High School Teachers in One California School District Don’t Want to Coordinate Assignments

Seventy eight percent of high school teachers in the Las Virgenes Unified School District in California admitted in a recent survey that they don’t see any need to coordinate their assignments, according to an article in The Acorn, Teachers Sound Off in Homework Study. Moreover, “53 percent don’t want to consider other department’s ‘major unit tests’ when scheduling their own tests and 50 percent don’t want to collaborate on the scheduling of longterm projects.” Significantly, 29 percent did say they would adjust assignments if parents asked.

Send me your questions and your success stories

Are you frustrated with the nightly homework routine? Are you wondering whether a particular assignment is worth your child’s time? Are you thinking about saying something to your child’s teacher, but don’t know what? Do you want to get together with other parents and make some changes at your child’s school? These questions, and many others, are answered in The Case Against Homework.

Still, the book might not answer your particular question. That’s what I’ll do here. So send me your questions and concerns and I’ll do my best to address them.

Have you had success in communicating with a teacher, organizing other parents, changing school policy? Send me your success stories and I’ll post them here.

But, best of all, if you have a story you’d like to share and you want to have an ongoing discussion or get feedback from other parents, join the discussion under the heading “Success Stories” in the forum.

If you end up posting a comment here and I think other parents would like to respond, I’ll post your comment in the forum as well.

Some Boston area high schools cut back on summer homework

Realizing that high school students need a break from school work over the summer, three Boston area high schools have severely limited the amount of work teachers can assign, according to an article in The Boston Globe, Summer plans: Fewer pencils, fewer books.

For the second summer in a row, teachers at Needham High aren’t allowed to assign summer homework in most classes and even the traditional English reading requirement has been broadened so that students have much greater choice in what they read. At neighboring Westwood and Weston High Schools, written assignments and history assignments have been significantly reduced.

According to the Globe, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association who informally surveyed principals stated, “Teachers were not consulting each other about how much homework they were giving, and administrators did not question the practice until parents pushed back.”

While doing research for The Case Against Homework, I interviewed the principal of Needham High, Paul Richards. He’s an educator who’s concerned about the amount of stress today’s students face, he’s in a position to do something about it, and he is. But we parents shouldn’t wait for sympathetic administrators to see the light. It’s up to us to question the practice of overloading our children and to push for change.

Forums Up and Running

One of the purposes of stophomework.com is to provide a place for parents, educators, psychologists, students, and anyone else who’s interested to discuss homework. Concerned about homework overload? Think assignments are a waste of time? Tired of “family” homework projects? Wondering how to approach teachers or school administrators? Want to change your school’s or School District’s policy? These are just a few of the topics that pop up over and over again when parents start talking. Now we can have that discussion here. Please start posting and spread the word.


Welcome to stophomework.com, the web site of Sara Bennett, co-author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It. This is the place to stay on top of homework issues, to ask me for suggestions on how to deal with homework problems, and to have discussions with other parents, students, and educators about ways to change current thinking and policies and deal with homework problems.

They call this kindergarten….

No more blocks, dress-up areas, show and tell time, naps, or recess for kindergarteners in an East New York Charter School says The New York Times (In Kindergarten Playtime, a New Meaning for “Play”) (subscription required). While the mission of the school is to close the achievement gap, the children who attend this school miss out on the most important work of childhood–play. Instead, the children go to school from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and, for much of the day, their teachers drill them in phonics, punctuation and arithmetic. Even the teachers think there’s something wrong: “If it were my own child,” said one of the teachers, “I would want more time for play.”

Summer Homework

These days, lots of kids are given summer homework. In June, my co-author and I published an op-ed in The New York Times, No More Teachers, Lots of Books. It’s reprinted below with permission from The New York Times. Here are some of my favorite responses:

Summer Bummer
How one boy misspent his summer vacation

and an example of a high school in Easton, MA, where the principal lessened AP summer English homework after a student provided him with research on homework overload (Less Summer Homework for Some High School Students).

No More Teachers, Lots of Books
Op-Ed Contributor
Published: June 19, 2006
SCHOOL is letting out for the summer, the final bell signaling the precious, unadulterated joy that comes with months of freedom stretching out ahead. But for many students that feeling will never come. Instead, summer these days often means more textbook reading, papers, exams and projects. It’s called “vacation homework,” an oxymoron that overburdens our children and sends many back to school burnt out and sick of learning.

Last summer, for example, students at one charter school in the Bronx were assigned 10 book reports, a thick math packet, a report on China including a written essay and a handmade doll in authentic costume and a daily log of their activities and the weather. Their parents say they are hoping this summer will be different, but who knows what drudgery will be assigned now that they’ve finished second grade?

An anomaly? Hardly.

Fifth and sixth graders in a Golden, Colo., public middle school are required to keep a journal on a different math topic each week this summer, read three books and complete a written and artistic report on two of them.

And what about high schoolers — just a little light reading to ease teenage angst? One ninth grader we know was assigned a packet of materials on the Holocaust. Another must read a 656-page book on genocide, on top of three chapters of a science textbook followed by a 15-page take-home exam, prepare a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation and complete an English assignment involving three books and essays.

All parents want their children to be happy, healthy and competitive in a highly competitive world. But is year-round homework — or the nightly homework marathons during the school year, for that matter — the way to achieve it?

As adults know, a break from work is a necessary antidote for stress. We need what psychologists call “consolidation,” the time away from a problem when newly learned material is absorbed. Often we return from a break to discover that the pieces have fallen into place. Too many of our children today are denied that consolidation time. And when parents are told that their children’s skills will slip without summer homework, we have to wonder: if those skills are so fragile, what kind of education are they really getting?

In fact, there’s serious doubt about whether homework has any benefit at all. Most studies have found little or no correlation between homework and achievement (meaning grades and test scores) in elementary school or middle school. According to Harris Cooper of Duke University, the nation’s leading researcher on the subject, there is a clear correlation among high school students, but he warns that “overloading them with homework is not associated with higher grades.”

Yet very few teachers have ever taken a course on homework or know what the research shows, and many told us homework assignments are an “afterthought.”

Another claimed benefit of homework — instilling responsibility and self-discipline — is undermined when homework is so overwhelming that parents routinely have to help their children every step of the way.

In fact, most experts believe reading is the most important educational activity. Yet a poll released last week by Scholastic and Yankelovich found that the amount of time youngsters spend reading for fun declines sharply after age 8. The No. 1 reason given by parents: too much homework.

So, what’s a parent to do? While it might be too late to challenge this summer’s assignments, it’s not too early to gather like-minded parents and get a head start on changing next year’s policy. If your children just can’t bear taking that Holocaust folder on vacation, give them permission not to read it and promise you’ll take it up with teachers or school administrators in the fall. Encourage your children to read, play games, write stories and even experience a little boredom. It might just bring out their innate creativity.

In 2000, parents in Arlington, Va., banded together and took complaints about summer homework to the school board, spurring an overhaul of the district’s policy. More parents around the country should stop complaining to each other and let school officials know that they won’t stand by as large parts of our sons and daughters’ childhoods are stolen for no good reason. Our children will grow up happier and healthier — and perhaps even have time to read a good book.