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CEO Perspective: MetLife’s Homework Survey

February 20, 2008 3 min read

CEOs with something to say about issues facing the school improvement industry should submit their proposed column to editor@edbizbuzz.com.

George Cigale is CEO of Tutor.com and blogs here.

Last week, MetLife released the results of a significant study conducted by Harris Interactive, in which researchers surveyed and interviewed thousands of teachers, parents, and students on issues related to homework. (edbizbuzzz note to readers: See the Education Week article here. George repeats his posted comment below.)The Chairman of MetLife opens the report with a common sense note that “in life and work, the phrase ‘doing your homework’ means being prepared”. Seems like it should make simple sense that teachers need to assign good homework, kids need to take it seriously and complete it well, and parents and schools should support students in their homework efforts. Somehow, that level of common sense has been lost in the shuffle of school priorities, teacher bandwidth, and busy working parents.

In the past couple of years, popular sentiment in news media and published books by self-proclaimed homework experts makes me feel like we’ve gone well beyond losing that common sense. Without substantive research to back up their conclusions, “The Case Against Homework” (Crown) by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, and “The Homework Myth” (Da Capo) by Alfie Kohn made homework out to be downright bad for kids and families. Fairly shocking at a time when the US student consistently ranks below most developed countries on math and science tests and understanding.

Those books and frequent news coverage of parents suing to reduce homework loads and politicians trying to legislate homework amounts, just add fuel to a destructive fire. The opposite of what our educational system desperately needs at this time: for us to take a deep breath and listen to a national sample of parents, students, and teachers. That’s exactly what the MetLife/Harris Interactive study did.

As the founder and CEO of Tutor.com, the largest online tutoring provider, and as a father of three school-age kids, I think about these issues and how to solve them every day. Homework is important. As the study shows, “Students who do not believe that homework is important are more likely than other students to: get C’s or below; not plan to go to college after high school; rate the quality of education that they receive as only fair or poor”.

What should schools, teachers, parents and kids be doing? Homework is necessary to reinforce what was learned in school and to prepare for the next step in learning. My simple assessment is that homework is good if:

-- it is truly tied to the instruction that was recently delivered,
-- it really helps the child understand the concepts better, and most importantly,
-- the child has access to one-to-one help when the child is stuck on his or her homework.

The last point is why I founded an education technology company. It is critical for children to get the help they need even when the school doors are closed. That’s why my team scours the country looking for highly qualified tutors to work with students around the clock, why we created software that empowers kids to get help the moment they need it, and why we evaluate our program.

I hope that over the coming months, especially during an election year, that political leaders will take note -- learning does not and should not stop when the school day is over. Our educational system and allocation of dollars fail to take that into account. Creating a culture that embraces educating our kids all day is not a simple change, but if we want our kids to be prepared for the next day of lessons and stop them from falling behind, we need to change what we’re doing and help kids when they need the help.

The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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