In yesterday’s post, I wrote that guidelines issued by the New York State Board of Education provide that when a school requires summer homework, it must comply with a set of rules. But from what I can tell, schools don’t comply with those rules and continue their summer homework assignments as they have in the past.
If your children have received summer homework assignments, or are about to, why not nip the problem in the bud?
Here’s what you can do:
1. Call your school’s principal. If you’re in a state with guidelines like New York’s, ask your principal whether your school will be following the guidelines. If s/he’s unaware of them, offer to send a copy. Tell the principal what the guidelines say. It’s pretty difficult for a school not to follow the guidelines once a parent’s asked about them. After all, the guidelines were issued in response to litigation, and non-compliance leaves the school open to wrath, scrutiny, lawsuits. Get several of your friends to call the school principal as well. There’s power in numbers.
2. If you discovered that your school doesn’t have any rules about summer homework, open up a discussion on the topic now. If you wait until your child brings home an assignment it’s too late. (Of course, you don’t have to make your child do the assignment. And how many children, especially those in elementary school, would actually do an assignment if they didn’t have parental help? Let the school see what happens when parents resist.)
3. Get together with a few of your friends and ask the principal or department head for a meeting. Tell them how summer assignments affect your family. Read a little about the problems with assigned reading so that you can make strong arguments:
- * An article on summer reading in USA Today, cites a recent study by Richard Allington, a researcher and author of many books on literacy. Allington and colleagues selected students in 17 high-poverty elementary schools in Florida and, for three consecutive years, gave each child 12 books, from a list the students provided, on the last day of school. No assignment came along with the books–no reading log, no essay, not even an order to read them. Three years later, researchers found that those students who received books had “significantly higher” reading scores and read more on their own each summer than the 478 who didn’t get books. (I’m sure that any school that gave students books from a list of their own choosing would see the same results–students who like to read more and, as a result, students with better comprehension, better written and analytical skills and yes, even higher standardized test scores.)
* This op-ed by my co-author and me published in The New York Times four years ago. I think it’s still relevant.
* An article on reading books you like from The New York Times.
Given the pressures most students face during the school year from high-stakes testing, homework, and extracurricular activities, summer should be seen as a time to explore passions, get outside, read for pleasure, hang out with friends, work a summer job (if one can be found), become a little more independent, etc. These are where students learn to problem solve, be responsible, make good use of their time, in short the kinds of learning experiences most students don’t have time for during the school year. And these life skills are ones that will serve them well in the future, undoubtedly more than most of what they learn in school.
In sum, gather a few of your friends and talk to the people who assign homework at your school. Explain why summer homework doesn’t work in your family and why you’re opposed to it. And let me know what happens.