Thursday, April 5, 2012

Excessive homework in APP?

By request, a new thread to discuss excessive homework in some APP classrooms. What is your experience with the amount of time your child spends on homework in your classroom (and please mention grade level and which school)? Do parents have any suggestions for APP parents who might feel their children have too much homework?

26 comments :

Anonymous said...

8th grade homework is completely over the top at Wash-totally unhealthy-anyone from past years have any coping ideas...DH

Anonymous said...

I agree that the homework load at WMS 8th grade is a lot - initially it really seemed overwhelming for our child. Schmitz is famous for it - but I think adding in Biology this year has also had an impact.

Our child has adjusted however, and seems to be handling it ok at this point (either the homework load has decreased or he has gotten used to it).

The Facebook page that has been set-up for homework help by the kids has helped tremendously. Our child is routinely posting questions and always receives multiple answers from his peers.
Make sure your child is signed up for that page (yes - it means he/she has to have a Facebook page so I'm not sure how you feel about that) - because it has really helped.

If it is any consolation, we have heard that the WMS kids are very well prepared for both the IB program at Ingraham and at Garfield - so much so that anecdotally when we talked to one of the WMS students at Ingraham during the tour, he said that the WMS kids are feeling much less stress in the AP World History class than the Hamilton kids since Schmitz had them finish the entire History book in 8th grade. He seemed to think that HIMS kids are only doing part of the book (this from the student - don't know how true that is).

Looking for a positive side, I guess.

-Understand your stress

Anonymous said...

I disagree re unhealthy. Our son has managed to keep on top of it without staying up excessively late, and he still plays sports, socializes, practice his instrument when nagged. He seems to have developed good organizational habits, as he regularly maps out his plan for keeping on top of everything.

Mercer Mom

Anonymous said...

Re Mercer mom:
Why did you have to write 3 different posts about the same issue? Was it on purpose or it happened as an accident?

Greg Linden said...

From the moderator: Sorry about the duplicate posts, looks like that was partially due to Blogger's annoyingly aggressive spam filter. I think I cleaned up the duplicates?

Anonymous said...

My sense is that WMS is fully a grind (for good or ill) and HIMS less so. There are pockets of it at HIMS - certain teachers, certain courses, but frankly it's quite do-able, at least for our 7th grader. We'll see what 8th grade holds...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what parents think is too much. Is it ok to have to do homework over the weekend? Every night? 2 hours, 4 hours daily? What is an appropriate load in middle school?

Anonymous said...

I think there is not such a thing as "appropriate load" of homework. Every parent and certainly every student thinks differently about this.
What I personally think it is not even the quantity of the HW that matters than the quality. Because for example when my 7th grader came home with a coloring page about the vikings on the other day, I felt we are back in 1st grade. It took a lot of time and did he learn anything new?
My ideal HW (which is nowhere to be found) would be a total 1-2 hours of quality HW every night (so they do something meaningful in conjunction with their daily studies with some repetition as necessary for example in math and science) and maybe 2-3 hours on the weekends (this is for bigger projects that need more time and preparation). Hamilton has a new HW policy this year, I would like to know did it make any difference for anyone here?

bell.curve said...

"1-2 hours of quality HW every night" AND "2-3 hours on the weekends"

I think this is reasonable for TOTAL homework-problem is-this
exactly describes the amount of homework required week in and week out for Schmitz alone-so double that for the WMS 8th grade load

question: said...

I don't understand why the WMS teacher does the whole book in one year. The class is meant to be taught in two years, so 9th grade is the second half of the book. I don't see this as an advantage for the WMS students, since they did the first half of the book for half a year, then the second half of the book for 1.5 years. What is the point of that? It seems very repetitive for the second half of the book, and not very in depth for the first half. Am I missing something? Feel free to set me straight.

bell.curve said...

The question about why the teacher jams too much material into one year is a good one. Another question often asked is why is he allowed by the principle to contiune to do that every year?

It is not an advantage for WMS students who have an undue burden while this is tolerated by his boss even when families complain every year.

I have heard it said that Schmitz is determined to prepare 8th graders for entering college at 9th grade-which is all of 2 or 3 out of 100+!?

