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The Great Fire Wall of China

As my regular readers know, I am writing from China these days, and have been doing so four years so far. Sometimes the blog becomes inaccessible to me, making it impossible to post regularly. In fact, starting in late September 2014, China began interfering with many Google-owned entities of which Blogspot is one. If the blog seems to go dark for a while, please know I will be back as soon as I can get in again. I am sometimes blocked for many weeks at a time. I hope to have a new post up soon if I can gain access. Thank you for your understanding and loyalty.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Increased Reporting DOES NOT Increase Achievement

So here I am, in the land of tiger moms, where supposedly parents are highly involved in their child's education, even riding that pendulum to the other extreme. I don't see it. What I see is a lot of complaining, but little to no positive action at home.

In my school, some parents complained that if they do not know about the homework, they cannot insure its completion. So the principal decided to send a picture or description of the homework assignments to the parents' cellphones. It made no difference. Kids who regularly completed homework before the messages continued to do do. Kids who did not do their homework still do not do their homework. In fact, the parents of five of my twenty-one students admitted to doing the homework for their children. People always like to recommend more communication. Sounds good theoretically, but "communication" is not the cure-all everyone supposes. However, as the principal said, one benefit is the parents stopped calling.

Of course, I expected the students to make a note of the assignments everyday. It is not the teacher's job to tell the parents what the homework is. Parents should check their child's assignment book. If their child is not writing down the homework as instructed, parents should deal with the noncompliance at home. Schools need to stop giving already busy teachers more useless duties. Parents need to emphasize that knowing and doing the homework is the student's responsibility.

A trend over the past thirty years has been to hold the children less and less responsible for their schoolwork and put that burden on the teacher. Years ago, as long as the child was behaving not too badly, parents heard virtually nothing from the school except for the four quarterly report cards. Parents of high achieving children were fine. Parents of low achievers began complaining. They said they could do nothing at home to mitigate a failing grade if they do not know before report cards come out that their child is failing, In response to these complaints, schools started issuing mid-quarter “progress report”. It made no difference to final report cards. High achievers continued to achieve highly; low achievers continued to fail. The only discernible outcome was that teachers had double the reporting work.

Eventually, even mid-quarter reports were deemed too few and some schools began mandating weekly progress reports. It still made no difference. Schools began requiring students to purchase expensive “planners” on the dubious assumption that students were not writing down their homework assignments because they had no little notebook to record the assignments. This assumption is beyond silly, and of course, made no difference. Responsible students have always written down their assignments, long before planner became the soup du jour. Then schools began requiring teachers to post the homework online. The only apparent effect is to create more busy work for the teacher, and stop parental complaints.

Some teachers take matters into their own hands and require students to do the homework during lunch. This tactic is at least partially effective because it generally ensures the homework gets done. I do not like using the lunch hour because children need to run around and play before settling down to an afternoon of work. We invite behavior problems when we deny them this energy outlet. Furthermore, research shows that exercise increases thinking ability and concentration. I prefer to keep kids after school. I have found it to be more effective at promoting self-responsibility.

There is one major caveat: the assigned homework needs to be worth doing.