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rethinking homework cathy vatterott

Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs Paperback – September 25, 2018

  • Kindle $21.03 Read with Our Free App
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  • Designing high-quality homework tasks;
  • Differentiating homework tasks;
  • Deemphasizing grading of homework;
  • Improving homework completion; and
  • Implementing homework support programs.

Numerous examples from teachers and schools illustrate the new paradigm in action, and readers will find useful new tools to start them on their own journey. The end product is homework that works―for all students, at all levels.

  • Print length 216 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher ASCD
  • Publication date September 25, 2018
  • Dimensions 6 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • ISBN-10 1416626565
  • ISBN-13 978-1416626565
  • See all details

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From the back cover.

Numerous examples from teachers and schools illustrate the new paradigm in action, and readers will find useful new tools to start them on their own journey. The end product is homework that works--for all students, at all levels.

About the Author

Product details.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ ASCD; 2nd edition (September 25, 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 216 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1416626565
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1416626565
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • #860 in Common Core
  • #9,209 in Instruction Methods

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To report an issue with this product, click here .

About the author

Cathy vatterott.

Dr. Cathy Vatterott is an Associate Professor of Middle Level Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. During her career, she has been a junior high school teacher, a middle school principal, and a middle school parent. She is the author of over a dozen articles about education, published in such journals as the Middle School Journal, Schools in the Middle, Current Issues in Middle Level Education, and the New England League of Middle Schools Journal. Her first book , Academic Success through Empowering Students, was published by the National Middle School Association in 1999. Over the last 15 years, she has conducted workshops for hundreds of middle school teachers and principals, and has been a frequent presenter at the National Middle School Association's Annual Conference. She has developed an NCATE-approved university program for middle school certification at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has prepared pre-service middle school teachers for over 10 years. She and her university students continue to work on-site with a student-focused middle school which serves as their Professional Development School.

On a broader note, she is considered to be a national expert on the topic of K-12 homework, her latest research interest. She has presented her homework research to over 3000 educators and parents in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and has been interviewed as a homework expert by newspapers, magazines, television, and radio.

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rethinking homework cathy vatterott

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rethinking homework cathy vatterott

Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform

Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, 2nd edition

$23.16 member price join now.

Is homework an essential component of rigorous schooling or a harmful practice that alienates and discourages a significant number of students? Nine years after Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs was published, the debate over this complex question endures.

Table of contents


The Cult(ure) of Homework

Homework in the Context of the New Family

Homework Research and Common Sense

About the authors

rethinking homework cathy vatterott

Cathy Vatterott is professor emeritus of education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Referred to as the "homework lady," Vatterott has been researching, writing, and speaking about K–12 homework for more than 20 years.

She frequently presents at a variety of state and national educational conferences and also serves as a consultant and workshop presenter for K–12 schools on a variety of topics.

Book details

Product no., 978-1-4166-2656-5, release date, member book, topics in this book, related books, to process a transaction with a purchase order please send to [email protected].

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Rethinking Homework

rethinking homework cathy vatterott

This best selling book was first published in 2009. This updated 2nd edition includes:

  • new research, trends, and poliices
  • economic diversity and the “homework gap”
  • the “achievement culture” and student stress
  • role of homework in standards-based learning
  • flipping homework and classroom instruction


Rethinking Grading

rethinking homework cathy vatterott

Teacher's bookshelf: Rethinking Homework

Teacher's bookshelf: Rethinking Homework

Nine years after releasing Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs , US education professor Cathy Vatterott is back with a second edition. The former teacher and principal says much has changed since the original publication, but the debate over whether school homework should be seen as essential, alienating or even harmful is an enduring one. Rather than eliminating homework all together, she suggests a new paradigm to guide educators in setting tasks that work for all students. In this extract for Teacher readers – taken from a chapter on effective homework practices – Vatterott discusses the importance of making tasks relevant and giving students more control over their learning.

‘Students are often unmotivated to do homework because they do not perceive it as important. It's just a task to do with no personal relevance or individuality.

‘What's wrong with this picture? In many classrooms, students feel little or no ownership of their learning in general – we teach, we assign tasks, we test, and students are the passive receptacles (Wiliam, 2016). They have no stake in the outcome – it doesn't mean anything to them – because it's not about them. As long as learning and homework are being “done to” them, the goals are ours, not theirs (Kohn, 2006). As a teacher once said, “I've never heard of a child not doing his work; it's our work he's not doing” (Vatterott, 2015).

‘Think about all the imperfections we accept from very young children as they learn skills like feeding and dressing themselves. We instinctively realize that messy high chairs and snow boots worn in summer are less important than mastery of the skill and the pride that comes with it. We fully understand the freedom that is required for children to take ownership of those tasks. Yet when it comes to academic learning, we often fail to appreciate the innate desire for mastery or trust the child's knowledge of how to get there. So we assign a single task as homework and expect all students to comply. And voilà! Learning occurs. Except when it doesn't (Vatterott, 2014) …

‘… Like those milestones in early childhood development, student ownership of homework is not perfect, but it is powerful. When students know themselves as learners and how they best learn, and when they are free to connect personally with the content, learning becomes joyful and intrinsically rewarding and need not be incentivized.

