Homework Petition

To Whom It May Concern:

Students, faculty, and parents of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District have come across many experiences, concerns and issues with the homework that is assigned.  There are numerous problems students face every day that have more negative effects than positive benefits. Here are some we have come across.

  • Students are forced to stay up late to complete their assignments or else they will be given a bad grade. By doing this, they are losing sleep which causes them to be tired and not put in a 100% effort in their class assignments.  Studies have shown that chronic sleep loss causes depression, impaired motor function and obesity. It has been found to increase a body’s production of stress hormone cortisol which raises blood pressure, heart rate, weakens the immune system and makes it difficult to concentrate.
  • It is extremely difficult for students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities with the addition of homework. Kids do not have enough time to participate in sports, pursue personal interests, complete homework and have time to just relax. If they want to do all of these things, they are forced to stay up a lot later than the average teen should be staying awake. The teenage years are the years when people need the most sleep due to the amount they are growing.
  • Child obesity is a big problem in today’s generation and excessive homework just adds to it. Homework causes the student to stay inside and not get the amount of exercise and fresh air an adolescent should be getting. Without homework, students would have more time to exercise and stay healthy.” Parents and Friends Chief Jenny Branch says, as childhood obesity becomes a major problem; homework is forcing children to sit in front of computers instead of exercise.” (1)
  • Class discussion is based on homework more than anything else which is taking away valuable class time where teachers could be giving a lesson.
  • Numerous students are not able to complete their homework because they don’t understand the problem. Not understanding something or having to get extra help also shows to lower a student’s self-esteem. If a student doesn’t know how to do the problem, they can either do it wrong and get a bad grade, or not do it and get a bad grade. It has been years since the students’ parents have been in school and doing the kind of work they do. Chances are they don’t remember that material. And even if they do, things have changed since then and they were taught how to complete problems in different ways. If homework isn’t assigned and all the work is done in class this problem would be eliminated and the students can get help as needed.
  • Homework causes a lot of unneeded stress to students. There are so many other things they have to worry about every day and homework should not have to be one of them. Extra stress put on a child contributes to drug and/or alcohol usage. “A study reported August 4, 2008 reveals that 73% of teens say that school stress is the primary reason for drug use.” (2)
  • Students who are sick or absent are now responsible to complete last week’s classwork, last week’s homework, and now the new assignments for that week. This puts a tremendous amount of stress on the student.
  • In middle and high school many students choose afterschool jobs over homework contributing to poor grades.  Given today’s economy, kids can’t depend on their parents for money and working will give them valuable experience they cannot learn in school.  Homework enables them from doing so.
  • Due to homework, students are forced to come home and spend most of the night in their room. This is limits their family time and many aren’t even able to have dinner as a family. This is a very important part in a child’s life.
  • Weekends revolve around homework and they rarely get to have time to themselves.
  • The weight of a backpack is an enormous load and causes back problems for students at a very early age. “The studies reveal that many pupils’ backpacks were “excessively loaded”, leaving students with back problems which often worsened with age. The authors of the report, which was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, said children should not carry anything weighing more than 10% of their body weight. But the study found nearly two thirds of the 1,403 children surveyed carried bags which broke the 10% rule”. (3)
  • Homework is costing the school and families money they don’t have.  The economy is extremely rough right now and wasting time and money on assignments that are proven to have very few benefits is pointless.  A paid teacher can spend precious time teaching, opposed to correcting papers and children can have time to just be kids.
  • Students do not complete the assignment by themselves. The majority of the students receive the assignment and copy it off a friend or someone they know and the work isn’t even being done by them. If the work isn’t being done by the student themselves, that is not a proper way to assess how a child is doing considering there is no way to stop the child from copying off of someone else after school hours.

There appears to be many more negative effects of homework than positive. There have been no quality studies to prove homework improves test scores and grades. Here are some other opinions we have found.