Anonymous said...

I don't know that they use the exact same book for AP World History (Strayer?) in 9th grade that they are using in 8th grade. I agree that it really wouldn't make a lot of sense. Can anyone tell me what book they are using in the 9th grade AP class?

My interpretation was that more material is being covered in the pre-AP class at WMS - so they know a lot of the background that is being discussed and further analyzed in AP World History; whereas the HIMS kids do not since they only finish half of the book...

Again - the importance of a standardized curriculum between the two middle schools becomes quite critical when the kids are coming together in high school and are taking the same courses. It can really affect the pace of the class if some are more prepared than others.

-Understand your stress

Anonymous said...

Why is the APP program, in general, delivered differently at different locations? It's an issue between schools and between classrooms. Why doesn't AL step in?

Anonymous said...

Understand your stress, Have you heard anything about how well prepared the WMS and HIMS kids are for science at IBX and GHS? I know the APP science program has changed over the past few years and wonder how that translated at the HS level for the kids from different middle schools.

-curious

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:51

APP was promised a curriculum as part of the 2009 splits. Where is it? I have no idea. The AL office seems to administer tests and that's it.

waiting

APP HIMS said...

Why is the APP program, in general, delivered differently at different locations? It's an issue between schools and between classrooms. Why doesn't AL step in?

Excellent question; with all this talk of alignments/standardization across the district, why hasn't this been done at all APP sites. I should be able to go from 3rd grade TM to 3rd Lowell and expect the same program. HIMS & WMS should be the same program. Teachers should be collaborating across sites implementating best practices and adjusting as needed. Every APP 8th grader should be have had the same experience entering GHS, if that is their choice.

Why is this not being done?

Anonymous said...

Curious:

Not sure about the science readiness; although I had heard that the Biology students last year (9th grade this year) may not have been as well prepared as was expected after the 1st year of teaching Bio in 8th grade.

I believe that they did tweak the curriculum for this year's 8th graders as a result - and looking at what my child is doing, I feel like he is learning a lot (science is not my forte' - so hard for me to judge).

I guess we won't know for sure until next year when he takes Marine Bio....

The WMS Biology teacher is not loved by the students - but I do think she is teaching them fairly well.

-Understand your stress

Anonymous said...

from the SPS site:
"Homework in honors and advanced placement classes will be more extensive than regular courses.
It is the responsibility of the student to:
A. Expect to spend two hours per night on homework and study..."

I happen to disagree and feel that APP should not have more homework than other programs, but regardless, SPS lays this out as the expectation for all classes together. It is cruel for one teacher to give this amount just for his two classes.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the last item on that same list is
"I . Confer with teachers regarding homework overloads."

Which is unrealistic in this case because this teacher will not respond to complaints from students, from parents, from other teachers or from school leadership.

Anonymous said...

Honors and Advanced Placement refer to classes offered in high school. APP is the program that is offered 1-8, different from AP classes taken, by choice, not by APP designation, in high school. There is more homework in honors and AP classes in high school, and these classes are not only taken by kids who qualified for APP before 8th grade. They are available to all students who want to take the challenge, and the requirement to remain in the honors and AP classes in high school is earning a B or higher at the semester grading period.

Anonymous said...

Here's an edited version of some things I posted to a listserv for parents of gifted children when my daughter was in Schmitz's class (post one of two):

She's found the projects take an enormous amount of time with little corresponding benefit in terms of learning. Incredibly detailed rubrics are given for every small point. Most of the effort goes into presentation rather than real content (indeed, the rubrics often give away a lot of the content the teacher is looking for -- the papers usually end up all looking pretty much alike). A. complained that the last long-term project took literally months, with all the content being worked out right at
the beginning, and then simply packaged and repackaged in various formats.

When A. pointed out that she was at a disadvantage on a particular project due to her lack of proper layout software (she was trying to do a magazine-style article, ad, and cover, which is tough to accomplish in Word, so she was doing it partly the old-fashioned way with paste-up and what not), the teacher said that using appropriate technology was part of the deal, and if she'd planned properly she could have used Publisher on a school computer, at a friend's house, etc.

