Homework must be meaningful and must be limited. When students get to the Middle School level, they are now moving between classes. Teachers must plan together to assign the appropriate amount of homework. Rick Wormelli talks about adding a 0 to the grade the student is in to determine how much homework a student should get. If the student is in 5th grade, the appropriate amount of homework is 50 minutes. An important point here is that 50 minutes is the total amount for all teachers to give as homework. If we limit homework to the 4 core classes, each class should give no more than 12 minutes of homework per day. "No homework tonight" should be the default choice, not, "There is homework tonight." (Wormelli, p 41)
What amount of work takes 50 minutes? That answer is going to be significantly different for different students. It is important to either differentiate homework or send the homework home with a time limit. The teacher can assign a number of problems for practice and tell students to practice for 12 minutes and then draw a line upon the completion of those 12 minutes. Some problems will not get done.
If teachers are able to collaborate, then they should talk to each other about the amount of homework that is being given on a particular day. If a large assignment is being given in Math, then maybe that day there is no assignment in Science. Even then, the Math assignment should be reasonable. Homework should not be assigned unless students have already been exposed to a topic and they have adequate background knowledge to complete the homework without additional instruction. Homework should not simply be what we didn't get done in class. Students should learn the topic before being sent off to practice on their own. Following ITIP, teachers should check for understanding, then do guided practice in the room. After guided practice is complete, then you can assign work to be done as independent practice.
Grading of homework is also an important issue. Students' grades should not be based on their homework, but rather on in-class assessments. Once work leaves the classroom, no guarantees can be made about who did the homework. If in-class assessments are the way students are graded, then a student will gain no advantage by parents helping to complete the work or copying other students work. The focus becomes learning, not homework completion. Students begin to see a connection between the work they do and the learning that happens.
Wormelli, Rick. "Teaching in the Middle: Homework How we Assign it." Middle Ground:The Magazine of Middle Level Education. 11.4 (2008): 41-42. Web. 5 Feb. 2012. <http://www.amle.org/Publications/MiddleGround/Articles/April2008/Article18/tabid/1666/Default.asp&xgt;.