Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework

High school student Carolyn Walworth said:

It is time to rethink the way we teach students. It is time to reevaluate and enforce our homework policy. It is time to impose harsher punishments upon teachers who do not comply with district standards such as not assigning homework during finals review time. It is time we wake up to the reality that Palo Alto students teeter on the verge of mental exhaustion every single day. It is time to realize that we work our students to death. It is time to hold school officials accountable. Right now is the time to act.

Effective education does not have to correlate to more stress. Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework. Challenging oneself academically and intellectually should be about just that — a mental challenge which involves understanding concepts at a deeper level. The ever increasing intertwinement between advanced courses and excessive homework baffles me; indeed, I would say that it only demonstrates our district’s shortcomings

via http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2015/03/25/guest-opinion-the-sorrows-of-young-palo-altans

3 Responses to “Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework”

  1. The fetish with homework is ideological: that to become elite, one needs to be smart AND to work hard. It is only by ostentatiously working harder than other students that one can justify / rationalize social inequality. The gross inequalities in society are rationalized as the natural outcome of meritocracy: some students just worked harder and so won the ‘race to the top’. That the research is pretty clear that most homework does not actually further learning is irrelevant to this ideological purpose.

    Another wrong idea of homework is as an enrichment activity. Having identified a set of students as gifted, and being told that they ought to be doing more for these gifted students, admin respond by assigning more –but this usually represents a quantitative rather than a qualitative increase–> if regular students are asked to do one chapter, the gifted student is asked to do six. That the additional work is as tedious and pointless as the regular workload seems to be lost on these teachers. I watched one advanced placement class building models of famous buildings for an assignment on scale–but instead of feeling enriched, these students complained about these ‘coloring’ types of assignments that slowed down their learning. “It’s the weaker students who need this sort of concrete visual aid. Just give us the formula” one student told me.

    As a parent, I am constantly frustrated by ‘homework’ assignments which in reality offload teaching of basic concepts to the parents; while when I asked what the class did in school today, the response is about ‘fun’ activities. I’m annoyed that every time I go to show a movie to my 11 year old, she says she’s already seen it at school. How about teachers teach the concepts, and leave Thursday Movie Afternoon to families….

  2. In high school [way back in the early 2000s] I was enrolled in a number of AP and Honors level courses. I found that the work was heavier, the homework was heavier, but you learned more and there was a primary reason for doing the work. The homework also wasn’t just busy work as it was in many of my “regular courses.” For example, most of the homework after January in AP Calculus was taking sample AP tests in an effort to be best prepared for the exam.

    I have found that having done this has made graduate school a breeze for me. I’ve been trained to figure out how to do excessive amounts of work in a limited time frame.

    I think it’s appropriate to give homework so long as there is an application of practice involved.

    • Is taking sample tests to get ready for another test meaningful homework?

      Should training students ‘how to do excessive amounts of work in a limited time frame’ be the purpose of homework?

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