California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II


In Classroom Instruction That Works, Marzano talks about the importance of homework and its two primary purposes:

  • To give students practice that will reinforce learning
  • To give students feedback based on teacher review of the homework1

Another purpose for homework is to require students to complete unfinished work from the class period. Since the ultimate purpose of homework is to improve learning, assignments should be meaningful and reinforce the students’ mastery of the course content.

However, the homework equation changes with standards-based reporting. How does homework help students master the grade-level standards? How do homework grades relate to proficiency on the standards? How much homework is enough? How much is too much? There is tremendous competition for students’ time, so what educators ask students to do outside school must be relevant to the standards and individual student needs and defensible to parents and community members. It is important for teachers to establish schoolwide homework expectations that reflect district policy at the beginning of the school year. It is also critical for teachers to regularly discuss homework-grading policies and to maintain consistency and fairness throughout the school.

The Northwest Educational Technology Consortium (NETC) provides a helpful Web page summarizing the research on homework and practice (Outside Source). (The NETC is one of the ten Regional Technology in Education Consortia in the United States that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education). Middle grades teachers may find the following research findings about homework helpful:

  •  Junior high school students' achievement continued to improve with increased homework until assignments took between one and two hours a night. More homework than this was not accompanied by improved achievement.2
  • Teachers should provide feedback on homework assignments. Student achievement can vary based on the kind of feedback provided by the teacher.3

Homework strategies can be a topic for lively discussion at a professional learning community meeting, where members discuss many of the benefits and pitfalls of various homework approaches. Some possible questions to consider include the following:

  • What is the purpose of homework? Is it practice? Is it deeper work? Is it to finish work started in class?
  • What percent of the class grade should homework represent?
  • How does homework support learning of the standards?
  • How does a grade for homework help students and their parent/guardians to understand their progress toward proficiency on grade-level standards?
  • Should homework be a separate grade in the final reports that reflects effort, while proficiency on the standards is the focus of the report?
  • What is the difference between competence and compliance? Discussion about the difference between using homework as punishment or busy work (compliance) rather than as a tool to build competence will help the team members to refine their strategies and goals.
  • What level of parental support/assistance can parents reasonably provide?
  • How much time should each class assignment take to do?
  •  What kinds of feedback and how much should teachers give on homework?
  • How will the team ensure that students do not receive overlapping assignments that would overload students with large assignments during any given week?
  • Does the team agree with Rick Wormeli who cautions against grading practice exercises?4

In the Spotlight

The linked Homework Page (Doc; 31 KB; 1 p.) is an example of a homework management tool for students. It lists teachers and their subject areas by team and divides the page into a daily grid for students to keep track of homework by subject area and day that it is due. The form also provides teacher team members with a reminder to coordinate assignments and avoid overloading students with large projects in more than one subject at a time.

Since many students complain that they do not understand an assignment, lack a quiet place to study, or do not receive help with homework at home, many schools develop after-school study centers to help students complete their work. One school that instituted a Learning Lab (study center) after school saw a large decrease in late or missing homework, as well as a reduction in the number of F grades earned by students. The Learning Lab was available to all students who wanted to receive extra help with their work. However, most students attended because a teacher required attendance. If a student failed to turn in any completed assignment on time, the teacher sent a note to the parents stating that the child must either turn in the assignment the next day or attend the Learning Lab that afternoon. Parents are responsible for arranging transportation. The student must return the signed note. If the note is not signed, the student must call the parent in the presence of the principal.5

In 2005, the California Department of Education awarded 97 before- and after-school programs renewable grants under the After School Education and Safety Program. The funds support programs that provide tutoring or homework assistance for students in core academics and educational enrichment. Refer to the section on After school academies for more details about after-school programs.

Related Links


Student grouping (flexible)

1Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock, "Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement." Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001.
2Harris Cooper, Homework Research and Policy: A Review of the Literature (Outside Source). Carei Research/Practice Newsletter (University of Minnesota), Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 1994.
3H. J. Walberg. 1991. “Does Homework Help?” School Community Journal, Vol. 1 (1), 13-15.
4Rick Wormeli, "Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom." Portland, Maine: Stenhouse, 2006, 113-130.
5Gary Garbe and David Guy, No Homework Left Behind (Outside Source), Educational Leadership, Vol. 63, Summer 2006.

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