There has been much wringing of hands over the “Achievement Gap,” which is “observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates.” [Emphasis mine]. One of the specific goals of NCLB was to measure and close this gap once and for all — a noble goal, even if the methods are questionable.

Now, I am far from the first person to point out that homework can make the gap worse, but let me give you some concrete examples.

Imagine a high school student. He arrives home, and his Mom is waiting for him thanks to a flexible work schedule. He gets a snack — teenage boys are universally always hungry — and sits down to work on homework for several classes. At one point he needs help with his foreign language work; Mom studied that language and certainly knows enough to help him through grammar and vocabulary. Later he uses internet resources to find a news article for another class. At one point he is stumped by a science problem. While Mom doesn’t know the answer, she suggests that it’s a topic that doesn’t change a lot and might be in Dad’s college biology book. When Dad arrives home shortly, he is able to help the student with mnemonics, or clever ways to remember all that information. Later, Mom cooks a healthy dinner, and later still everybody goes to bed at a reasonable hour.

Now let’s look at all the obstacles he did not have:

  • He didn’t worry about getting home from school safely, nor about his safety in his upper-middle class neighborhood
  • There was plenty of nutritious food in the house
  • He did not have to supervise the homework of younger siblings
  • He was not responsible for housework, such as starting dinner before Mom and Dad got home
  • Someone was there to keep him focused on the task at hand when necessary
  • He did not need to be at an after school job to help the family finances
  • He had all the resources to do homework, such as pencils, paper and reference materials
  • His parents were college educated and could in fact help when he had trouble with homework
  • His parents could afford tutoring services if they were necessary
  • He had access to a computer and high-speed internet
  • His parents were both willing and able to see to it that his physical and academic needs were taken care of.

It’s clear to see why homework is sometimes just one more academic obstacle.

In Closing: on the economy; on being ripped off; on Medicaid; on honesty and civility and history; on the free market; on climate change; lost wages; and oops.

One thought on “Homework”

  1. I was ready to go off about how economically-challenged neighborhoods and their residents have so many more hurdles to cross when it comes to homework but I am sure you know exactly what I mean.

    Add to that, the fact that teachers rarely stay in those schools as there are few incentives to do so, so the turnovers rates are exorbitant. They end up just teaching to the tests hoping like hell that the kids will absorb at least a minimal amount to pass at the bottom rung of the curve.

    With most school districts, at least in Cali, getting their budgets cut every year, how in the fuck can we expect things to get better? Cali has now had around 40% of their budgets axed in the last three years I believe..but I could be wrong. It’s a high percentage any way you slice and dice it.

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