When the students gave each other feedback on their projects, he took off points afterward for anyone who had not given any other student a perfect score. (Naturally that policy wasn't on the rubric, as it would have given away the game.) A. thought this was very odd as each student evaluated only a few others, so might very well not happen to have hit any projects that had been done perfectly. She had marked one student down slightly as she felt that her video presentation was very well done, but there wasn't much actual history content; the teacher said that project should absolutely have gotten 100%, and that the use of technology was the main thing. In conference later he told us that one main thing high school teachers tell him is that the students are unprepared to use technology appropriately. I find that frankly difficult to believe. I also think if technology is so important, why don't they teach the skills, rather than making the students learn them on their own?

A.'s always been a procrastinator and a perfectionist, so it's easy to say a lot of her troubles are of her own making. But I am getting a stronger and stronger sense that this course is truly a waste of her time and she would be better off working on her own. I will add that other classes she's behind in don't give me that impression. Her math and English classes have a fairly heavy workload, for instance, but the material she is working on seems admirable. She did very well in social studies in sixth and seventh grade, with one of her all-time favorite teachers.

My husband thinks A. needs to learn to work with teachers with whom she doesn't click, and that homeschooling would be "rescuing" her inappropriately. It is true that A. has been a pain in the rear for a couple of teachers whom she didn't get on with in the past. However, in those cases she generally did as little work as possible, and while I was sorry for her, I thought she thoroughly deserved having to make up labs during lunchtime and that sort of thing. I would never have considered rescuing her from those consequences. Here, she's been trying for months to do everything right.

Anonymous said...

(part two of two)

I wrote recently in another forum: "I've got a kid who knows how to study in that sense, but who has never learned to budget time. She's like Boxer in _Animal Farm_ -- her response to everything is "I will work harder." It doesn't work. She goes on, and on, and on, and gets more and more tired, and less and less efficient, and gets worse grades instead of better ones. I'm extremely concerned that most advanced MS and HS classes in this school district (with a few honorable exceptions) teach working harder, not smarter. Just pile the work on and make the kids figure it out. But if I go for a program that's less demanding in terms of time, the content often isn't there and it's likely to be incredibly dull for someone who's already got college-level board scores and is already fully invested in her own learning."
----------
I'm also seeing red flags in that the teacher did not seem to have any clue that it was even possible for a kid to be working too hard. He said he didn't think she had any problem and we would *wish* we had this problem when she was sixteen. Now that I think about it further, I find it really frightening that someone who's been teaching gifted kids for years and years should be that clueless about the possible effects of stress.

Anonymous said...

The work does get piled on without the teachers being held accountable for balance and many of these kids have predicable problems that affect lots of gifted kids, anxieties and perfectionism. I can't see why there would be more home work in gifted classes. It makes sense in AP or IB classes because those are optional, but as it has been pointed out here, APP kids have no choice. Feels abusive to me.

Syd said...

I don't think this is a fair characterization of Mr. Schmitz. There were projects that took some time, but my child in general spent less than an hour on homework for all the classes put together.

Mr. S made history interesting and included several texts (most made available by him, not the school district).

I do agree that some teachers go for quantity and not quality for homework in APP. As if adding more was the point, instead of teaching differently. Mr. S is not one of those teachers.

Syd said...

I jut want to add that English was difficult for my kid. Mostly because he would forget an assignment was due until the last minute OR he would do it, but forget to turn it in, or (my favorite) 'I turned it in but she lost it!."

I despaired of him being able to succeed in HS.

He totally turned it around. Even with all the AP classes, he has time to participate in lots of other activities. After speaking with many other parents (AP and not AP) this appears to be a developmental stage. Middle school is tough.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to Halfacre for pulling back the reins on APP teachers giving homework straight through testing even after WMS left a vm for all families that this wouldn't happen.

These kids sure are smart, but they are not bulletproof, shame on the 8th grade APP teachers who did this and tried to pass it off as "classwork" that everyone knew would need to be finished at home.

Special curses to Scmitz for taking it out on the students themselves after some parents "outed" him. Really!? A committed and skilled teacher but just plain abusive.

8th grade can't end soon enough!!!