Female. Education: Columbia University, Ed.D.
Home—Orland, ME. Office—Training and Development Corporation, 118 School St., Bucksport, ME 04416-1669.
Educator, consultant. Taught school in CA; College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME, director of teacher education; Training and Development Corporation, Bucksport, ME, vice president for learning.
Fulbright fellowship, 1996, to teach educational foundation courses at Africa University in Zimbabwe.
(With John Buell) The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2000.
Schools That Do Too Much: Wasting Time and Money in Schools, and What We Can All Do about It, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2003.
Etta Kralovec worked as a teacher in southern California before earning her graduate degree, then became involved in teacher education. Through a Fulbright fellowship, she taught related courses in Zimbabwe, then took a position as the director of teacher education at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, where she remained for more than a decade and then continued as a member of the adjunct faculty. Kralovec became vice president for learning at the Training and Development Corporation in Bar Harbor, Maine and began writing books that reflect her point of view on education.
The first, The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, written with John Buell, was called a "thoughtful analysis" by Booklist's Mary Carroll. Kralovec and Buell maintain that there is little evidence to show that homework increases student knowledge or skills, but that there is evidence that indicates that homework is disruptive to family life and takes away from other interests, such as sports and music. It also deprives children of time outdoors after being confined to a classroom all day.
Kralovec was interviewed by Gary Stager of Curriculum Administrator, and noted that earlier in the twentieth century, there was a movement against homework, led by doctors and others. She said, "I loved the idea that physicians preached that children need six to seven hours of fresh air and sunshine a day to be healthy." In 1901, California banned homework as part of a progressive education plan. It was in the late 1950s, when the space race began, and again in the 1980s, during Japan's economic rise and with the poor showing of American students in math and science, that homework increased dramatically.
Stager noted that both the National Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association recommend ten minutes of homework a night per grade, which would equate to two hours for a high school senior. Stager asked Kralovec to cite examples of ways in which she feels homework causes the difficulties listed in the book's title.
Kravolec noted that in the last two decades, there have been increases in the number of working mothers, single-parent households, and a lengthening of the work week—by nearly 250 hours per year in white, middle-class households, and as much as a 500-hour increase for black families. Parents may need their children to help at home, participate in activities that are nonacademic, or simply want them to experience family time. High school students often arrive home in the evening after participating in school activities, only to suffer lack of sleep as they struggle to finish homework assignments.
Kralovec emphasized the inequality of resources available to children as they complete assignments. While some students are blessed with well-educated parents, fast computers, and tutorial help, many go home to an empty, dark apartment. "The emblematic Soccer Mom has been replaced by the Burger Mom," said Kralovec, "the mother who works in a fast-food restaurant and whose children sit in a booth so their mom can help them with homework between serving burgers." As Kralovec noted, there is a big difference between taking a turn on a school or library computer and having one in your own home. And the stress of homework can lead to low self-estimate and dropping out altogether.
Too often, a child's homework involves parental involvement, time that is often hard to come by with parents working harder and later. Asked for an extreme example of a homework assignment, Kralovec told Stager, "the science fair project where the teacher sends home a sheet and due dates and expects the parent to teach the child the scientific method and prove a hypothesis in one month!" She also related this story: "The CEO of Yahoo was recently asked what he thought was the most important change introduced by the Internet. He replied, 'It has reconnected kids with their grandparents. Kids can now send their homework via e-mail to their grandparents who do it and return it via e-mail before school the next day.' The most powerful homework visual is an ad for Ritilan that says, 'Homework may be a more relaxing time at the Wilkin house.…'"
National Review critic John D. Gartner felt the "emotional appeal of Kravlovec's book seems drawn from a more insidious source, namely that today's parents cannot tolerate the least emotional discomfort in their children. The smallest tantrum throws them into a panic. It seems that parents don't want to be parents anymore, it's too painful to discipline children when we want them to be our friends. The last thing we want is to 'alienate' them by insisting that they do their homework. What many parents and teachers have lost sight of is that the most important lesson homework teaches is personal responsibility and self-discipline. Homework is practice for life."
An NEA Today contributor wrote that "what's arresting about this well-written, well-documented book is that, perhaps for the first time, the practice of homework is linked to school reform, with its merits and demerits debated both historically and educationally."
That issue is taken up in Kralovec's Schools That Do Too Much: Wasting Time and Money in Schools and What We Can All Do about it, which Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan said "presents well-reasoned arguments and provides plenty of food for thought about the contemporary educational crisis." In addition to ending homework, Kralovec calls for removing sports and theater from public schools, concentrating on the teaching of core academic subjects, and eliminating fundraising by students. She advocates a stronger commitment by parents and teachers and a closer relationship between the school and the community, which she feels is the proper conduit through which children should be offered nonacademic activities.
A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that "Kralovec's succinct work should set the tone for conversations that administrators, school boards, and politicians need to be having across the nation in order to improve education."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, p. 1812; January 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Schools That Do Too Much: Wasting Time and Money in Schools, and What We Can All Do about It, p. 815.
Curriculum Administrator, January, 2001, Gary Stager, interview with Kralovec, p. 62.
Library Journal, July 2000, Samuel T. Huang, review of The End of Homework, p. 113; January, 2003, Leroy Hommerding, review of Schools That Do Too Much, p. 130.
National Review, January 22, 2001, John D. Gartner, review of The End of Homework.
NEA Today, September, 2000, review of The End of Homework, p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2000, review of The End of Homework, p. 53; December 9, 2002, review of Schools That Do Too Much, p. 71.
Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2001, review of The End of Homework, p. 10.