« The Ongoing Discussion of an Education Reform Keiretsu | Main | Social Entrepreneurship: Summing Up »

CEO Perspective: MetLife's Homework Survey

| 2 Comments

CEOs with something to say about issues facing the school improvement industry should submit their proposed column to [email protected]

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.

2 Comments

I founded and run Tutor.com, the largest online tutoring service. Thanks for highlighting the MetLife study, and writing an even-handed article about the study.

Some things will be very hard to change:
-- kids will always have homework and some of them will feel like it's too much and of the wrong kind
-- even the most thoughtful homework assignment, reinforcing what was learned in school, will be hard to complete for many kids
-- parents and peers will not be able to help many kids overcome a challenge, especially when you get into algebra and tough sciences

I think about the topic of homework non-stop, as both a CEO of Tutor.com and as a father of 3 (ages 11, 9, and 6). Some thoughts:

-- Homework is necessary to reinforce what was learned in school and to prepare for the next step in learning.

-- 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 someone to turn to when he or she is stuck.

So often, the child has no one to turn to when he or she is stuck. Parents are not home and when they are, so many parents are not able to help, especially with math and science problems. Teachers are not available in the evenings, and schools do not spend their limited resources to provide homework support consistently. Most families cannot afford private tutoring, and if they can, traditional tutoring has the child waiting a week and saving up all their questions for the next appointment, allowing the teachable moment to go away.

All of these factors add up to loss of confidence, kids falling behind, and parents getting frustrated that their child is struggling, that the can't help, and that homework becomes a point of stress for the entire family.

Tutor.com is not the solution for all of these problems, but we help thousands of kids each night through our Live Homework Help service available through over 1,800 libraries in 42 states (for free to kids), and through Tutor.com Direct, available on a pay as you go basis (with a free trial) to families everywhere at www.tutor.com.

More thoughts on the subject at my blog -- http://ceotutor.blogspot.com/, and at EdWeek's EdBizBuzz guest column that I wrote this week -- http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edbizbuzz/2008/02/ceo_perspective_metlife_shomew.html.

George Cigale
www.tutor.com
[email protected]

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Elaina

http://www.craigslistpostingtools.info

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Elaina: I recently came across your blog and have been reading read more
  • George Cigale: I founded and run Tutor.com, the largest online tutoring service. read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here