News


Study: the downside of too much homework

Stanford researcher examines attitudes in ten high-performing high schools

A survey of more than 4,000 students from ten high-performing high schools showed that excessive homework produces unhealthy levels of stress, sleep deprivation and related health problems as well as reduced social engagement, a Stanford researcher has found.

Denise Clark Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, co-authored this new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Education. She and her colleagues used open-ended questions to examine perceptions about homework, behavioral engagement and student well-being in 4,317 students in California communities where the median household income exceeded $90,000 a year.

Too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and be counterproductive, said Pope and her colleagues, citing prior research suggesting that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night and that 90 minutes to two-and-a-half hours is optimal for high school students.

Fifty-six percent of the students surveyed considered homework a primary source of stress, the study said. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent said it was the pressure to get good grades. Less than 1 percent said homework was not a cause of stress.

In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems, including headaches, exhaustion, weight loss and stomach problems.

Pope and her colleagues reported that spending too much time on homework meant students were "not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills," failing to pursue hobbies they enjoy, dropping activities and not keeping up with family and friends.

"Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," Pope wrote.

Ideally, homework "should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development.

"...Busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points."

Mollie Galloway of Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner of Villanova University co-authored the paper with Pope. Pope is also the co-founder of Challenge Success, a research-based expansion of the Stressed-Out Students Project at Stanford University that develops curriculum, conferences and other programs for students, schools and parents.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

Posted by Rich W., a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:03 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by This isn't rocket science, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

"90 minutes to two-and-a-half hours is optimal for high school students." Then our middle and high schools are WAY off base, assigning excessive homework (which we all knew anyway). There is no way Paly and Gunn are going to bring it to this level, although would be fantastic. Also, any AP or honors class adds at least an hour per class. Think of the students who are taking 3-5 APs - torturous sleep deprivation.

The sleep deprivation and "reduced social engagement" are both torturous for our students and affects even students who take no AP or honors classes. Weekends are full of homework for most of our students. Thank you, Ms. Pope, for fighting for the health of our students.


Posted by Marc, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

I have two children that went through the Palo Alto school system El Carmelo/JLS/Gunn. We are not "Tiger" parents and I can say that they never had too much homework. I didn't see any of their peers too stressed out and they all graduated and are in good colleges and doing fine.

I think the problem is more with the adults involved, rather than the students.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

Part of the "homework problem" is related to course selection. It is easy to have too much work if you are taking too many / too hard courses. Our younger child doesn't want the load our older one took, so she is taking less demanding courses. That's fine with us. This is a Parent Education issue as much as a school issue.


Posted by Oriflamme, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

My son has been in two different high-pressure school districts. In the first district, he had so much homework by the first grade that he had no time for play time after school. By the time he finished his homework, it was dark outside. By the end of the school year, he was overweight. Then, because he did not do so well in first grade, the school district there required him to attend summer school, so his physical activity was cut into again by homework from summer school.

My son had, until the end of the first grade year, been a skinny child. By fourth grade, he was bordering on obese and had over three hours of homework per night, including Christmas vacation ( Christmas Day in second grade, spent at his grandparents' home, was ruined by the fact that he spent most of the day working on reports for school).

I took him out of that district and put him in a private school for two years, which capped homework at one hour per night, and he lost the excess weight . He had more time to play with friends and joined Little League and Cub Scouts.

Then we moved to Palo Alto. Suddenly, my son was inundated with so much homework there was no more time for Little League, Cub Scouts, or friends. In the sixth grade, he was doing four hours of homework, and by his freshman year he was drowning in nearly five-and-half hours of it.

His sophomore year he rebelled BIG time against all this homework! which led to several family talks with his counselor. She got him into two study hall classes per day, which enabled him to finish a lot of the homework and have help to do it. Now, he is losing some of the weight he regained, but he is so burned out on school that he has no interest in AP classes or even college.

Due to the fact that Paly keeps bragging about its college-like atmosphere, my son is afraid that college will simply be a big Paly, and he is refusing to go. He reads a lot, and likes to learn on his own, but he is completely burned out on institutionalized learning, mostly due to PAUSD.

My son will be the first kid in at least four generations NOT to earn a graduate degree. Thanx, Paly, Jordan, and New Haven!


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:20 am

"Fifty-six percent of the students surveyed considered homework a primary source of stress, the study said. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent said it was the pressure to get good grades."

