January 2008
Brought to you by the U.S. Department of Education for use by 21st Century Community Learning Centers
a newsletter of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning : Afterschool News

Engaging Students in Homework

Most of us have heard Benjamin Franklin’s saying that nothing is certain but death and taxes. Share this with a student in the United States, and he or she might add homework to the list. It is no surprise, then, that homework help has become an important part of afterschool programs. In fact, 90% of 21st Century Community Learning Centers reported offering tutoring and homework help in the 2004–2005 school year.1

Afterschool professionals can help students set and meet homework goals and keep parents and day-school teachers informed about students’ progress. Begin by letting day-school teachers know that homework help is available in your afterschool program, and stay informed about teachers’ homework expectations and students’ progress.

For students who work better in a structured environment, a homework agreement signed by students, parents, teachers, and staff can describe each person’s role in homework and what is expected during homework time. Students can use a homework log to record assignments, track progress, and communicate with teachers and parents. A homework log can also be used to help students manage their time, prioritize the things they need to do, and assess their own progress. These and other resources are part of the National Partnership’s Afterschool Training Toolkit for Homework. To find the homework agreement and homework log, go to the Monitoring and Communicating about Student Progress section and look at the bottom of the page.

1 Naftzger, N., Kaufman, S., Margolin, J. & Ali, A. (2006). 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) analytic support for evaluation and program monitoring: An overview of the 21st CCLC Program: 2004–05. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.

Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? If So, How Much is Best?
By Harris Cooper, PhD

A recent poll conducted for the Associated Press found that about 57% of parents felt their child was assigned about the right amount of homework. Another 23% thought it was too little, and 19% thought it was too much.

Educators should be thrilled with these numbers. Pleasing a majority of parents regarding homework and having equal numbers of dissenters shouting “Too much!” and “Too little!” is about as good as they can hope for.

What the Research Says

But opinions cannot tell us whether homework works; only research can. My colleagues and I have conducted a combined analysis of dozens of homework studies to examine whether homework is beneficial and what amount of homework is appropriate for our children.

Read the full article

Harris Cooper, is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, where he also directs the Program in Education, and author of The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents (Corwin Press). He is also a member of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning’s steering committee.





What is the National Partnership of Quality Afterschool Learning?




“Homework policies should prescribe amounts of homework consistent with the research evidence, but they should also give individual schools and teachers some flexibility.”

Recommended Resource

Partner WGBH Wins CINE Award for Toolkit Videos

CINE logoWGBH Educational Foundation, one of the seven partners in the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Education 21st Century Learning Centers program, has won a highly acclaimed CINE Golden Eagle Award for video production on the Afterschool Training Toolkit.

Held annually since 1957, CINE’s Golden Eagle Film and Video Awards recognize excellence in documentary and informational film and video production. Past recipients of CINE Golden Eagles include Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barbara Kopple, Ken Burns, and many others distinguished for their work with film and video.

The three winning videos were “Rehearsing the Tempest,” “Integrating Science Across the Curriculum,” and “Investigating Science Through Inquiry.” Cynthia McKeown, video producer at WGBH, worked with associate producer Jayne Sportelli, editors Karen Silverstein and Mary-Kate Shea, and executive producer Amy Tonkonogy to create all the videos for the site.

McKeown says, “It is an honor to be recognized by CINE with a Golden Eagle Award, and it is also very gratifying to know that the Partnership’s important work in promoting promising practices in afterschool is being honored as well.”
See the award-winning videos at

Stories from the field

Russian Jack 21st Century Community Learning Center
Anchorage, Alaska

“Students like to have their regular classroom teacher as the 21st CCLC program instructor, and we strive to make that arrangement.” Linda Wetherby site coordinator

For the Russian Jack 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) in Anchorage, Alaska, communicating with the day school is a key part of afterschool homework help. The 110 students who attend the afterschool program range from kindergarten to sixth grade, and they all bring their homework with them to the afterschool program. Day school teachers provide weekly copies of homework to afterschool instructors. Younger students who do not have homework on a regular basis still have the opportunity to practice skills and reinforce learning through hands-on games and activities.

It is not difficult for Russian Jack and the 10 other Anchorage 21st CCLCs to maintain ties with the day school considering 70% of the day-school staff also work in the afterschool program, and 70% of the afterschool staff are certified teachers in the district. “Students like to have their regular classroom teacher as the 21st CCLC program instructor, and we strive to make that arrangement,” says site coordinator Linda Wetherby. “The next best arrangement is to schedule the 21st CCLC [afterschool] class to meet in the student’s own classroom. These arrangements provide familiar expectations in a familiar setting for the student.”

These close ties also allow for more fun and flexibility in the homework setting. Wetherby says that afterschool and day-school staff work together to incorporate hands-on activities into homework time. “Activities and games can accomplish as much or more than just one handout, and students like them,” says Wetherby. Visitors and guest presenters also help students understand the importance of education. These presenters come from different professional backgrounds and demonstrate what can be achieved through hard work and setting goals.

Like most afterschool programs, Russian Jack offers recreational activities, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, cross-country skiing, and cooking. These activities help round out the afternoon, and the precondition of completed homework assignments helps motivate some reluctant students to finish their work. Wetherby says that she and her staff find built-in motivations helpful for students, but she adds that “it doesn’t have to involve a big budget. Caring staff can do the trick.”

In Your Words Technology Tip Events Calendar

To participate in this survey and view results, submit your vote now.

What role do you think homework help should play in an afterschool program? (Select any.)

The Three Ms of Homework Help
Motivation, monitoring, and modeling, the three Ms of homework help, are essential to student success. To increase motivation, create an open and positive atmosphere, help students feel valued, and give frequent and positive feedback. Monitor students by circulating and looking for verbal and non-verbal cues for help. When helping students, ask open-ended questions and give students time to think before answering questions. Provide modeling for students by showing them how to obtain the information they need through teachers, librarians, and the Internet.

Do you have a training tip you would like to share? E-mail us at with “training tip” in the subject line.

Feb. 14–17

Beyond School Hours 11
Jacksonville, FL

Feb. 28–29

PEAK Afterschool Workshop Series: Literacy and Arts
Kansas City, MO

Mar. 12–14

National AfterSchool Association Conference
Fort lauderdale, fl

For more events, visit our calendar.

National Partnership For Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL

Questions or comments should be directed to:

Laura Shankland
4700 Mueller Blvd.
Austin, TX 78723
Phone: 800-476-6861 ext. 6556
Fax: 512-476-2286

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This newsletter was produced in whole or in part with funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-01-CO-0057/0001.

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Copyright © 2008 by SEDL.