Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

September 18, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!....Conor Clarke writes today about a rash of back-to-school articles suggesting that homework is a sham that does nothing to help student achievement. In fact, he says, it's worse than that:

It would be a mistake to view this as a surprise, or even an isolated failure. After all, it's not easy to find a connection between academic success and most educational policies....What if academic success is so overwhelmingly predetermined by outside factors that schools can do little to change the situation?

The recent spate of homework hatred raises this same question, and it should produce the same answer: Educational debates should focus less on education policy as such, and more on socioeconomic inequality.

The connections between inequality and academic success are well-documented. As a recent report in The American Journal of Sociology found, early social context is so important that children are "launched into achievement trajectories when they start formal schooling or even before" that are "highly stable over childhood and adolescence." These trajectories, in turn, create achievement gaps that are evident in early grades and grow with age, so that "even a slight edge in test scores during the early years can predict long-term advantage." And this isn't just because wealthier students go to ritzier schools: the trajectories are almost as predictable even when well-heeled students end up in economically disadvantaged institutions.

I'll confess that I have a lot of sympathy for this view. The education world seems to be perpetually riven by fantastically shrill battles between traditionalists and progressives, and in the end it's hard to see that either side ever manages to win decisively in any area. These battles have swung back and forth for decades (the traditionalists seem to have won the latest round in the math wars, for example), but there's precious little evidence that kids today learn any more or less than kids in the 40s and 50s. Or the 60s or 70s. Does any of this stuff really make a difference?

Maybe. But I think Conor is probably right: simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar. Unfortunately, addressing that requires lots of money and an enormously intensive effort. A year of two of Head Start just doesn't do the trick. There's not much hope of anyone making a serious push on this front anytime soon.

Kevin Drum 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (71)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

I see. Work doesn't produce results but somehow results (sometimes) result.

Posted by: Ross Best on September 18, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

seems sensible to me. pushing Mozart on a toddler probably makes little difference; what does have an influence is the many other things that would be done by a parent willing and able to push Mozart.

Posted by: David on September 18, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

My main problem with the massive debates we have all the time over the primary school curriculum is that the two sides so often stake out purist positions, with the result that both sides are wrong.

Take the phonics debate. Of course children need to learn to sound out words, but English is such a highly irregular language that they also have to memorize whole words and their pronounciation as well. To preach only phonics, or only whole-word techniques, is to give children only half of what they need.

Likewise in mathematics instruction: the kids need to memorize the times tables, and they also need to learn enough of the concepts that underly math to make sense of it, or they just burn out on the whole thing; the problem is that too many primary school teachers don't really understand it all that well.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 18, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe. But I think Conor is probably right: simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar. Unfortunately, addressing that requires lots of money and an enormously intensive effort.

Maybe. But I think another factor is genetics. Some people, like conservatives, are genetically wired to do better in school and learn better. This was well documented in The Bell Curve by Charles Murray. Spending money to help poor performing students is a bad idea because they can never do better due to bad genes.

Posted by: Al on September 18, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Socio-economic background makes a difference because it makes difference in whether kids want to do the work that's necessary for learning. And work is most definitely necessary if you want to learn much of anything that's actually worth knowing.

Posted by: curtisb on September 18, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar.

Conor is treating socioeconomic status as an independent variable in his analysis, when really it is significantly dependent on IQ, and the children born into a disadvantaged SES usually are not the progeny of average or above-average IQ parents.

It's not simply SES. There's plenty of research which shows that moving children from poor urban environments, via housing vouchers, into middle class environments, and the schools that go hand in hand with middle class environments has little effect on academic performance.

These trajectories, in turn, create achievement gaps that are evident in early grades and grow with age, so that "even a slight edge in test scores during the early years can predict long-term advantage." And this isn't just because wealthier students go to ritzier schools: the trajectories are almost as predictable even when well-heeled students end up in economically disadvantaged institutions.

Talk about being blinded by Blank Slatism. Simply ignore the heritability of intelligence and ascribe all outcomes to environmental factors. Talk about extremism. The trajectories which Conor references do not create achievement gaps, they are simply secondary effects.

Posted by: TangoMan on September 18, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

"pushing Mozart on a toddler probably makes little difference; what does have an influence is the many other things that would be done by a parent willing and able to push Mozart."

As it happens, last month's Scientific American had an article on "The Expert Mind" that says pretty much the opposite about Mozart and others:

http://scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?articleID=00010347-101C-14C1-8F9E83414B7F4945

Posted by: Ross Best on September 18, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

We just sent our one & only to kindergarten three weeks ago. All day. Bus to & fro.

She hates it.

I went to a kindergarten meeting last Thursday. A highly regimented program. Reading, writing, arithmetic (counting to 180 by school year's end).

We're in a ritzy enclave NE of Baltimore. Trying to keep the standards up against the "other side of the tracks" over in the nearby military bases in Aberdeen.

Why?

Comparing to my own experience, it seems to me that kindergarten now compresses the first two to three grade levels into one frantic year. As I attended five different schools in three different towns by the end of third grade (first grade was Catholic), I think I remember something about that.

Looking back at the entire public school experience, it seems to me that reading & writing were highly important, adding & subtracting important, and the rest mostly window dressing. (Yes, you should learn to think for yourself, but schools have never successfully taught that.)

My social context was working poor. And I've stayed there, despite six years of university, two BA's, time spent in two schools in France, and an extended stay in London.

Maybe a ritzy Baltimore backwater portends better for my daughter. If that's the case, if it's location, location, location, then why the rush to learn everything in kindergarten?

Why not let the kids play a little longer? From 5 to 7, transit from play to work, with the emphasis on play. From 8-11, the emphasis shifts from play to work.

