One of my favorite days is seeing the science projects students create. This past year was no different. But much to my dismay was seeing the disparity in what students created. One noteworthy project was an amazing set of homemade, professional carpentry, crafted pulleys and levers set up. You could move a 200lbs rock with it. Right next to this project was three red solo cups.
I asked each of the students to tell me the science they learned about in their respective projects. In the case with the lever and pulley experiment the student could tell me nothing about how levers and pulleys worked. In the second case, the student could tell me the total plan for the science project he wanted to do with the red Solo cups. They had planned to plant different seeds and look at different fertilizer types. The second student had anticipated how the project would turn out but because of the lack of support could not complete it. This was a project that was assigned for students to do at home and obviously one student had a lot of support and the other did not. Therefore the learning was not equitable for the second student and the first one didn’t learn much (except his father was a remarkable carpenter). Further, both students were not able to fully access the curriculum. One because of too much parent support and another because too little support.
I am fortunate enough to be an elementary principal in a great school with an amazing staff. Each person truly is here to give their best to each student and has the very best intention in assigning work that meets the standards. Given time pressures and testing, these teachers assigned this as a homework project. These and other examples have given us time to pause and re-think and reflect on our homework practices.
Homework is an equity issue. The solution is to change this practice. Our school now has students read and work on personal projects, nothing else. If the standards are vital, this work will be done in school as all students need and deserve the opportunity to access the standards and materials.
In the pulley vs. red solo cup none of the students gained much knowledge of the scientific method. And I have one real angry dad that didn’t get a good grade on his project. I know we can do better as a school and system. We can provide all students with deep learning opportunities.