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In praise of homework

April 8, 2010

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AS A developmental psychologist who studies the role of homework in fostering learning and school engagement, I must take issue with the way the results of research on the effectiveness of homework were portrayed in “Nurture vs. homework’’ (Op-ed, April 3). It is simply wrong to assert, as does Nancy Kalish, that research shows no correlation between homework and academic achievement. Quite to the contrary, more than two decades of rigorous research, including the respected work of psychology professor Harris Cooper, has demonstrated that as students enter their middle and high school years, homework has a direct and positive influence on academic achievement.

Homework does not have this impact in elementary school, partly because teachers use the practice to foster the self-regulatory skills — discipline and hard work — that author David Shenk argues are needed for success.

Parents should take heart in knowing that their own attitudes about homework have a powerful influence on their children’s subsequent attitudes, academic self-esteem, and school performance. In short, when parents partner with, rather than oppose, teachers, children develop the kinds of qualities that foster success in school and in life — persistence, diligence, and the ability to delay gratification.

Janine Bempechat
Newton
The writer is an associate professor in the department of human development at Wheelock College.

‘Clean elections’ — you mean, free money for politicians?
THE GLOBE’S recent article on Maine’s so-called clean elections program leaves out important information and perspective (“Maine blazes path in funding,’’ Page A1, March 29).

Connecticut’s similar program of taxpayer dollars for political campaigns was struck down in federal court as being a violation of the First Amendment. The article also claims the program has “gained in popularity,’’ based on the number of politicians participating. Well, sure, “free’’ money is always popular. But the story neglects to mention that only 9 percent of Maine taxpayers even bother to earmark a small amount of their tax dollars to support the program.

In addition, the story doesn’t really address the point of these programs: to reduce the influence of organized interests, and to change the way legislators vote. On both counts the program has failed. Candidates often turn to interest groups to help them qualify for their taxpayer-provided windfall, and legislators vote no differently once they take “clean’’ taxpayer money instead of private contributions.

“Clean elections’’ are a failure wherever they are enacted, simply diverting scarce public funds from important priorities into the campaign coffers of politicians.

Sean Parnell
President Center for Competitive Politics Alexandria, Va.

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