Hey! The best educated country in the world is electing Republicans. If that's not a black mark against education, I don't know what would be.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on September 18, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

A friend of mine managed to raise at a school board meeting a few years ago the possibility that the consistent failure of Jefferson HS, which draws from a mostly black and poor neighborhood, was related to socioeconomic status. The board shit a collective brick, as it's SOP to pretend that issue doesn't exist and blame anyone or anything else. It's obviously a huge factor, but it's apparently radioactive, at least in my city.

Posted by: Rip Tatermen on September 18, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

If the "social disadvantage" theory were accurate, nobody from a poor or disadvantaged family should ever have succeeded in American history. Does this match with reality?

Go back and look at some of the most famous and successful people in many fields through our 200 years. How many have a biography that says "from rich parents?"

Our education system started becoming a problem when it stopped being about learning and started being about social engineering.

Go back and read the kind of essays written by a farm kid back in the late 1800s.

"there's precious little evidence that kids today learn any more or less than kids in the 40s and 50s. Or the 60s or 70s."

Any numbers or sources to back that up?

Posted by: Missnancy on September 18, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

That's because the system is rigged for the middle class kids. All the solutions we hear about today act as if kids are passive lumps of clay for other people to mold. Kids need incentives. In capitalist societies, we generally believe that people work for reward and the amount of the reward should be tied to hours put in and the quality of the work. We think that societies which expect people to be something the society can mold without offering incentives don't work.

I wrote my dissertation on the Junior Republic Movement, which began about 1895 and ended with the depression. Kids who attended Junior Republics were paid to go to school and to work, according to the hours they put in and the quality of what they produced. My research shows that kids from the Bowery who went there became professionals at three times the average for people of their age range in the United States. They became laborers at only the same rate as was average for people of their age range.

But nobody wants to talk about practical solutions that aren't already part of the academic dialogue. Academic journals aren't interested in publishing my work, because they prefer to dismiss paying students as ludicrous, whatever the results may show.

And if anyone in this forum even responds to this, that will be surprising.

Posted by: catherineD on September 18, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan:

It's not heredity. It's culture.

Posted by: bob on September 18, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The connections between inequality and academic success are well-documented.

This class analysis is irrelevant to individual achievement. Within each social class, the ones who advance and raise their own children in richer homes are the ones who do their homework. The ones who do not do their homework are the ones who pass on less wealth to their children than they inherited.

The most stunningly successful people in the US are the poor immigrants (Russians, Jews, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hispanic) who have worked their way into the middle class, or worked from the middle class into the upper classes. They are over-represented in all of our high-tech industries because in the past decades they were over-represented in our high-tech graduate schools. It was homework that got Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice started on their upward careers, and homework that put Dwight Eisenhower, Sam Walton, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates into the top.

It's stochastic, not deterministic. Abe Lincoln (not so much formal education but he took it seriously and self-taught a great deal)and Bill Clinton rose from modest circumstances to the top by doing his homework; George Bush got to the top without the homework.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think that in the end parenting more important that socio-economic inequality. If you're from a poor family where the parents value education and expose you to reading at a young age you'll do well in school. My wife didn't work for the first 14 years of my kids life and quite frankly I didn't earn that much so by government definitions we were a poor family and yet both my kids were and still are honor students.

Posted by: Evan on September 18, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK


"...but there's precious little evidence that kids today learn any more or less than kids in the 40s and 50s. Or the 60s or 70s."

Yes, actually there is evidence for exactly this. I guess blogging doesn't leave much time for doing any research on the stuff you bloviate about.

Posted by: loser on September 18, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

"A year of [sic] two of Head Start just doesn't do the trick," writes Kevin, and it's true that a year or two of Head Start is not usually going to make the difference between a future dropout and a future Harvard student. But Head Start is nevertheless critically important and despite forty years' success in gettng disadvantaged children ready to start school it remains so severely underfunded that it has to turn away two out of five qualified children.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on September 18, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Admitted anecdote....

I came from a low SES family. Dad barely made it out of high school and was very poor. Neither parent went to college. I have a Ph.D. I often consider the kids I grew up with and why they haven't been as successful in terms of education and income. I'm convinced that two things made a big difference:
1) My home life was very stable. My parents stayed together and always maanged to deliver a hot meal that we ate togther, even when the paychecks were thin.
2) My mother emphasized reading from Day 1. She read to me everyday and had me reading everyday my entire childhood.
The schools I went to in north Georgia and north Florida were terrible.

Posted by: eb on September 18, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

The parents' and the parents' culture's attitude toward education seem to me to be one of the most important factors in children's educational success.

For example, in the 70's and 80's, recently-arrived immigrant Vietnamese children tended to do better than the native-born Americans in the same schools, even thought the Vietnamese children were performing in a second language. The Vietnamese parents put a higher value on education than the American parents.

Many of the Vietnamese immigrants arrived penniless, so their kids often went to poorly-funded schools. Yet they achieved anyway, despite conditions that Americans still claim are an insurmountable barrier to educational success.

Posted by: McCord on September 18, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Does any of this stuff really make a difference?

Not that much.

The majority predictor for academic success is the quality and structure of the home and family environment at an early age. To raise a smart and motivated child, you must either (a) raise parents who want smart and motivated children and are willing to spend the time and effort to encourage them (and set a positive example).

Or, to remove the chicken-and-egg problem, (b) remove the child as much as possible from a poor family or home environment, as early as possible. (This is why, in my opinion, Head Start was so successful, just as much as the program would teach children socialization and sensory-motor skills; it also got the kids away from negative factors in their early-life environment.)

