Are Sonoma high school students burdened by too much homework? Many Valley parents feel their kids need fewer assignments and more sleep, according to a new survey. A Sun staff report.
A few years ago, a group of Sonoma Valley High School parents approached the school and District administration and proposed that a parents group be formed to focus on matters that impact their children’s learning. Unlike the existing Boosters group, which raises funds for sports and other school activities, the purpose of the new parents group was to discuss issues and ideas related to improving their students’ education. The proposal was to form a networking group so parents could connect, inform and support one another, lend their skills and assistance to the school, enhance school/family collaboration, and increase parent involvement.
The parents were politely informed that there was no need for such a group. Undeterred, some parents created their own independent group, called the SVHS Parent Connection. Its motto was “Communication, Collaboration, Connection.”
The few dozen parents who attended the inaugural meeting last summer shared many of the same goals, among them:
One specific issue of concern was that of excessive homework and lack of sleep, brought to the administration’s attention for several years with the encouragement of some of the high school’s counselors who had expressed similar concerns. As the recent state-mandated assessment of school performance demonstrates, overwhelming high school kids with homework has not done much to improve their learning, especially in key areas such as math and language arts.
When the administration stated last year that students had on average one to two hours of homework per night, based on an informal straw poll, SVHS Parent Connection decided to do a more formal survey to collect reliable, impartial data on how much homework Sonoma Valley High School students actually had—on average—and how it impacted their sleep and family time.
The results showed that homework for most SVHS students far exceeds the widely accepted standards for homework time, set by the National Education Association, of 10 minutes per grade level. That translates to a maximum of 90 minutes for freshman and up to two hours per night for seniors.
Some key survey findings for SVHS students:
Chart: Over 50% of juniors reported over three hours of homework per night, on average.
The survey also invited parent comments. Here are a typical few:
Chart: 87% of juniors said homework “sometimes or often” keeps them up late.
Recently, District administration took a small step toward addressing homework concerns. During a May meeting seeking parents’ input on the District’s annual goals for the Local Control Accountability Plan parents asked that District Homework Guidelines be updated (for the first time in 20 years) and that homework limits be set, by grade.
Outgoing District Superintendent Louann Carlomagno added an LCAP goal for the coming year: “Create a task force through Curriculum and Instruction to review homework load pre-K – 12.” It’s a good first step. (However, if pre-K students have homework, that’s definitely a discussion for another day.)
Worth noting is that other schools and districts have created homework limits, without any adverse academic impact. Finland has eliminated it altogether and far outpaces the U.S. in academic achievement. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, stresses that too much homework — more than two hours per night in high school — can do more harm than good. Like many other education researchers, Harris Cooper, Director of Duke’s Program in Education, has confirmed that research validates the 10-minute rule.
Whether the new District administration will make any changes in its homework policies for local high schoolers is not yet known, but SVHS Parent Connection appears determined to keep asking.
Readers can view more of the SVHS Homework/Survey results at the SVHS Parent Connection website: http://www.svhsparentconnection.com/homework-survey.html