Substantial research supports the idea that while homework completion boosts grades (what the research calls “academic achievement”), it does not sharpen students’ academic skills as measured by independent, standardized tests. (See Cooper, Robinson, Patall, 2006) Yet, many teachers who question homework’s impact on skills assign it in the belief that it makes students more independent, both in the habits it develops and the opportunity it provides students for practice and for developing their own ideas in private. (See Marzano and Pickering, 2007)
Over the past six years of implementing the Riveting Results 9th and 10th grade daily ELA program, we have learned that students develop independent skills by doing their most significant reading and writing during class. The program helps teachers set up classroom routines that enable students to focus their attention and energy on challenging tasks—like practicing reading complex text. Because the teacher interacts with students while they are practicing, they can serve as an expert coach, adjusting students’ approaches and pushing them to break through obstacles. The teacher can also pace the students’ independent practice with opportunities to share ideas in small groups or as a whole class.
The presence of this academic community energizes adolescents to work harder on their own skills. The intensive practice over many months develops the level of proficiency students need to apply their reading and writing skills to new academic contexts—in other classes and on standardized tests.
When trying to do this sort of work at home, most students are hard pressed to find the right sort of practice space—and thus typically do not complete rigorous assignments. Of course that is not true of all students—but it certainly is true of the majority of students who most need to practice reading and writing.
We agree that adolescents need to learn the study skills that enable them to produce work away from the teacher’s supervision. But if they can’t read and write independently, it takes almost superhuman discipline to develop these critical academic skills alone, outside of school. Riveting Results ensures that 9th and 10th graders become independent readers and writers by making sure they have the time and space to do this hard work during class time.