Homework overload under microscope

Teen trustees make case to help stressed students

Jun 18, 2007 04:30 AM


Education Reporter

No homework on the weekend, during March Break or even the Christmas holidays. Forget about tests on Mondays. No big assignments four days before exams.

Sound like a student's dream come true? Well, it might be for Toronto public school pupils if the board's two teen trustees get their way.

"I'm not an expert on curriculum ... but I do know for sure there's no way we can have kids doing this much homework," said Nick Kennedy, 18, student trustee for the Toronto District School Board. "There are Grade 4s up until 11 o'clock at night." In light of complaints Kennedy has heard from other students, as well as an impassioned plea from Frank Bruni a father who feels family time is being eroded by too much homework the Toronto board is being asked to consult with students, parents and teachers on homework reform, with a report in the fall.

At a committee meeting last week, trustees already approved a policy by student Trustee Ted Kuhn, which puts a four-day "pre-examination moratorium on major assignments and activities" so that students writing exams won't be saddled with homework.

Kuhn said that policy, which will go for a final board vote at the end of the month, will bring consistency across the board's schools, as well as help stressed-out students.

"It's not an easy ride through high school" despite the perception by some that students are given high marks they don't deserve or pass courses when they shouldn't, said Kuhn.

But with a toughened curriculum and the compression of high school from five to four years, combined with the high numbers of students holding down part-time jobs, homework overload has been a hot topic among parents and students.

While most boards in Greater Toronto have guidelines that recommend about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade meaning 10 minutes for students in Grade 1, 50 minutes for those in Grade 5 they are not enforceable.

Frank Bruni's 11-year-old son Anthony routinely has two hours of homework a night, far more than the 60 minutes expected for a student in Grade 6.

"Not a single decision in our family is made without taking his homework into consideration," said Bruni. "It's gotten to the point that we stopped making plans during the week."

He finds it "heartbreaking" that kids are stuck inside at night sitting at a desk instead of out riding their bikes or enjoying time with family.

"When I was a kid, we were out playing at night and I don't think my education suffered in any way."

For students involved in sports, homework is often done "on the bus, in the rink or in the change room," said Bruni, who has addressed trustees twice on this topic.

"That doesn't serve the purpose of homework. Kids have too much to do and aren't giving it their full attention. I'm not suggesting kids get a free ride, it's about consistency."

But Trustee Bruce Davis said at a committee meeting last Wednesday that he thinks students should have weekend homework.

And for younger children, homework is usually "snuggle up and read for 30 minutes.

"We'll now be telling kids to snuggle up and read for 10 minutes? I just don't get this," he said.

Kennedy said studies have shown no correlation between the amount of homework and success in school.

"I don't think homework is achieving its education goal," such as retention of material or improving student success, but even if it is, Bruni added, "I believe it is not worth the price we are paying."

Source