Posted by: Dave Alway on September 18, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno. A lot of my kid's schoolwork through grade 9 seemed a bit useless. Then again, despite never being "good at math" I managed to learn enough math to get an engineering degree. How? 1-2 hours/night of concentrated pencil work, 6 nights/week for 6 years (2 in high school, 4 in college). I am not sure how you learn subjects such as math and science except by sitting down with pencil and paper for long stretches and doing the work (note I said pencil and paper, not a "Newton's Law Video Game").

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on September 18, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Come on - how can you possibly argue that doing homework doesn't help "student achievement"? Thats just silly.

The social status of your family clearly matters, but in terms of maximizing individual achievement, work - at home and in the classroom - really does matter.

Posted by: aidan on September 18, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Socio-economic factors account for 62% - 68% of the variance of student performance. Not 1% - but not 99% either. About two-thirds.

The fatal flaw in NCLB and other state accountability measures is that by confusing student performance with school performance - by using test scores as a proxy for school performance - we will end up punishing high performing schools that effectively serve high poverty populations, while rewarding mediocre schools that are coasting on their parents' incomes.

Posted by: MaxGowan on September 18, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The difficulty with talking about educational inequality is that the middle-class worries it means make their kids' schools worse. It's not an irrational fear, there is a percentage of muddle-headed educators who would drop achievement to reduce inequality.

Ultimately, the only politically saleable educational changes are those that promise to improve every school. Extra work done with worse students (and I believe it's useful and necessary) almost has to be "slipped in" without making too big a deal about it.

Posted by: American Citizen on September 18, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Comparing to my own experience, it seems to me that kindergarten now compresses the first two to three grade levels into one frantic year.

It doesn't just seem to you - our daughter's kindergarten teacher said as much: the work that used to be considered first grade level, is now being pushed down to 5 year olds.

It's really crazy - kindergarten should be about learning to live without mommy and daddy for most of the day, and getting along with new kids. Actually learning anything ought to be optional. I'm sort of impressed that my little monkey came out of there able to read, but I don't think that was necessary.

Posted by: craigie on September 18, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

These comparisons are somewhat misleading, because they compare a very large factor--socio-economic status--to a relatively small one, like homework. Yes, homework by itself might not matter much in learning, but cumululative school factors can add up to a lot. And there is evidence that school factors matter, and that kids are learning more.

Consider mathematics achievement. Math is a good indicator of school effects, because kids learn basically all the math they learn in school, unlike reading, where home environments and experiences are important. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, student achievement in mathematics is higher at all three grades tested (9, 13, and 17) than it was in 1973, the first year of testing. At age 9, the increase is particularly sharp: the average score is 241 (on a 500-point scale), compared to 219 in 1973.

There are many reasons for the increase, and trying to tease out one silver bullet is probably a fool's errand. What is important is trying to distinguish between the factors that contribute to those increases and weed out those that show no effect at all. And we actually know quite a bit about what those factors are.

Posted by: Bob on September 18, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with education is that there's more than one problem, and most of us are unwilling to address anything other than our particular hot button, be it poverty, bad parents, unqualified teachers, low teacher salary, educational faddism, these damn kids today with no respect for their elders, etc., etc. Until our attitude changes, US education will continue to languish.

As for homework, it seems to me that the central issue is not homework itself, but the low-quality, make-work nature of most homework assigned. It's hard to come up with assignments that provoke thinking and learning, and easy to assign lame questions from the end of the chapter that were written by someone who desperately wanted to be doing something else.

Posted by: Bobarino on September 18, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

The majority predictor for academic success is the quality and structure of the home and family environment at an early age. To raise a smart and motivated child, you must either (a) raise parents who want smart and motivated children and are willing to spend the time and effort to encourage them (and set a positive example).

Okay. So now the student is 18 or 22 or 26, with a high school diploma or a BA or a Ph.D.

Then what?

He still has to get on in the world. Get a job, turn it into a career, find a mate, have some offspring, make something of himself.

Speaking for myself & the people I've known over the years, I've seen no evidence that ability at schoolwork had much bearing on ultimate life outcomes. Or, for that matter, IQ (mine's 150). Or school. Among my friends are two of the top fifteen or twenty-five graduates of USC for 1979. (I'm being vague to keep their identities private.) Today, one's an unemployed alcoholic. The other is an overworked attorney at a major LA law firm. Hard to see either one as a success.

Bill Gates dropped out of college.

Sons & daughters of immigrants, and for that matter, immigrants themselves, have always done better than the norm, if my memory is correct. But that's not the whole story. Grandchilden of immigrants are different again. Analyze American history for successive waves of immigrants, then consider the achievements of the children of 1920's immigrants, who are only now passing away.

People who are driven do better than people who are not driven. Problem is that only some people can be driven. Many others will rebel & become outcasts. Which may or may not be a good thing, but it is another route to the ultimate life's end.

Looking back at the dismal years I spent after high school, I think the one thing I lacked was a father who could give me direction at that critical part of my life. It's an avenue that has been little explored.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on September 18, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, one other thing. The "Mozart to toddlers" idea is perhaps the dumbest misreading of research I have ever seen. What happened was, some researchers tried an experiement in which they played classical music to *college students* just before a test. The college studenets experienced a slight--and transitory--rise in test performance. Somehow, through some public policy game of telephone, this experiment got translated as, give very young children classical music and they will become smart. Zell Miller, of all people (we should have appreciated his lunacy earlier), took the idea and gave a classical CD to the parents of every newborn in the state of Georgia. the taxpayers of Georgia got taken but good.

Posted by: Bob on September 18, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan:

It's not heredity. It's culture.

Really?

As Stanley Sue and Sumie Okazaki pointed out in their 1991 American Psychologist paper, Asian American Educational Achievements: A Phenomenon in Search of an Explanation, the parenting styles and values found in East Asian-American homes tend to correlate with lower test scores when they are found in white homes.
Posted by: TangoMan on September 18, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Homework is a tool for learning. Homework for homework's sake is a total waste of everyone's time, but when used properly it can be a useful tool for any student.

