorgeous weather and brisk temperatures this weekend. Lovely.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey