‘The Dog Ate It’

By Elizabeth Schulz — January 01, 1990 1 min read

Teachers aren’t likely to be surprised by new research documenting that many students suffer from homework-related memory lapses. In a recent survey of 2,986 teachers, “I forgot” ranked number one among students’ excuses for not doing homework. The study of the use of homework in 92 Illinois public high schools, based in part on teachers’ behavior on a typical school day, was conducted by Joseph Murphy of Vanderbilt University and Karen Decker of Parkland Community College in Champaign, Ill.

Other interesting numbers highlighted in the survey include:

Estimated number of hours of homework that a high school student is assigned each night—2

Percentage of teachers who assigned homework to their first class on a typical day—86

Number who gave no homework in their college prep classes—60

Number who didn’t give homework in general-track classes—508

Number who said they did not assign homework because they didn’t have enough textbooks to go around—119

Odds that students’ homework assignments would be questions taken from the textbook or a worksheet—3 in 4

Odds that students would be assigned essay questions or research reports—3 in 25

Percentage who “mostly” or “always” assign homework orally—73

Percentage who “mostly” or “always” provide written directions—29

Percentage who assign homework at the end of the class period—61

Percentage of teachers who assign it at the beginning of class—22

Proportion of students who complete less than 60 percent of their homework—1 in 5

Of students who don’t complete their homework, the percentage who say it is because of an after-school job—9

Percentage of teachers who communicate their expectations about homework to parents—57

Percentage who thought involving the parents helped a lot—11

Percentage who thought involving parents didn’t help at all—20

Percentage who grade more than 61 percent of students’ homework—83

Percentage who said homework counted for part of students’ semester grades—97

Percentage who count homework for at least half of their students’ semester grade—11

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as ‘The Dog Ate It’