Homework overload under microscope
Teen trustees make case to help stressed students
2007 04:30 AM
No homework on the weekend, during
March Break or even the Christmas holidays. Forget
about tests on Mondays. No big assignments four days
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
"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
"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