Some of it is just speed. If you don't drill on your math tables until you have them cold, you will be slower than you need to be when you are doing interesting problems. If you don't have writing assignments, you won't be a confident writer. Basketball players drill on their basketball skills, why shouldn't folks learning academic skills.

Some of it is a method for self-evaluation. I've taught college accounting and I always assigned homework. I didn't collect the homework or grade it. The purpose was for the students to learn and master the material involved. If the student could look at the problems at the end of the chapter and do them in front of the class, that student knew the material. If not, not. My experience was that the students who were doing poorly had neither understood the material when it was first presented, bothered to do the homework, nor understood the material when it was reviewed as a part of the assignment. It would have been so much nicer if they had told me after the first assignment that they didn't understand, rather than waiting until I discovered it by giving them a 40 on the test.

Posted by: freelunch on September 18, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

There's one obvious, undeniable way to slow down the growth in educational inequality in America: stop letting in so many illegal immigrants with grade school educations.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on September 18, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

All you need to know is right here:
www.minneapolisfed.org/research/studies/earlychild/

Posted by: steve on September 18, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

My recommendation would be to add self study time during the school at the expense of lecture time. I think the greatest lesson a student could learn is that they don't need someone to teach them - and I think this is the primary benefit of homework. I would also allow students to take the classes at their own pace. Teachers would be around primarily to assist and test, and the tests could be retaken until a passing score is achieved.

Could this work? It does work. Its how I did my tech school training. It was supposed to be a 16 week course, but most of us finished in about half that - and then reported for duty. A traditional teacher would have dutifully written a lesson plan for 16 weeks and proceeded to bore the hell out of us. Why should it take 4 years to finish high school? And even if only the most motivated finished early, this would still allow them to move on to something more challenging, and free up resources for those who needed more assistance.

Posted by: Randy on September 18, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

"but there's precious little evidence that kids today learn any more or less than kids in the 40s and 50s."

guess you don't have kids. I went thru an advantaged suburban public school system, graduating in the early 70's. My 3 kids too have gone thru such a school system. Across the board, my kids learn subjects a full year ahead of what I did resulting in an additional years worth of knowledge when they graduate high school. Just as I graduated from High school significantly advanced in knowledge from my parents - both higly educated.

Now evolution does not change one whit in 2 generations. Yet kids knowledge is significantly advancing given the right environmental conditions. It can only be due to improved teaching methods and technology.

Posted by: gak on September 18, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Finnish kids are assigned the least homework in Europe and they do just fine by all international comparisons.

Posted by: kostya on September 18, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The "Mozart to toddlers" idea is perhaps the dumbest misreading of research I have ever seen. What happened was, some researchers tried an experiement in which they played classical music to *college students* just before a test. The college studenets experienced a slight--and transitory--rise in test performance.

Over-specialization strikes again.

I've found that listening to music that I like (often via headphones at deafening levels) often increases my ability to cognate.

But, objectively speaking, it depends on the person & it depends on the music. I strongly suspect that only some music has this property, and that only some people will profit by it.

I also strongly suspect that some pop music (the mush of the late 1980's comes to mind) can actually make one ill.

Myself, I never got on much with Mozart. I was always the Beethoven type. But even so, I can reach much the same levels with selected pieces of rock & pop. If I had to generalize what pieces of rock & pop worked better than other pieces of rock & pop, I'd say that artists & their songs that are held in high regard are generally better than artists that are not so highly regarded.

Simon & Garfunkle & the Beatles score over the Honeydrippers, to date myself. As Bernstein said, good music is good music.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on September 18, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

And good music is essential to life.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on September 18, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

gak -
I've got a supporting anaecdote.

My 12 year old is taking algebra that's pretty much equivalent to what I took as a Junior in HS.

Granted, before my kids were 5, I had them both memorize multiplication tables up to 12. We rehearsed them as songs (thanks, Schoolhouse Rock!) - and practiced them every couple of nights.

So they're both very accomplished at math compared to their peers - (and compared to their parents, one of which is dyslexic). However - he's in 7th grade and taking algebra. That wasn't even available at my secondary school, not even in the gifted program. Not until 9th grade. (the normal track introduced algebra in the 11th grade).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 18, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

"A year of two of Head Start just doesn't do the trick."

I am sick of people maligning or minimizing the importance of Head Start. Besides Social Security, Head Start is probably the most successful federal social policy of the twentieth century. While "a couple of years of Head Start" will not solve the entire problem of educational inequality, there is ample evidence that Head Start is a cost-effective way of reducing inequality and improving the educational and health outcomes of its participants.

Posted by: wquine on September 18, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

The majority predictor for academic success is the quality and structure of the home and family environment at an early age.

The majority predictor for adult height is parent adult height -- but the child still has to eat enough and avoid disease in order to maximize adult height. Since the prosperity of the 50s and subsequently, Japanese have grown larger than their parents, and the average Japanese adult height for children born now is equal to the Average American height for children born now.

It is always a combination of individual endowment and individual experience.

Good homes and families predict academic success when they promote academic achievement from an early age, and when the children follow. Not only academic achievement, but achievement in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and related organizations, church and community affairs, and doing chores at home.

Posted by: republicrat on September 18, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Academic journals aren't interested in publishing my work, because they prefer to dismiss paying students as ludicrous, whatever the results may show. And if anyone in this forum even responds to this, that will be surprising."

Let me give it a shot:

As a preliminary matter, schools already provide incentives for children to learn. They give gold stars, prizes, grades, and praise to students who perform in school. I am not sure that money is any different.

Secondly, while the example you cite appears to suggest that paying students would be effective, there is ample evidence that the opposite is likely to be true, at least with respect to the current reqwards systems used by schools.

