At the same time, other students in the same class already have the skill down cold, so further practice for them is a waste of time. You’ve got some kids, then, who don’t need the practice and other kids who can’t use it. Even if we were willing to put aside more basic concerns about this kind of assignment, it’s entirely possible that only a handful of students in any classroom at any given time would be likely to benefit from it. Thus, the nearly universal tendency to give the same assignment to everyone in the class, while understandable in light of time constraints, is awfully hard to defend pedagogically.
What interests me about my discovery is that if schools were to follow the guidelines, it is unlikely that they would assign summer homework. It would just be too difficult, too costly, and teachers would have to be on hand to provide “guidance and instruction.” But as long as no one knows about the guidelines, and no one asks that the school enforce them, schools will continue to assign summer homework. In fact, even though the guidelines were issued over a year ago, every New York State student I heard from got homework last summer.