Guest Blogger: Victory in Toronto

Today’s guest blogger, Frank Bruni, the father of a 12-year-old seventh grader, lives in Toronto, Canada. Frank was a driving force in pushing the Toronto District School Board to review and revamp its homework policy. You can read Frank’s other guest blog entries here and here.

Just Start
by Frank Bruni

On April 16th 2008, Toronto Canada became one of the first jurisdictions in North America to pass a substantive homework reform policy.

The policy reduces the homework burden on middle school and high school students and all but eliminates homework in the elementary grades. In addition, homework will no longer be allowed during vacations.

The new policy mandates that teacher’s co-ordinate their efforts and that the homework that is sent home is “clearly articulated and carefully planned” and “require no additional teaching outside the classroom”.

This policy is a major breakthrough for those of us who have been advocating for homework reform.

When I started to write this it was intended to be a “how to” guide for anyone who wanted to replicate what we have achieved in Toronto. But when I read it it seemed preachy.

I guess what I really want to communicate is, just start. Every situation is different, every school board is different, and every community is different, but just start somewhere.

Most of us convince ourselves that we are either to busy or lack the expertise to take on projects like these, and it paralyses us into inaction.

Large organizations count on this inaction to do want they want but, large organizations react to public pressure, and school boards are no different. But you have to start somewhere, so just do it.

The victory in Toronto was the result of many talented and passionate people putting in their time and effort to come to what has been described by some as one of the most innovative homework policies in North America.

I have been uncomfortable taking any credit for the new policy, but as someone pointed out, I got the ball rolling. So, I guess I can take credit for that. I made a two minute presentation in front of a sub-committee of the Toronto District School Board that started the process in motion. I started somewhere.

So I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, are your kids worth two minutes of your time? Just Start!

8 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Victory in Toronto

  1. Mr. Bruni — congratulations! This is wonderful news.

    For those of us in the US, the big hurdle is NCLB, which has everyone running scared of any reform that they think (incorrectly) might bring down the standardized test scores.


  2. Thanks FedupMom

    For those of you looking for inspiration and support. look no further than Sara Bennett’s book, “The Case Against Homework”. It was my inspiration.

    Further, my correspondence with Sara has been, without a doubt a real boost, especially when things were not going as I had hoped.

    Sara is my hero! – enough said.


  3. Thanks to Frank Bruni for taking the time and effort to organize for discussion around the topic of excessive homework. It is important for busy parents to become concerned about this invasion of family time.

    I am an educator in Calgary, Alberta who has written a book called Simply Too Much Homework! What Can We Do?

    We are organizing parents in Calgary to form a Homework Reform Movement that we hope will spread across Canada. Interested parents can e-mail me at or by phone at 1-800-411-9660


  4. I JUST GOT “IN PRAISE OF SLOW” AND AT FIRST GLANCE I SEE THAT MY EDUCATION, SOME 60 YEARS AGO INVOLVED INTERMIDABLE HOURS OF HOMEWORK. The teaachers that interested me most made education and their respective subjects come alive because the asked me to investigate for myself. They encouraged me to look, question, search, look deeper, and I WAS NOT AFRAID TO SAY THAT I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE HOMEWORK QUESTION.
    One teacher asked me if I belonged to a library. I saiid “Whats a library?” He, later that evening took me to a nearby libraryendorsed me, showed me how to use the facilities and pointed me to the shelves containing the boioks I needed to complete the homework task. When HE MARKED THE HOMEWORK HE ASKED ME TO READ IT TO THE CLASS, commenting that it was the best paper he had ever recieved from any class in that subject. THAT’S EDUCATION
    I later read “Deschooling society” by Ivan Illich which reinforced my belief that targets were a poor way of measuring the “wonder factor” in discovery. The usefulness of youngsters being coached in skills that could be used in life, being taught by parents, grandparents, skilled and semiskilled journeymen, and women in the local community had great appeal to me.
    I have only in recent times begun to fathom the coomputer I am using, and I have never before sent in a message, so forgive me if it is inappropriate but I SUBMIT IT ANYWAY.


  5. Thank you Frank Bruni for your work! My child attends an elementary school Toronto, and her teachers have always supported out decision to not complete homework assignments, with the exception of independent research projects that captivated our child. Unfortunately for the teachers and principal, a seeming majority of parents demanded that their children be assigned MORE homework. I hope that the new TDSB policy will make it a bit easier for the teachers to deal with the varied expectations of parents.

    The parental demand for more elementary school homework puzzles me. On average the parents at the school or well educated, well paid professionals who have a clear grasp of Canadian culture and the english language who could easily help their child learn at home. Why do they expect the school to be responsible for all aspects of their child’s education? Is it not the parents’ responsibility to round out their child’s education where they feel it is lacking? Sitting down and reading with your child, or having them count out the change at the store is far more valuable to a 6 or 7 year old than having them perform repetitive, dull drill work on a photocopied work sheet. And shouldn’t learning instill excitement rather than dread and boredom?


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