When I used to teach elementary school math and English in my hometown of Milwaukee, I made it a point to visit the homes of my students, especially if they were struggling with their homework.

The visit that stands out the most is the one I paid to the home of a fifth grade boy. The light socket at the end of a raggedy cord that hung from the ceiling of his bedroom didn’t have a lightbulb. Bass-laden music blared loudly from a stereo system in the living room. Cigarette smoke lingered in the air. His home was hardly a place to study – and I came to understand why he wasn’t turning in his assignments.

That experience is just one reason I was intrigued by a new study by Jessica Calarco, a sociology professor at Indiana University, and Illana Horn, a professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University. Taking a critical look at how teachers view students who don’t complete their homework, they discovered, just as I did back in 1996 in Milwaukee, that not all children live in homes that are suitable for doing homework. And students don’t always have parents who can help them. The scholars question whether teachers do enough to take students’ home life into account when they assign homework – and then give them poor grades for not turning it in.

Also today:

Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Education Editor

Failure to complete homework leaves students in the lurch. MoMorad via Getty Images

‘There’s only so far I can take them’ – why teachers give up on struggling students who don’t do their homework

Jessica Calarco, Indiana University; Ilana Horn, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Not all students have access to the same level of parental help at home. So why are they judged as if they do? Two scholars probe how educators view students who fail to complete their homework.

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