I direct everyone's attention to the book "Punishged by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn. For a brief synopsis go here: http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/pbr.htm

It makes a compelling scientific case that rewards are coutnerporductive. Additionally, I think an anecdotal case can be easily made. Just look at children before they are of school-age. They love to learn. They constantly are asking questions and trying new things. Its obvious how much they love to learn and remarkable the amount of infomration they are able to learn in the first years of life. However, by the time they reach middle shcool, almost all hate it. The love of learning is gone. Where did it go? Kohn makes a compelling argument that it was destroyed by a system of rewards and punishments which effecitvley removed the intrinsic reward of learning new things and replaced it with an extrinisc reward which proved far less motivating.

Kohn also makes a pretty compelling case that providing childrne with incentives to elarn is immoral in that it treats them as animals or objects to be cynically manipulated.

Posted by: dave on September 18, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Until we realize that quality school environments need to be paramount on our agenda as citizens, the children will not thrive as academic powerhouses.

Regardless of what type of home a child comes from, his/her school needs to be a dynamic and loving place. To fire up a kids lust for learning is a challenge not easily met.

We seem to freely give billions to folks who make weapons and provide security, while at the same time many begrudge paying school tax dollars.

Our president is calling for literacy across the globe. He should be calling for 100s of billions for our beleagured public school systems here in the US.

Homework or no homework is not the problem.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 18, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Getting back to the issue of homework, there's no easy answer to the question simply because there are so many different types of homework:

1) Practicing skills until they become second nature such as times tables, converting decimals to factions, solving equations, etc

2) Reading assignments that are either designed to give you background information about what you will be doing in class the next day, such as reading assignments for social studies classes, english classes, and preparing for science labs

3) Work assiged to demonstrate mastery of something you've already been taught that day in class

As a teacher, the first two types of homework are necessary, the latter less so. Therefore, I try not to assign the latter type of homework unless absolutely necessary, and instead rely on tests, papers, and projects for the demonstration of mastery.

Part of the problem is that students are engaged in too many formal activities after school ends. Depending on age, students finish school anywhere between 2:00-3:30 and stay awake until sometime between 9:00 and 11:00 in the evening. Therefore, they have approximately 7 hours of free time after school before they go to bed. In that context, having 1-2 hours of homework a night for elementary and middle schoolers and 2-4 hours of homework a night for high schools is not ridiculous.

The problem is that of those seven hours, too many of them are spent goofing off on video games or surfing the internet and/or in other scheduled activities, which is why homework ends up being such a burden. It's really more a matter of parental time managment more than anything else.

For example, if you are a high schooler, you generally get out at 2:30 or so and go to bed around 10:30. So please don't tell me that out of those eight hours, you can't find time to do three hours of homework. It's just a matter of setting priorities, and for too many families, doing really well in school (i.e. getting A's and B's) is just not that high a priority. Too many families are willing to settle for B's, C's and D's, which is what you get when you are unwilling to make the committment to doing well in school.

Posted by: mfw13 on September 18, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK
But I think Conor is probably right: simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar. Unfortunately, addressing that requires lots of money and an enormously intensive effort. A year of two of Head Start just doesn't do the trick.

Duh. Head Start is an "educational policy" solution that seeks to paper over a symptom, its not directed at the fundamental problem you correctly identify, socioeconomic inequality. So, naturally, it doesn't do a great job of solving the problem, since it by design doesn't even address the problem.

Of course, if you suggest actually addressing the problem of socioeconomic inequality, before you even get to debates about how to deal with it, those waging and currently winning the class war will scream "class warfare" and drown you out just for identifying the problem. So its hard, in practice, to actually do anything productive, or even get to the point of having a productive discussion about what to do.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 18, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

SES is a good predictor of school success because low socioeconomic status leads to a numbe rof scondary effects which themselves have a great impact on cschool prefomance.

Some examples:

1) both parents work and there is no one to teach pre-school age children how to read

2) abuse and neglect prevent child from feeling safe thus less able to care about school

3) poverty requires child to provide for family, eliminateing time to spend on school and leanring

4) less educated parents are less able to teahc child basic academic skills necessary for success in school

5) lower quality shcools in poor neighborhoods


This is by no means and exhaustive list, but I think it is helpful to focus on some effects of poverty which get overlooked when we focus on the quality of the schools in low income neighborhoods. School quality is important, but it is mostly irrelevant if the basic needs of children are not being met. Put another way: If the kid goes home every night and is subject to domestic violence and other problems associated with extreme poverty, it makes little difference if he is going to the best high school in the world or the worst. What would make a difference (and would probably be cheaper) would be eliminating or curtailing poverty or the problems associated with it.

Posted by: dave on September 18, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Regardless of what type of home a child comes from, his/her school needs to be a dynamic and loving place. To fire up a kids lust for learning is a challenge not easily met."

While I agree that a school should be a dynamic and loving place, I think it is a collossal error to ignore the home situation.

To belabor my point some more, to expect kids living in extreme poverty to care about multiplication tables (no matter how dynamically and lovingly taught) is to expect miracles.

Posted by: dave on September 18, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Learning with persistence is near impossible without one spending time on your own thinking about and working through new material - this is what homework is for. Without homework, i.e., just group classwork, students may retain information long enough to pass a test, but they will have little or no persistence in actually acquiring knowledge.

Homework also plays an important non-knowledge-based role in development in that it requires students to learn how to manage their time, i.e., it forces students to budget some time for that which they do not want to do among all the things they want to do.
.

Posted by: gak on September 18, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Or is this an argument about how parents ultimately escape their obligations toward their children? If the kids get a "good education", then tant pis when they ultimately leave the nest & don't amount to anything in their 20's & 30's? We saw to it the homework was done. We did our job.

