Summer HW?

June 17, 2008 at 12:23 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 5 Comments

Authored by Rick Catalano
(Each student in GMST 525 has written their own post for our class blog.)

More and more teachers are requiring summer homework and summer readings to try to get the students ready for the upcoming school year. While in theory this is a GREAT idea! In practicality, all it does is stress a student out before they even enter your classroom. For advanced placement and honors classes it is understandable. But for regents and/or locals level classes, this is just asking too much from a student.

USA Today had an article in 2004 in which it said “Summer homework has increasingly become a popular tool used by teachers to bridge the gap between the end of one school year and the start of another. But some parents worry that the workload is making summer fun slip away.” Parents are starting to worry that it is taking its toll on our students.

One student in Wisconsin actually sued his school saying “It didn’t completely ruin my summer, but it did give me a lot of undue stress both at home and at work, I just didn’t have the energy or the time for it.”

Most students in high school have summer jobs, athletics to train for, as well as their own fun planned. They have earned the right to enjoy their summer. They ARE still kids after all.

Nelson Guirado writes in his blog post Summer Packets-Waste of time, that he is completely against such things. He talks about how during his childrens’ winter break, the principal assigned everyone a packet of homework. He says it was very frustrating because anytime he wanted to get together with the family and do something, they instead had their head buried in their homework so that they didn’t get into any trouble.

I remember the summer before my Junior year of high school I had to do a 200 + question packet of summer homework for an AP chemistry class. True to form like most of my class, I didn’t start it until the last week before school started, when I was also in football practices.

My question to you is thus:
Is it fair to ask these students to do this extra work over the summer, when if they have any questions, all they have is each other or their parents to ask? Is there a better alternative to this? And out of curiosity, does anyone here implement summer homework or would you want to?



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  1. Hi Rick,
    I ran across your post about AP summer work, and since this is my first year teaching, I didn’t realize it existed until now. I don’t teach AP, but the reasons for summer work are two-fold: FIrst, to be sure the students can hit the ground running, and not spend time reviewing pre-requisite material that is used as a foundation; Second, at least in some states such as NY, to allow for the later start to school and the early AP exam period (mid-May). Some areas of the country start school in mid-August, and are well into the AP courses by the time we start in NYS. If we don’t do summer work, NY students start out behind.

  2. Larry,

    I completely see your point of view. I taught for three eyars out in Phoenix, AZ, and they started school in the first week of August!

    So they do get an advantage for that.

    And like I said, for the AP and Honor’s classes I could see the advantages to giving the summer hw. I just think that the teachers need to be more realistic with what they give.


  3. Rick,

    I think one answer to your question may be in teacher preparation. If the teacher just hands the students a packet or a book to read they are missing a valuable teaching tool. If the teacher sets up a blog, the student could have communication with other students and the teacher. This could be a great icebreaker for the class as well. If everyone is already familiar with each other the class could benefit greatly before the class meets.

    I myself have not handed out summer homework yet. I found a website dealing with fun summer experiments that looks interesting. After getting some great ideas I think summer homework can be fun and educational. The students don’t have to hate it, and It could really start the school year on the right foot.

  4. Thanks. I re-read it and found the grammar mistakes. Maybe I should give myself a homework packet.

    Anyways, anything except watching TV or playing video games is better than homework packets.

  5. The push for summer school work is coming from the top down. President Obama has suggested longer school days and longer school years. But it is not a new concept. Academic performace across the board has been slipping for decades. Summer work is offered to help arrest that.

    You mentioned in your post that kids had things to do, athletics to prepare for, and summer jobs to attend. Last year 33% of kids in the US had summer jobs. What about the majority of kids who aren’t working?

    Fun is important to have, I must agree, but how much fun does one actually need to have. For those not working, two months can be a considerable stretch of time. One that is often left unsupervised. Depending of course on the amount of homework being given, how much time each day would a student have to actually invest? 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or maybe a couple of hours? Imagine if 30 minutes of reading per day was a standard expectation… what would the accelerated program look like?

    I did participate in the football program for our school back in the day. I can attest that 2 hour football practices in the middle of summer are not fun. But even if I loved them, what did that football do for me now? Granted the arthritis does make life interesting, but other than that, not a lot.

    The amount of time wasted on sports today is amazing, often at the expense of academics. What if the front foyers of high schools had cases full of academic awards instead of athletic ones? Tributes to outstanding student achievement in math and science would be nice.

    Today it seems that our schools are in a rush towards mediocracy. An even increasing load of standards and an ever widening curicullum act to insure that no topic is taken more than an inch deep. Summer homework is merely a primer to help teacher take topics deeper.

    Perhaps school years and the school year should be lengthened to help close the academic gap our nation is experiencing. What do think?

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