  • “Have you ever heard of a child getting sick because of homework? According to William Crain, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at City College of New York and the author of Reclaiming Childhood, “Kids are developing more school-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression than ever before. The average student is glued to his or her desk for almost seven hours a day. Add two to four hours of homework each night, and they are working a 45 to 55 hour week.” This does not include time spent riding the bus, sports and after school jobs.” Ironic considering the child labor laws! (4)
  • “In addition, a student who receives excessive homework “will miss out on active playtime, essential for learning social skills, proper brain development, and warding off childhood obesity,” according to Harris Cooper, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.  Although some teachers and parents believe assigning a lot of homework is beneficial, a Duke University review of a number of studies found almost no correlation between homework and long-term achievements in elementary school and only a moderate correlation in middle school. “More is not better,” concluded Cooper, who conducted the review.” (5)
  • “Is homework really necessary? Most teachers assign homework as a drill to improve memorization of material. While drills and repetitive exercises have their place in schools, homework may not be that place. If a student does a math worksheet with 50 problems but completes them incorrectly, he will likely fail the test. According to the U.S. Department of Education, most math teachers can tell after checking five algebraic equations whether a student understood the necessary concepts. Practicing dozens of homework problems incorrectly only cements the wrong method.” (6)
  • “Some teachers believe that assigning more homework will help improve standardized test scores. However, in countries like the Czech Republic, Japan, and Denmark, which have higher-scoring students, teachers give little homework.  At the other end of the spectrum, “countries with very low average test scores—Thailand, Greece and Iran—have teachers who assign a great deal of homework,” David Baker noted. The United States is among the most homework-intensive countries in the world for seventh and eighth grade, so more homework clearly does not mean higher test scores.” (7)
  • “Do students in the United States receive too much homework? If schools assign less homework, it would benefit teachers, parents, and students alike. Teachers who assign large amounts of homework are often unable to do more than spot-check answers. This means that many errors are missed. Teachers who assign less homework will be able to check it thoroughly. In addition, it allows a teacher time to focus on more important things. “I had more time for planning when I wasn’t grading thousands of problems a night,” says math teacher Joel Wazac at a middle school in Missouri. “And when a student didn’t understand something, instead of a parent trying to puzzle it out, I was there to help them.” The result of assigning fewer math problems: grades went up and the school’s standardized math scores are the highest they’ve ever been. A student who is assigned less homework will live a healthy and happy life. The family can look forward to stress-free, carefree nights and, finally, the teachers can too.” (8)
  • “According to the authors of “National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling,” too much homework can demoralize students and lead to lower test scores. In particular, David Baker and Gerald LeTendre noted that students from countries where less homework is assigned, such as Japan and Denmark, score better on tests than students from countries that assign a lot of homework. They also pointed out that though American students do more homework than many of their international competitors, their overall test scores are average.” (9)
  • “The truth, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little evidence that it helps older students. Yet the nightly burden is taking a serious toll on America’s families. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development. And it is a hidden cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, creating a nation of “homework potatoes.” (10)
  • ““The value of homework is overrated,” says Pope, author of Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Mis-educated Students. Based on her studies, Pope believes overburdened students are more prone to cheating, depression, unhealthy study habits, and a distorted view of success.” (11)
  • “The campaign against homework is gaining popularity. Administrators in wealthy communities with high-achieving students appear to be the first to heed the message. Recently, David Ackerman, principal at Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, made national news when he advised his staff to limit homework to reading assignments only.” (12)

Our proposal is to have the PVRS district not assign extra assignments for homework on a TRIAL basis. This excludes the work students didn’t finish in class, special projects that require some sort of at home work, basic reading assignments that are required, or some sort of quick assignment that is essential to reinforce what the student has learned in class that day. We will see if test scores increase, absentee rates decrease, and overall grades on report cards improve. Based on these studies we strongly believe that unneeded homework assignments are causing more harm than good.  These “busy work” assignments are not proving to provide any benefits to the students and is only causing unneeded stress to students, teachers and parents.  Why assign homework if it is only causing harm to the students? The USA is one of the lowest test scoring countries due in part to the amount of homework that is distributed. Schools across Europe are also experimenting with the “no homework” idea because of all the studies that have proven for homework to be ineffective.  The president of France just recently announced that he is going to pursue the abolition of homework. There has been a documentary written by Vicki Abeles called “Race to Nowhere” that gives several good examples about what homework is doing to students. Alfie Kohn has written a book advocating the abolition of homework called “The Homework Myth” and Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish have written a book called “The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.” These books and documentaries give very well thought out and researched examples of the harmful effects homework is having on kids.

The definition of “Pioneer” is to develop or be the first to apply a new method.   Let’s live up to our name sake and be a “Pioneer” in education. With the facts provided we hope you will take into consideration our ideas and keep our proposal in mind.

Sincerely,

Ameilia Pelletier,

Emily Lanoie,

Logan Anderson,

Amelia Marchand,

Elizabeth Sweeney

End Notes

  1. ABC News. ABC News. March 12th, 2007. 10-21-12. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-03-12/homework-contributing-to-childhood-obesity-parents/2214962
  2. Teen Stress and Drug abuse. Treatment solutions. August 18th, 2008.