Do we, as parents, secretly expect to pat ourselves on the back if our offspring jump immediately into the high paying jobs of success & career & glitz & all that?

The real questions of what will make us (in our role as our parents' children) happy, what will enable us to live a life both satisfying & challenging, these questions go unasked & unanswered.

Otherwise, the entire education discussion seems to me to be about the accumulation of brownie points. I had algebra in the 9th grade, I got a B. So now they teach it in fifth & everyone gets an A? This is an accomplishment? Mastery of a subject that almost no adult uses, or even remembers?

The economics professor makes valid points. His underlying point is that his students choose to take his class & expect certain results as a consequence. This makes education transactional. Just like buying a car.

The real debate is between active and passive education. One of these two is both common & worthless.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on September 18, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

This is all a load of crap. We don't learn as a bunch of statistics. We learn one person at a time, and statistics is not relevant.

Without homework, you don't learn.

That's the whole thing.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 18, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"algebra . . . a subject that almost no adult uses, or even remembers"

Man, you're doing algebra all the time, at least if you're a functioning adult. You just don't think about it being algebra . . .

Posted by: rea on September 18, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

If it is money that will make the difference...

When I run the world, rich neighborhoods will not have rich schools and poor neighborhoods will not have poor schools. States will divvy out the money for education equally. If rich parents then want to donate extra funds for extra programs, they can do so -- but for every dollar they pay toward their own kid's school, they have to put one dollar in the general fund for all schools.

This will take effect one day after I realign government salaries. Everyone who works for any government agency will be paid the average wage for the people they represent.

Money might make the difference, but the real trump card, the card that trumps even money, is always passion. Passionate teachers who create passionate students -- you can't buy that!


Posted by: William Slattery on September 18, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

In my community, we have a nice little experiment in the effects of SES [and race] on education. We have one elementary school with 7% free/reduced lunch and 90% white kids [school A]; across town, we have one with 30% free/reduced lunch and 80% African American [school B]. Both schools teach the same curriculum; the district administration instituted a magnet program to bolster the number of upper middle class kids at school B; it also recruited the best teachers to school B. The result: while school B's test scores have marginally improved, they are still well below the state average, while school A continues to score above the state average.

Talk to the teachers, and they tell you what the difference is. At school A, most of the kids get tutoring, many via a de facto coop where the school's teachers do the tutoring; most of the kids have a stay-at-home parent who is involved in the school [until recently, PTA meetings were held during the day]; almost all the kids participate in sports and organized school activities. At school B, most kids have single parents or both parents working; very few have tutoring, even though under NCLB the school has to pay for it; the PTA is dominated by the 15% of parents who opt-in for the magnet opportunities [all of whom are upper middle class and most of whom are white]; most of the kids involved in extra-curricular activities are from the magnet families, not the local ones.

Blame it on SES; blame it on parenting; blame it on race. But one thing is clear: you can't blame it schools. Of course, schools can do a better job of teaching, developing curriculum, etc. Of course schools have to keep improving. But it is dangerous, and potentially very damaging, to keep beating up on schools for not correcting things well beyond their control. Schools are part of the solution, but they are far from the only solution.

Posted by: mert7878 on September 18, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

Unless you are a savant, you must work to learn and most of us are not. The most important thing you learn via homework and frequent pop quizzes is HOW to learn. All kids need is motivation, ah, but there is the rub. Knowledge is not held in high regard in this country; consumption and possession are all that count.

Media figures make mispronunciation mistakes that defy belief. One has to wonder if they have been living in caves. Katie is turning the evening news into the Today show. Does that make her a fluffer?

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on September 18, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Can't resist weighing in on the homework issue. We can argue all we want about homework [in my house, it clearly helped one kid, was neutral for a second and is doing damage to a third], but one thing is clear: there is no research showing any evidence of an educational benefit for homework, esp. in the early grades. Alfie Kohn pretty much demolishes any such claim in his comprehensive survey of the research. Kohn, "Abusing Research: Homework and Other Examples," Phi Delta Kaplan, Sept. 2006.

Posted by: mert7878 on September 18, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK
These battles have swung back and forth for decades (the traditionalists seem to have won the latest round in the math wars, for example)...

Perhaps... but let's all hope they keep winning. Otherwise you're going to end up with crap like http://radicalmath.org/ in the schools, and no one knowing how to factor equations without automatically thinking about Kyoto pollution credits or something...

Posted by: J.C. on September 18, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of goals, if the bottom of the pyramid is not filled one can not move up the pyramid to the learning stage. We are not ready to address the bottom goals of safety, hunger, and shelter as a school system. The country is not able to address them asequately either. This is the problem with education.

Posted by: tchr on September 18, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think that different students learn in different ways. Maybe some students (or even the vast majority of them) get nothing out of homework, but personally, I never learned a single thing in school except what I learned from homework. I never felt that I understood any material until I could mull it over on my own.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on September 18, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

I wish all you folks that are interested enough to still be with this comment thread would read Kevin's post in conjunction with George Will's latest column in the WashPost. All the education spending in the world is not going to motivate some goth adolescent who's pissed at the world because his mom is a tramp and his dad doesn't care about him. FWIW, before you dismiss me as a mean-spirited troll, I was the oldest of five raised on public assistance by a single parent and it took me until I was thirty to straighten myself out.

Posted by: minion of rove on September 18, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

My complaint of homework is completely seperate from my views on improving education and the achievement gap. I do think that the same methods that would improve school for low all performing groups, would also eliminate much of the need for hours of homework, but my main concern is that homework wastes precious time in a busy busy world.

I also think that Connor underestimates the heredity of iq and overestimates the influence of "early social context" and cultural experiences in childrens achievement.

