Monday, October 19, 2015

Questions I Get Asked (Part 1)

“Why does my child have so much homework? We never had that much homework when I was in school."

I believe the answer to this question lies somewhere between myth and reality. I think we forget sometimes how much homework we had back in the day. I can remember coming home with 40 proofs to manhandle from my Geometry class. We also were given dozens of sentences to diagram (remember that lost art?), books to read and the subsequent book reports to write, and the rules of the sports we played in PE to learn and regurgitate on a test. 

Now, granted, the times, they are a changin’. The level of understanding, or should we say, the bar, is being raised. Much of what we were asked to do back in the day falls under what we now rate as a Level 1 or Level 2 understanding on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge scale (DOK). In other words, we could recall information. “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two.” Most quizzes and tests we took simply asked us to recall and reproduce material and information, which once was regurgitated on said test, was often forgotten by the end of the week.

We also were required to compare and contrast, summarize, and other such tasks. For example, I had a class entitled Capitalism versus Communism. It was a requirement for graduation. We also had to summarize various things, like the book reports we had to write.

As a result, teachers assigned homework which reinforced these educational requirements. The 40 proofs and the numerous sentenced to diagram, for example.

The question we must ask at this point is this: How well did this type of education prepare us for the real world? Answer? Not very well.

Now, students are being asked to reach Level 3 understanding in any and all material. What does Level 3 understanding look like?

At this level of complexity, students must use planning and evidence, and thinking is more abstract. A task with multiple valid responses where students must justify their choices would be Level 3. Examples include solving non-routine problems, designing an experiment, or analyzing characteristics of a genre (Emphasis added).1

In other words, students have to already know all the things we had to learn and then take it to the next step. Look at all the highlighted words above. In order to plan and use evidence to back up your ideas and analysis, a student now must be able to interact with the material, solve problems that are “real world,” and be able to reason through those issues. This is what educators call “higher-order thinking skills."

I have to admit that I was not taught how to think like this until I got to college. That’s too late. I should have been taught how to do these things long before my freshman year. I almost quit after the first semester because I felt so inadequately prepared. Sadly, many college students do. 

But let’s not just focus on college. Having these kind of higher-order thinking skills will prepare our students to be better citizens in the work force, too, if that’s where they choose to head after high school graduation. For instance, how many times have you run across this scenario:  A young person is working behind the counter at a McDonald’s or local grocery store. Your bill comes to $12.28. So, you hand the cashier a $20 bill and three pennies. If the cash register doesn’t do the math for the cashier, he or she is lost. You can see them trying to do the math in their heads. Usually, they get it wrong. If I was a dishonest person, I could take advantage of this situation so easily.

Those cashiers are products of a system that only required Level 1 and Level 2 understanding. Heaven forbid if the power goes out or they don’t have access to a smart phone with a calculator app.

Because of this trend, the bar has been raised. Because the bar has been raised, students must reach Level 3 in order to pass many of the tests they will take in their futures, whether they come in the form of a teacher-created test or a state-mandated assessment exam. In order to get to Level 3 (or even Level 4), students will have more homework. That homework will be more complex, too.

Therefore, the attitude we must take toward homework as parents must be a positive one. If we gripe and complain about it, what kind of attitude will our students develop? The same one. Homework is nothing more than practice. I often use the analogy of an Xbox or PlayStation. I ask students to pretend they and their friends are playing a game. They all have equal skills. Their friends (Group A) get to play that game three hours a day. They (Group B) only get to play it three hours a week. At the end of a month, which student is more likely to be better at the game? The students I ask always know the answer. Group A will be better.

Homework is no different.

The problem with homework, as I see it, is there are more demands on a student’s time than ever before. Some are legitimate. Others are voluntary. Everything from travel ball to video games to social networks to television to smart phones and tablets eat up so much time.

The question parents must ask in the end is this: Of all the things clamoring for the precious minutes of each and every day, which ones have the most impact on our student’s future?

Homework, which is related to a student’s overall education, should rank near the top and have a priority above other things, especially those which have little to no bearing on education, like video games and social media.

“I want my kid to have a life” is a phrase I hear a lot. So do educators. The question a parent needs to ask is this: What kind of life do I want my child to have in the future?


*Generic photos courtesy of


Short Bio

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, he is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Facebook:          C. Kevin Thompson – Author Page
Twitter:            @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:        C. Kevin Thompson