10-20-12. http://www.treatmentsolutions.com/teen-stress-and-drug-abuse/

  1. Heavy School Bags Causing Children Back Pain. Huffington Posts. 3-15-2012. 10-19-12. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/15/heavy-school-bags-causing-children-back-pain_n_1346974.html
  2. The Homework Revolution. Teen Ink. 10-20-12. www.teenink.com › Opinion › School / College.
  3. The Homework Revolution. Teen Ink. 10-20-12. www.teenink.com › Opinion › School / College.
  4. The Homework Revolution. Teen Ink. 10-20-12. www.teenink.com › Opinion › School / College.
  5. High School Homework: Are American students Overworked? Huffington Posts. 5-11-11. 10-21-2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html
  6. High School Homework: Are American students Overworked?. Huffington Posts. 5-11-11. 10-21-2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html
  7. Vivex Saxena. Pros and Cons of Homework. Ehow. 10-19-12. http://www.ehow.com/info_8298310_pros-cons-homework.html
  8. 10.  The Case Against Homework. Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. August, 2006. 10-19-12. http://www.thecaseagainsthomework.com/
  9. 11.  No Homework: A Growing Trend?. Education.com. 3-27-2007. 10-18-12. http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Ed_No_Homework_Growing/

No Homework: A Growing Trend?. Education.com. 3-27-2007. 10-18-12. http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Ed_No_Homework_Growing/

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6 Responses to Homework Petition

  1. Bill Wendry says:

    As a retired high school math/physics teacher I feel that homework IS an essential part of the learning process. Understanding something in class does not mean that the student has actually learned it. Only through honest effort and struggle can one expect to make the concept theirs.

    I would agree that excessive, lengthy assignments are not necessary, but some practice is essential.

    When I taught mathematics (calculus, geometry, and algebra) I found that students claimed to understand my lectures and board examples, but when asked to work out similar problems without practice were unable to do so. After a homework assignment, where students were asked to practice the same types of problems, their grasp became much clearer and their performance improved.

    The overall grades students earned were in direct relation with their homework effort… i.e., students who consistently did their homework earned better grades on tests and quizzes than those who did not do homework.

    I never assigned homework on Friday. The weekend was theirs.

    • Heather says:

      I think the girls would agree with you for the most part. They’re not trying to eliminate all homework, they just want it to be more manageable. Thank you so much for your input!

  2. Kevin Pelletier says:

    Let me start by saying that the authors of this initiative need to be commended for putting together such a compelling and well-researched argument. Even at the college level, it is uncommon to read an argument that is so persuasively articulated and supported by an array of evidence. And to think that the authors are only 14 years old. These young women challenge the pervasive characterization that our youth are apathetic and disengaged. They are performing the kind of critical and inventive thinking that public schools everywhere should be nurturing. I cannot stress this enough: it is a very positive sign that our young people are exploring the creative alternatives found in this petition. The parents of these young women should be very proud indeed.

    Recent academic research overwhelmingly supports the notion that when it comes to homework, more does not necessarily equal better, that an overabundance of homework has the deleterious consequences that the authors of this petition describe. I praise the administrators at Pioneer Regional Valley who are willing to consider the initiative and who haven’t had the kind of knee-jerk, short-sighted reaction that unfortunately school leaders and administrators often have. It is clear that this petition is not proposing “no homework” across the board. Instead, it is asking adults—teachers, parents, and school leaders—to make homework more efficient, and thus more effective. I encourage everyone involved in making this decision to be as creative and dedicated as the authors of this petition have been. The students at Pioneer Regional Valley Schools deserve at least this much.

    In the interest of full disclosure, one of the authors, Ameilia Pelletier, is my niece. However, given my career as a college professor of English, I feel I am in a unique position to comment on these matters.

    Kevin Pelletier

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This petition has numerous explanations and proof about the negative effects homework creates. It is obvious that much research has been done with all of the data provided. As a student, I support this, having experienced unreasonable amounts of unnecessary homework assignments. The stress put on countless amounts of students and myself can be overwhelming. It would be a sigh of relief if the burden of homework was lessened.

  4. Ryan W. says:

    Very well done with this petition. I agree that homework is imporant for reinforcing information, but the overwhelming amount is certainly damaging. It is commom practice in our police academy to overload us with work both in the classroom and after hours from 0600hrs to 2200hrs everyday. This is done to keep our stress levels at a constant high and make sure that we can handle it. While that is important for law enforcement/military, I do not think it is entirely necessary for kids in school. Best of luck with this petition and I hope administrators look into your claims and truely care about the students well being.

  5. Kendra Vendetti says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the authors’ position that we need to “rethink” the way we assign homework. Homework should be used to reinforce basic skills taught in the classroom and to encourage students to expand on what they have learned and apply it. For example, this very petition is an excellent example of “grassroots organizing” and would be a wonderful homework assignment complimenting teachings on the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Movement, Organized Labor etc… As a practicing school psychologist I frequently speak with parents whose children are in tears nightly due to homework and I consistently advise them to take the homework away from their kids. Some struggle is necessary for learning but the extreme frustration and exhaustion that many of these students face is the enemy of learning and has no place in our public schools. It is my hope that this petition will inspire others and continue to engage students, parents, teachers and administrators in a meaningful dialogue about how to create homework assignments that promote learning and critical thinking.

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