In the end he sums up:

But such reforms are always doomed to have a limited effect; the developmental impact of wealth and family is simply too great to ignore. So go ahead and scrap homework. (And, while you're at it, build me a time machine back to high school.) Just make sure you get rid of economic, social, and racial inequality, too.

I think this is a case of putting the egg before the chicken. To many people think that if they could eliminate social inequities that the achievement gap would fix itself. I say that if we fix/improve education first, we can reduce the achievement gap, while raising the performance of all students. This would in turn improve the SES of the currently low performaning groups. Of course it will take a generation for us to see the results, but the last 40 years of helping hand social policies haven't succeeded either. I am not a right wing conservative. I believe in a nationalized healthcare system, that people should be taxed on a progressive scale, public education, and yes I think that some forms of welfare are necessary. Unfortunately, I think there is too much wishful thinking being done by parties on both sides of the political spectrum and not enough realistic solutions.

Posted by: parentalcation on September 18, 2006 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

Homework can be an absolutely critical ingredient to learning. Or it can be a waste of time. However, it really and critically depends on the subject and the grade level, so general statements of "there MUST be homework!" or "eliminate homework!" aren't very helpful. In looking at the examples cited by both sides in support of their position, they're mostly 'both right': you NEED homework for college-level engineering thermodynamics, you DON'T need (much, if any) homework for gradeshool-level US history.

Home environment is certainly a very important factor that is outside of a school's control. But the discussion so far has emphasized parental _support_, but I think what's actually more important is parental _example_.

Kids watch what their parents DO, (and only sorta pay attention to what they say). If the parents veg in front of the TV and never pick up a book, nagging them to read won't help that much. And note that while there is a correlation with socioeconomic status, there are _plenty_ of high-status families that are total TV addicts. Even a young toddler will pick up a desire to read from seeing their parents reading.

Posted by: Grumpy Physicist on September 19, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

My daughter attends a DOD school overseas where the socioeconomic differences couldn't be any starker. The children of enlisted parents, who for the most part do not have college degrees, perform worse than the children of officers, who do (often 2 or 3 degrees).

Posted by: KathyF on September 19, 2006 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

"If the "social disadvantage" theory were accurate, nobody from a poor or disadvantaged family should ever have succeeded in American history. Does this match with reality?

Go back and look at some of the most famous and successful people in many fields through our 200 years. How many have a biography that says "from rich parents?"" [Many, of course!]

"Many of the Vietnamese immigrants arrived penniless, so their kids often went to poorly-funded schools. Yet they achieved anyway, despite conditions that Americans still claim are an insurmountable barrier to educational success."

"If you're from a poor family where the parents value education and expose you to reading at a young age you'll do well in school. My wife didn't work for the first 14 years of my kids life and quite frankly I didn't earn that much so by government definitions we were a poor family [ah, but how were you in terms of social/cultural capital?] and yet both my kids were and still are honor students."

Simplified, look at it as a penalty, or handicapping. Let's say 'poverty' (which of course covers a very wide range of situations] = - 25. Certainly some individuals - or even, disproportionately, members of certain groups - will still manage average or even high levels of achievement, but that's because they're managing to overcome that, on top of the effort of reaching whatever level of achievement.

Posted by: Dan S. on September 19, 2006 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

Nothing less than a 180 degree turn would ever get me and my kids back into the public schools. I say this as one who wants very much to believe in public education as exposing all to maximum cross-cultural experiences. 3 of my kids went through the DC public schools, which are reputed to be lousy, but they did fine.

It was the competitive ethic that finally pushed me to get out. My kids were in a Maryland magnet school by that time and I never saw such voracious me-and-mine-ism. Practically the only thought on every parents brain was What can I do to help my kid beat out your kid. Sickening!

We quit and went to Waldorf education where the ethic is helping each other and the courses expose the kids to every kind of discipline. They came out well-rounded, confident, comfortable in any situation, and loving their educational experience.

One more thing. America leads the world in science not because we more rigorously force-feed our students math and physics, but because there is a thirst for the new and innovative here that pushes people to explore. It is in the air, not in whatever comes out of the drudgery of the classrooms. That, coupled with all sorts of cultural pollination makes the US extremely dynamic. The quality of our education has almost nothing to do with it.

Posted by: James of DC on September 19, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

