Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Race to Nowhere and APP

By request, a thread to discuss the film "Race to Nowhere" and the concern of pushing children too hard too fast. Useful reviews and summaries of the film are available from Slate, Wikipedia, and the New York Times, among other places.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting this thread!

Is anyone else interested in reducing the homework load?

Some middle school APP students are doing 3+ hours of homework each night which seems unhealthy.

It sounds like Spectrum and General Ed student typically have more like an hour.

Anyone have any perspective on this? My data is very adhoc...


SanMom said...

I am interested in reducing the homework load, or at least asking teachers to check in with one another and not make due dates simultaneous with other classes.

Our family is a good case study, since we have twin boys and last year, I had one in APP and 1 in Spectrum, both at Hamilton.

We know that the homework load in APP was often 1 or 2 hours more, with assignments from multiple classes and large collaborative projects, whereas our Spectrum student often didn't have any homework except some reading. They both earned nearly straight As. (And they'll both be in APP this year.)

Though, we need to acknowledge that some of the cause for the load discrepancy was student-related, at least in math. They were in the same math class and the APP student said he sat with talkative friends in math then had to finish his math homework at home. His brother was often able to finish much of the math homework in class.

We had many late nights with our APP student, and his perfectionism would not allow him, despite our pleading, to just do an 'ok' job or to turn it in late and be able to get to bed.

The Race to Nowhere movie really hit home for us, both in witnessing the classroom homework expectations, and in not knowing how to calm our son's internal drive to finish it according to his own standards, or what he felt was expected of him.

Our son watched the movie, too, and we are all planning to help him maintain a wider perspective this year and not put too much importance on each assignment.

"The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture", as described in part of the Race to Nowhere website, has been experienced in our home. I love this humorous but serious article written by clinical psychologist, Jeff Mitchell, in honor of the Race to Nowhere movie: It is called Harvard-or-Walmart Syndrome and describes student anxiety.

At the Hamilton screening of the movie, there were Lowell parents planning to gather and discuss the issues. Did that happen?

I'm interested in learning more.

Anonymous said...

I have a child in middle school APP and agree that the homework takes up so much time in her life that I consider it mentally and physically unhealthy. In her words homework is 'busywork'. She doesn't find it challenging or interesting, just time consuming. Even the projects(which I think are supposed to be fun) are tedious, taking up several hours on the weekends to complete. My daughter is also a perfectionist, which makes matters worse. I'm glad to see that others are concerned about this issue. I know students in Spectrum at our APP school and they do not have as much homework, yet still seem to be challenged, not to mention happier overall.
Another concerned parent

Anonymous said...

What classes/subjects tend to have the heaviest HW load?

Anonymous said...

My kid is at Garfield now. I think that middle school and high school homework is excessive. Considering that perfectionism is frequently a companion to giftedness, this is a recipe for an emotional roller coaster ride. Then we see kids in non-APP classes who earn effortless "A" grades. By the way, SanMom, I loved the Jeff Mitchell article! I think that practically all APP (and Honors and AP) classes have heavy workloads. This is the only thing that makes me wish we had moved our kid out of public to a private high school. Those private high school kids have a stimulating academic experience without the long hours of homework.

SanMom said...

To Anon at 9:15, I agree that our Spectrum child was not overly stressed and yet was challenged, for the most part. (At least in LA/SS). My APP son would wish that art-type projects, which he is not interested in, could be removed from LA/SS. They caused much stress in his efforts to create his vision, and ultimately I'm sure he is proud of them, but 'enjoy' the process, or learn something, he did not.

To Anon at 9:38, for my son, in both his 6th & 7th APP years at Hamilton, LA/SS had the heaviest workload and often the due date for some big creative project came suddenly without incremental due dates beforehand. (Or, likely, my son made the project bigger than it had to be!) But, there was always a lot of reading, current events to track, and textbook note-taking to prepare for class discussions or research papers.

We also struggled with math homework sheets that had no textbook, thus no problem examples, or that came from the textbook that doesn't have examples, and we had to find other resources for our sons to complete the problems. (Our MS kids are reluctant to contact classmates for help, whereas our HS son now does it all the time.)

To Anon at 10:29, glad you liked the Harvard/Walmart article! We're trying to have our APP-perfectionist son 'adopt' the more relaxed (healthier) attitude about homework we see in our non-APP HS son. Though, I also need to realize that society needs some perfectionists for various jobs like surgery, flying planes, etc.! Maybe our MS son just needs years of experience to better manage it. Meanwhile, the household is often stressed trying to manage his anxiety.

Private schools may not be any better. We have a Junior at Blanchet and he is assigned homework almost every day in most classes, and has frequent tests and writings. Blanchet also has a block schedule now, which means 7 classes to keep track of, instead of 6.

I just am not convinced that heavy homework has benefits now or later. Our family life often revolves around the homework.

Anonymous said...

Race to Nowhere is playing on October 19th at 6 pm in Ballard. Go to the Race to Nowhere website and you can sign up for a free ticket.