Homework is a time-honored component of the general education program. It is intended to help students become independent learners. Homework also serves as one communication tool to keep parents informed both about the work being done at school and about their child's progress in the curriculum (Bursuck, Montague, & Vaughn, 2001). However, the word homework can strike terror into the parents of students with learning disabilities—and probably into the children as well. The mere mention of the word may revive memories of long, unpleasant nights spent cajoling a student with learning disabilities into completing unfinished assignments. Such nights often end in shouting matches between parent and child, sometimes with one or both in tears.
Homework is a reality of school life, and teachers can make homework a more positive experience by making certain that students know how to do the assignment. When homework assignments are considered carefully, with planning and instruction, the benefits can be many.
Despite the negative situations that homework can create for the family, it accounts for about 20 percent of the time most children spend on academic tasks (Bryan & Sullivan-Burstein, 1998). Although many students and their parents would like to see homework "just go away," it is unlikely that homework will be discontinued. General education teachers place great importance on homework. They consider homework to be a serious part of the instructional program and also to provide opportunities for home-school communication. Many teachers believe that when homework is not completed, parents have not met their expectations (Epstein et al., 1997). How might communication between teachers and parents about homework improve? Research has yielded some guidelines (Jayanthi et al., 1997):
- Parents and teachers need to communicate more about homework, with both parties feeling free to initiate the conversation.
- Parents need to tell teachers about homework difficulties.
- Teachers need to tell parents about the quality and completion of homework assignments.
- Parents need to implement consequences when homework is not completed or is unsatisfactory.
- Parents need to know whom to contact at school about homework issues.
- Teachers need to find ways to communicate with parents who do not speak English.
- Teachers need to determine alternative ways for children to get assistance with homework assignments that their parents do not know how to help them complete.
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