韩国电影 性知识图片 最新电影 宽带电影 经典电影 恐怖电影 人体艺术 美女图片 美女走光 A片下载 毛片 偷窥图片 裸体视频聊天室 成人网站 成人论坛 性爱论坛 变态日本女生 淫女 女大学生 美女下阴图 女性生殖器 操逼操比操屄 激情论坛 免费电影下载 免费在线电影 看免费电影 免费电影网站 韩国电影 两性生活 性教育片 两性知识 性爱图片 激情电影 免费黄色电影 最新电影 成人性爱电影 免费小电影 免费性电影 免费成人电影 免费电影在线观看 宽带电影 经典电影 恐怖电影 免费影片 免费影院 最新大片 十八电影网 美女写真 人体艺术 美女图片 美女走光 美腿图片 三级片 强奸电影 美女祼体图片 美女自拍 黄色电影下载 免费色情电影 激情图片 激情小电影 性感美女图片 漂亮妹妹图片 做爱图片 美少女图片 av女优 情色电影 同志电影 激情视频 明星露点图片 写真电影 阴部图片 乳房图片 明星裸照 性爱视频 偷拍图片 美眉图片 泳装美女 美女内衣内裤 做爱电影 性福联盟 人体摄影 明星裸照 裸女图片 黄色小说 成人小说 乱伦小说 强暴电影 轮奸视频 性虐待电影 迷奸图片 妓女日记 汤加丽写真集 全裸美女 淫荡小说 淫乱小说 淫书 性爱贴图 情趣内衣图片 性生活图片 作爱图片 艳情小说 性交姿势 舒淇写真 美女脱衣图片 裸体女人图片 人体写真 女性手淫图片 波霸美女 淫水美女鲍鱼 阴户阴道臀部阴毛 美女图库 口交肛交图片 A片下载 毛片 偷窥图片 裸体视频聊天室 成人网站 成人论坛 性爱论坛网站 性变态图片 淫女图片 日本女学生 美女下阴图 女性生殖器 操逼图片 美女激情 搞笑手机铃声 个性铃声 dj铃声 唱得响亮铃声 手机铃声图片 高频铃声下载 手机铃声格式 搞怪铃声 比特铃声 自编铃声 adp铃声 七彩铃声 经典手机铃声 最新手机铃声 手机铃声制作 诺基亚手机铃声 小灵通铃声 移动手机铃声 手机动画 手机彩图 手机铃音 手机铃声论坛 短信铃声 来电铃声 音乐铃声 歌曲铃声 铃声试听 手机壁纸 彩色铃声 v3铃声下载 手机待机图片 免费手机图片 三星手机图片 手机mp3下载 手机主题 如何制作手机铃声 真人原唱和弦铃声 qd铃声下载 经典铃声 联通手机彩铃 神奇铃声 最新铃声 另类铃声 免费小电影 免费电影在线观看 免费影片 最新大片 免费电影下载 免费在线电影 看免费电影 电影夜宴网站 情色电影 激情视频下载 明星露点图片 激情写真 阴部图片 乳房图片 全裸美女 淫荡小说 淫乱图片 美女脱衣视频 裸体女人 女性手淫图片 波霸美女 淫水美女鲍鱼 阴户阴毛图片 美女图库 美女口交图片 性爱视频 偷拍图片 泳装美女 美女内衣内裤 性爱贴图 性生活图片 作爱图片 性交姿势 做爱电影 性福电影 人体摄影 裸女图片 乱伦图片 强暴电影 轮奸视频 迷奸图片 乳房写真 性爱小说 美眉写真 激情贴图 两性性生活 作爱电影 性交图片 做爱图片 美女人体 美女裸照 全裸女 黄色小说 成人小说 强暴图片 轮奸美女 泳装图片

Posted by: amr铃声 on September 19, 2006 at 3:33 AM | PERMALINK

Research consistently tells us that children living below the poverty line are twice as likely to be disabled as those above the poverty line. And the poorer the poor child, the more likely to be disabled. SES clearly has a major role in determining how successful we are in providing any kind of comprehensively effective education to all our children.

Posted by: gkoutnik on September 19, 2006 at 7:44 AM | PERMALINK

There is some interesting data that a GOOD way to improve the academic achievement of poor students is to lift their families out of poverty. Poor families face multiple and compounding stressors that adversely affect student achievement.

Ah...but subsidizing poor families, at least in the US, is political poison. But the extant data US data combined with international data indicate that it helps.

Posted by: Brat on September 19, 2006 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

The white elephant in the room when it comes to talk about education: we don't need everybody to be educated. That's why our system only produces a certain number of educated people.

We're simply not that interested in educating the poor because we need people willing to do menial jobs. For many, the idea of school is to train people to show up on time and do whatever task the authority figure tells them, no matter how pointless it may seem at the time.

Posted by: Dan T. on September 19, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Our whole culture, not just our schools, is based on literacy; any kid who doesn't get a head start on that from parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, or somebody, will never (or almost never) catch up. Reading is not a socio-economic issue, it's a parenting issue.

Posted by: Ace Franze on September 19, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

The achievement gap is almost certainly a secondary effect. And yes, the homework debate is a joke.

We could do a much better job of teaching large groups of low SES children. Their scores might always be lower than an equivalent group of high SES children, but still much higher. The problem is, we'd have to teach them differently. You can't teach a group of kids with an average IQ of (say) 90 the same way you do kids with an average IQ of (say) 115. But rather than acknowledge that low-income schools of URMs (underrepresented minorities) have a significantly lower mean IQ than suburban schools, we pretend.

We hand low-income kids incompetent teachers who can't pass a sixth grade skills test. The teachers obediently read through a college curriculum class plan they themselves don't even quite understand. Then they give As to the kids who sit quietly. A URM with As is instantly eligible for college, so off they go to a school when, for the most part, they don't even understand algebra or fourth grade spelling. Most will drop out, a few will be shepherded through more pretend work by professors who value ideology more than competency, and then become teachers, thus completing the sad circle of incompetence.

It's very depressing. But until we acknowledge the reality of IQ medians in groups, I don't see it changing.

Hey, let's talk about homework. How bout them multiplication tables?

PS--the top 10% of students are learning far more than high school students of 20-30 years ago. The next 20% are learning about as much as the top 10% of that time frame. The middle 40% are learning about the same as always. The lowest performers are where we fail--but then, we never did well with that group. And as Steve Sailer points out, we're exacerbating the problem by flooding our schools with low-performing, low-income kids who also can't speak English.

Posted by: Cal on September 19, 2006 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Most people commenting on the thread don't seem to have actually read the articles it references.

The articles talk about how homework for elementary school children "beyond reading and basic skills practice" doesn't do much, and for high schoolers "2 hours a night" and middle-schoolers "1 to 1 1/2 hours." A similar article in the Boston Globe quoted one of the authors as saying about ten minutes of homework per grade level was appropriate, for example.

This is hardly calling for the abolition of homework, as some seem to think, just turning the setting back from 11, where it is in some schools today.

Posted by: DaveL on September 19, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

It would be a mistake to view this as a surprise, or even an isolated failure. After all, it's not easy to find a connection between academic success and most educational policies....What if academic success is so overwhelmingly predetermined by outside factors that schools can do little to change the situation?

Duh.

Posted by: JeffII on September 19, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly