NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education
Found In: teaching strategies
Some researchers are urging schools to take a fresh look at homework and its potential for engaging students and improving student performance. The key, they say, is to take into account grade-specific and developmental factors when determining the amount and kind of homework.
So, what's appropriate? What benefits can be expected? What makes for good homework policies? Research doesn't have all the answers, but a review of some existing data yields some helpful observations and guidance.
How Much Homework Do Students Do?
Survey data and anecdotal evidence show that some students spend hours nightly doing homework. Homework overload is the exception rather than the norm; however, according to research from the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation (see the Brown Center 2003 below). Their researchers analyzed data from a variety of sources and concluded that the majority of U.S. students spend less than an hour a day on homework, regardless of grade level, and this has held true for most of the past 50 years. In the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.
How Much Is Appropriate?
The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).
What are the benefits?
Homework usually falls into one of three categories: practice, preparation, or extension. The purpose usually varies by grade. Individualized assignments that tap into students' existing skills or interests can be motivating. At the elementary school level, homework can help students develop study skills and habits and can keep families informed about their child's learning. At the secondary school level, student homework is associated with greater academic achievement. (Review of Educational Research, 2006)
What’s good policy?
Experts advise schools or districts to include teachers, parents, and students in any effort to set homework policies. Policies should address the purposes of homework; amount and frequency; school and teacher responsibilities; student responsibilities; and, the role of parents or others who assist students with homework.
- A Nation At Rest: The American Way of Homework ( PDF, 439 KB, 19 pgs.)
Summary and comments from authors) - Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(3) (2003, Fall). Gill, B. P., & Schlossman, S. L.
- Helping Your Child with Homework ( PDF, 378 KB, 25 pgs.)
U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Research Spotlight on Best Practices in Education
A list of NEA Spotlights on best practices.
- NEA Reports & Statistics
Research reports reviewing data on educational issues and policy papers concerning NEA members, educators, and the public school community.
Writing your business plan. Ughhhh.
It's definitely not the most exciting part of starting a business. In fact, if you're like a lot of entrepreneurs, you're probably going to find yourself pulling a few all-nighters to get one done before heading into your first pitch for funding. Because that's the thing--your business plan is a pretty important.
Any funder worth his or her salt wants to see it right off the bat. Moreover though, a solid business plan is a living document that will continue to guide your efforts as your business grows. Recently, I shared 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups, an infographic created by Mark Vital over at Funders and Founders.
A lot of those mistakes (most of them, in fact) are the result of poor planning. Bad location, a marginal niche, having no specific user in mind, raising too much or too little money--all of these issues can be prevented or at least mitigated with good planning.
Creating your business plan is more than just getting your ideas down on paper for potential funders to see. It's an exploratory process in which you can evaluate your options, test your assumptions about your idea, and even discover new opportunities. It might even lead you to kill off aspects of your business before investing too much time or money in them.
That doesn't mean you have to bust out Word and start the plan from scratch. A template is great--you probably aren't doing anything that hasn't been done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Pretty much everything on it can be customized. Check out these comprehensive business plan templates you can download for free to get you started:
1. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups
Score is an American nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground. Its template, available as a PDF or Word download, asks a whopping 150 questions and is generic enough to customize for most types of businesses. The Refining the Plan resource that comes with it is helpful, especially if this is your first crack at writing a business plan.
2. U.S. Small Business Administration Business Plan Engine
The SBA's template is available to fill out online and then download as a PDF. You can go back in and edit it as needed, so don't worry about having everything ready the first time you sit down to tackle it. Even broken into sections, it's a long document and a bit of a slog to get through, but it produces a professional-looking and useful business plan. This is particularly helpful if your idea isn't fully fleshed out and you know you have homework to do--it prompts you for information.
3. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan
Who said a business plan has to be a long, complicated document? Some funders are going to want to see a lot of detail, but you can provide that in appendices. The $100 Startup, the website for the best-selling book of the same name, has a ton of stripped-down resources for entrepreneurs, including this super simplified business plan template.
4. LawDepot's WYSIWYG Business Plan Template
This one says you just have to answer a few simple questions and will be "done before you know it!" Don't believe it. A business plan should take time and a lot of homework, but if you've already done that, LawDepot's template is a decent choice. It walks you through getting started, marketing, product, competitive analysis, SWOT, and more, with a window below the input fields to show you the plan as you work away at it. You can download it free with a trial subscription, but you'll have to remember to cancel it within the week if you don't plan to continue using it.
5. SME Toolkit Business Plan Samples
The SME Toolkit, jointly offered by IFC and IBM, offers a simple two-page outline of what should be included in your business plan to meet the minimum requirements of funders and tax authorities (in the U.S.). It contains 10 broad sections, including market analysis, management and organization, etc., with a one-paragraph explanation of each. A second download on the same page is an Excel file to help with your financial projections.
6. Office Online Templates Galore
Of course, Microsoft offers a ton of business plan templates for Office users (you can get birthday invitations while you're at it). If you'd rather do a business plan presentation than a Word doc, you can download one of Microsoft Office's half a dozen or so PowerPoint templates for just that purpose. You'll want to customize it with your company branding (you have your branding down, right?), but it's easier than starting from a blank PPT.
7. vFinance Inc. Business Plan Template and Guide
Global financial services firm vFinance offers a basic, 30-page business plan template to download from its website--one the company says has been downloaded more than a quarter of a million times. No, it won't be completely unique, but vFinance knows what it's doing and the template is pretty comprehensive. VFinance is the creator of the massive Venture Capital Directory and has tailored the plan to appeal to funders. If that's your goal, definitely check this one out.
8. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT
U.K. online invoicing software brand Invoiceberry offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats. Each one also contains a marketing plan and executive summary template. There's a catch, though--the company asks you to take one of the following three actions before you can download the template: like it on Facebook, give it a +1 on Google+, or give it your email address. If you don't mind doing that, it's a good deal. Kudos to Invoiceberry for figuring out this effective lead-gen tactic too!
9. Santa Clara University's My Own Business Institute Plans
Santa Clara U's MOBI is an initiative of its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Leavey School of Business. On the site, you can download each of the 15 business plan sections individually as Word documents, or grab all 15 together in one doc. There's a ton of other helpful resources as well, including guidelines for evaluating your potential sites, a list of key people to review your plan, and sample financial sheets.
10. RocketLawyer's Business Plan Templates by State
Like some of the others, you fill out RocketLawyer's form and download the business plan when you're done--but its template allows you to choose your state before getting started. These plans are tailored to meet your financing requirements in your state, which is a huge bonus for those seeking funding through banks. It's also heavily geared toward financing, making it a good choice if that's a priority for you.