‘How is student ownership of homework achieved? It starts with choice (Anderson, 2016). Homework choice can be as limited as asking students to “pick any 10 of these 30 problems to solve,” as specific as having students work only on learning targets that they are struggling with, or as wide open as a self-selected, self-designed project. Students may not have a choice about the learning goal, but they can almost always be given a choice as to the path they take to reach the goal. For instance, suppose the learning goal for all students is to memorize their multiplication tables. The homework might look like this:

  • Create your own method to memorize your multiplication tables. Some ideas other students have tried include reciting, making note cards, drawing a grid or a color-coded chart, or creating a rap song.
  • Share your idea with the class tomorrow.
  • Practice your method this week.
  • Evaluate how well your method worked after the no-count quiz on Friday.'

Copyright © 2018 Cathy Vatterott. Reproduced by permission. Rethinking homework: Best practices that support diverse needs, 2nd Edition, by Cathy Vatterott, published by ASCD, is out now. Learn more about this book and ASCD by visiting .

Anderson, M. (2016). Learning to choose, choosing to learn: The key to student motivation and achievement . Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Kohn, A. (2011). The case against grades. Educational Leadership , 69(3), 28–33.

Vatterott, C. (2014). Student-owned homework. Educational Leadership , 71(6), 39–42.

Vatterott, C. (2015). Rethinking grading: Meaningful assessment for standards-based learning . Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Vatterott, C. (2018). Rethinking homework: Best practices that support diverse needs. ASCD.

Wiliam, D. (2016). The secret of effective feedback. Educational Leadership , 73(7), 10–15.

In this extract, Dr Cathy Vatterott discusses the importance of giving students more control over homework tasks. Think about a recent homework task you set for your students. What was the learning goal? Was it important for students to take the same path to that goal? How could you have introduced student choice about the path taken?

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  • Book Reviews / Homework

Homework Policies That Support Diverse Needs

by MiddleWeb · Published 04/18/2019 · Updated 01/17/2020

Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, 2nd edition By Cathy Vatterott (ASCD, 2018 – Learn more )

rethinking homework cathy vatterott

There is no more loaded topic in education than the discussion of homework. Are teachers assigning too much homework or not enough? Is homework a productive use of a student’s time outside of the regular school day? Is it good for all ages or only students of a certain age?

These are just a few of the questions that are discussed from national leaders in educational research down to an individual teacher with his/her students. Dr. Cathy Vatterott’s book Rethinking Homework tries to bring sanity to this ongoing argument.

Attending to family dynamics

I think the most thought provoking piece of this book is the discussion of how family dynamics have changed and how they are constantly evolving. Many families are single parent/guardian households, and many with two parents/guardians in the home see both of them working full time. Parents/guardians may not have the time and in some cases the ability to help their son/daughter complete homework. Also kids are more active than ever before outside of school.

Teachers need to understand that there are some nights where completing homework may be impossible (p. 40). Teachers must work with families to help students complete worthwhile homework when it is assigned, understanding that judging parents/guardians who can’t or won’t help students is an unproductive and damaging exercise.

Vatterott goes through some of the research about homework. The takeaway from this section is that you can find research to confirm or refute whatever your position is on homework.

If you are assigning homework, the homework needs to have a specific purpose (pre-learning, diagnostic, check for understanding, practice, or processing), and the student needs to receive specific, usable feedback that will help them reach the learning goal. This feedback can come from the teacher, their peers, or themselves.

Grades, especially punitive ones (i.e. zeros for not completing homework), not only do not motivate students to complete homework, they give students an excuse from ever completing the assignment. If the assignment is worthwhile, then students not doing it are missing out on a learning opportunity. “[W]e cannot punish students into completing homework,” Vatterott states succinctly (p. 96).

Ways to help students complete homework

Many students need support in completing homework; however, if a student cannot complete an assignment without help, then it is not a good assignment. If the homework is meaningful and appropriate, we need to figure out why students are not completing it. The first step goes back to open, honest communication with the family. Vatterott details many support strategies that can be used at the classroom and/or building level to help students complete their homework. Some that stood out to me are:

• Classroom Level

– Set a maximum amount of time that students should work on homework. – Give assignments well in advance of the due date. – Give weekly assignments. Assign homework on Friday to be due next Friday.

• Building Level

– Provide homework support programs. – Shorten each class by a few minutes per day to have an hour long weekly homework time. – Schedule small, focused study halls.

Practical advice on developing homework practices

This book is a must for classroom teachers and administrators who want to bring some sanity to homework policies in their classrooms or building. Vatterott provides practical advice as well as documents at the end of the book that help implement her ideas.

Homework is practice. It should be treated as such. Students may need time outside of class to pre-learn or understand certain concepts. The homework assigned should then be focused with clear learning goals, and students should be given specific, usable feedback once the assignment is complete. We have to stop making homework another reason why students don’t become life-long learners.

Brian Taylor is the Director of Science and Engineering Technology K-12 for the West Islip Union Free School District on Long Island, New York. Brian has also been a Dean of Students and a Chemistry teacher.

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