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Can a National Campaign Get Schools to Rethink Homework?

Even the PTA agrees that homework needs to be reworked. Could this new campaign end homework as we know it?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZONH4B-qCAs
Summer vacation means the nation's students have a respite not just from the school day but from the hours of homework they're required to complete every night. Homework evangelicals will tell you that assigning kids math problems to do while seated at the kitchen table helps them master what's been taught in class. But for the nearly 18,000 parents, educators, and policy makers who signed a Change.org petition presented to the National PTA last week advocating new "Healthy Homework Guidelines", homework as it's currently implemented in schools kills students' curiosity and inhibits learning.

The campaign was created by the Race to Nowhere Community, a movement that grew out of support for the grassroots 2009 documentary Race to Nowhere which took a hard look at why so many students are breaking under the pressure of our test-heavy, homework intensive culture. Education experts and medical professionals who support the guidelines cite research that shows "diminishing returns for middle and high school students as the hours spent doing homework increased" and "increased stress and academic disengagement among both young children and teens."

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For a Growing Number of College Students, Wikipedia Is Homework

With 20 million articles in 283 languages, Wikipedia is the world's go-to reference. Can student editors make it more accurate?


Wikipedia doesn't have a stellar reputation for scholarly accuracy, but its staggering collection of 20 million articles in 283 languages has nonetheless made it the go-to reference for the world's students—it's even the most plagiarized source on college campuses. Now, a growing number of professors are bucking the anti-Wikipedia trend and assigning a new kind of homework: editing the site's articles.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation blog, professors from nine nations are participating in the two-year-old Wikipedia Education Program, which allows them to assign articles to their students. In the United States, about 50 classes are participating in the editing effort. Student contributors "are expected to put in as much work into the Wikipedia assignments as they would put into a term paper or other large assignment," the program's founders say. The students are guided through the editing process by their professor, trained in-person "campus ambassadors," and virtual mentors.

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Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?

A new policy in Memphis will take student reports into consideration when evaluating a teacher. But can kids recognize a good one?

My first year teaching in Compton, California, I asked some of my students who they thought was the meanest teacher in the school. The consensus was unanimous: "Ms. Wysinger is SO mean! She makes you do all your homework. If you don't, you miss your recess. And she's always giving quizzes. And you can't talk in her class." After a few minutes of venting, the students conceded, "Yeah, I guess she's cool sometimes." I spent lots of time in Ms. Wysinger's room learning from her because indeed, she was serious about teaching—and her students' grades and test scores were correspondingly phenomenal. So when I recently read about a new teacher evaluation plan approved for the Memphis Public Schools where student opinions will now count for five percent, I couldn't help but wonder how students would mark the no-nonsense teachers like her.

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Studies Support Rewards, Homework, and Traditional Teaching—Or Do They?

It's smart to be skeptical of education studies that seem to support traditional practices.


It’s not unusual to read that a new study has failed to replicate—or has even reversed—the findings of an earlier study. The effect can be disconcerting, particularly when medical research announces that what was supposed to be good for us turns out to be dangerous, or vice versa.

Qualifications and reversals also show up in investigations of education and human behavior, but here an interesting pattern seems to emerge. At first a study seems to validate traditional practices, but then subsequent studies—those that follow subjects for longer periods of time or use more sophisticated outcome measures—call that result into question.

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Could the Khan Academy Close the Achievement Gap?

Salman Khan and our publisher head to the Dylan Ratigan Show to talk about flipping traditional school upside down.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nIbQK3Gwfo

What if every student could receive an individualized education and learn at his or her own pace? What if teachers could actually ensure that every student learned a concept to mastery? Innovative ideas like these are becoming a reality at the Khan Academy, a virtual school that flips traditional schooling on its head. It's a radical shift from what happens in schools right now, however. In fact, it's almost the complete inverse of traditional schooling. Instead of sitting in class lectures during the day and then doing homework alone at night, in the Khan Academy, students get instruction on a particular concept online at home and then practice the "homework" in class where a teacher and other students can help.

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