Homework ≠ College Prep
Guest Blog Post By Marcia Carrillo @MarciaMentor
“I give homework to my students to prepare them for college” is a common statement made by teachers that I work with and throughout the country. According to Bill Gates’ Blog, (cnbc.com) 2 million American students started college in the fall and “Based on the latest college completion trends, only about half of the those students (54.8 percent) will leave college with a diploma.” If homework is preparing students for college then it is NOT working for 50% of them. As an educator and mentor to new teachers I am challenging teachers to reflect on this information and TRY SOMETHING ELSE! I am challenging them to increase the DOK and include the 4C’s, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication in all lessons.
My daughter is a freshman at CSU Long Beach majoring in Biology, to pursue a career related to wildlife veterinarian services. In high school she had a 3.88 overall grade point average and was ranked 29/404 students in the class of 2018. Obviously she did her homework! She took courses at the local junior college receiving “A’s”. She had a demanding schedule throughout high school, and in her senior year she had three AP courses, Pre-Calculus, FFA where she raised and showed a hog, and was senior class secretary. Obviously, as a parent I couldn’t be more proud of her dedication to learning, and I was confident she would thrive and be successful in college. She was confident too and determined to go directly to a university, far from home, which none of her friends chose to do.
TRUTH: My daughter is struggling and feels underprepared for college.
HOMEWORK DID NOT PREPARE MY DAUGHTER FOR COLLEGE! I want to SCREAM this! I get daily text messages and weekly phone calls where she shares her frustrations and challenges about how difficult and challenging her classes are even though she receives regular tutoring, is scheduled in a support class for extra practice,attends office hours regularly and stays in class even when given the option to leave early and go to the BEACH. She is afraid of failing for the first time in her life, which is heartbreaking for her and me too.
At orientation she and ten others were taken to the side and told that due to their summer test scores in chemistry and calculus they would need to enroll in a support program that would include a mentor and a study course with tutoring. She was embarrassed! “Mom I worked so hard in all my classes, did all my homework, studied, stayed up late and now I am behind?!” I reassured her that they just want to make sure she is successful and graduates, since they boast a 65.2% graduation rate, which is much higher than the national average. They also complimented her and the other students about being part of the “few” students accepted to the university since only 29% are selected. She felt better knowing that 102,000 students had applied for 8500 available seats and she was only of the lucky ones. (csulb.edu) Living in the central valley her entire life made “the BEACH” very attractive!
If homework doesn’t prepare students for college, now what?
I told my daughter I was writing a blog post for Alice Keeler about “homework NOT preparing her for college” and I asked her “What things do you wish your high school teachers did to prepare you for college? Did homework prepare you?”
Here are her responses:
- Instead of “textbook” problems, they should assign problems with the same format as one would see on exams and AP tests. That’s what we do for chemistry right now and it is very helpful. These problems have real world context and require critical thinking skills, not just memorizing formulas and using your calculator.
- Homework can be helpful if it is limited and quality. I would suggest one assignment per week or every two weeks otherwise students won’t try on it and put forth their best effort because it will be pointless and basically busy work. The answers are online and everyone is sharing answers and teachers can’t even correct the amount of homework they assign. NO REAL FEEDBACK!! Basically teachers just give you credit for doing the 8 page packet or the 30-50 math problems. I need to know what I am doing wrong, as soon as possible, not after I score low on a test. I need feedback on my mistakes.
- In AP LIterature we did vocab tests!!! Waste of time! I don’t have any words I can’t simply look up right now. (If kids can look it up, let them! They get to use their phones, computers and calculators in college!)
- In college chemistry, the “homework” is done during our “pre-lab” time so you can work on it before the class period but if you don’t finish we end up doing them in groups (collaborating) IN CLASS anyway, then we SHARE ANSWERS so you get the chance to do it by yourself but it’s not end all be all (all questions are multiple choice).
- Pre-Calculus in high school was a mess, Mom! I just received a 93% on my Pre Calculus college exam and that’s the best math score I’ve received since my sophomore year in Integrated Math 2. Maybe it’s because I am seeing the problems for the second time but I felt dumb last year, and I actually like math and I always received an “A” so I thought that meant I knew it.
It’s time to try something different.
If in any class if 50% are failing, it’s time to try something different! 50% of students do NOT finish college, which means for various reasons it is too hard or too confusing to continue.
Homework is NOT what prepares students for college, in my opinion and my daughter’s too.
Students need to be organized, be able to communicate with their professors, even if they are scary and mean. Students need to be able to use technology with ease, including spreadsheets and the ability to make graphs. They need to be confident in asking questions and going in for office hours. They need to be willing to seek out additional help, tutoring and resources in order to be successful. They need to persevere when they receive a low score and find out, what don’t I understand and why? That is called reflection. They need to be able to collaborate and communicate with their peers and their professors. They need to be able to “fail forward” and not give up! GRIT!
How will you prepare your students for college?
Homework, especially worksheet packets, will not be given in college. My daughter hasn’t received one packet yet! Prepare your students for college. Try something else besides homework!
Marcia Carrillo is the New Teacher Induction Coordinator for the Merced Union HIgh School District. @MarciaMentor