Let's see, 56 + 43 + 33 = 132%. Seems wrong, but then I am not a college grad. Is this new math?


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:20 am

The timed idea of homework makes no sense.

One student will take 30 minutes to do an assignment while another takes 15 or another will take 60. Some students fill 2 hours homework time doing review while others will only barely have time to do their assignments.

No a better way to discuss this is the value of homework. I think homework should be for review that the student has understood the material presented in class, for research in subjects like history, or for comparable reading and written assignments to develop opinion in subjects like English. Making a student teach himself a concept through homework is a bad idea, also anything that is designed to decorate the classroom walls is a bad idea.

The value of homework is a big topic and this study does not address homework, just the time it takes to do it. Waste of time as far as I am concerned.


Posted by Anchors Away!, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

Studies like this might as well be about homework on Mars for all the good they will ever do in penetrating the cult of homework in PAUSD. We have had a takeover of our schools by conservative theorists of the "high test scores" and 'back to basics' crowd (Lowell, Mitchell, Townsend, Caswell, Tom, etc.). We have also seen the marginalization of anyone who wanted anything other than bigger, faster, higher, more as "watering down" our "excellent schools" . The net result: some of the most stressed out students anywhere in America.

Where is SHARE? Where is SOS? They were dismantled in favor of PSN, which is nothing but a club for giving out money to block parties. Where are our advocates for less stress in the schools? They all got burned out, beat up, and quit.

Is this who PA is now? Do we even care what is a good or sound educational practice? My answer is no, we do not. We care about our home prices, which are linked to homework and test scores. In a very insidious way we are forcing our own children to work to keep our family home prices up. It is almost a form of child labor.

Contrasting the treatment of the Paly math department and the Paly english department is highly instructive. On the one hand, the math department wrote a letter about how they could not be forced to teach Algebra 2 (not even a very advanced class) to VTP kids because they would have to "dilute" their "standards" to do it. Nothing happened to them and Mr. Toma was not even replaced as the IS. The English department tried to de-lane 9th grade english to the benefit of all students, and they were put in the stocks.

Get to work kids, daddy needs a boat.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:58 am

Our kids got an intimidating amount of homework from the 6th grade Terman teachers and it continued through with some of the 7th grade teachers (math in particular). They were miserable those years - anxiety was at an all time high. It was totally unnecessary. Other years, including those at Gunn, were not so bad.


Posted by Concur, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

It all depends on the teachers the students have, and it's luck-of-the-draw. So some students might get lucky and have less demanding teachers while others don't. What ends up happening is the parents do the homework when there is excessive homework that the student can't complete.


Posted by Ironic, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:20 am

Applause to Denise Pope for opening this conversation through Stanford's Dept. of Education. However, since the beginning of her crusade (when it was known as SOS, Stressed Out Students), I always found it ironic and hypocritical that this campaign started at Stanford. It's exactly Ivy League schools like Stanford, where students are literally killing themselves to get in, that drive students' crazy work load: too many APs, shooting for 5.0 GPAs, every activity in the book. If students were to limit their time doing homework, and accept lower grades for sleep , you can betcha Stanford would not consider their applications! Maybe Denise and her Challenge Success crew should hop off the pulpit and do something that's not connected to Stanford, the very type of university that drives this insane pressure high school students feel. The pressure comes from the top (colleges) and trickles down!


Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

The district had a homework committee of parents and teachers that unanimously adopted homework time guidelines similar to those supported by Pope's study: 10 minutes per night per grade, topping out at 120 minutes per night for seniors. Two problems: they don't apply to honors and AP classes, and the school board adopted the time limits but balked at monitoring whether they are being applied. Guess what? They're not.

As to Stanford causing the problem: Stanford and the Ivies want our top kids. They don't care if they kill themselves in high school or not. They're aren't going to stop wanting them because they are doing 2 hours of homework a night rather than 6.

This is our problem. We can solve it, or we can blame it on the kids, the parents, Stanford, or the Russians.


Posted by This isn't rocket science, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

Gunn Mom: Blame the Russians, LOL. Regarding homework guidelines, "they don't apply to honors and AP classes". SO TRUE. Somehow, the teachers seem to have a YOU ASKED FOR IT attitude. So if our students want balance in their life, they have to avoid accelerated lanes and AP classes. Yet, the colleges want to see AP classes on the transcript. Our capable children can take many AP classes elsewhere and do fine while they have to take regular lanes in PAUSD to keep sane?


Posted by j99, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:52 pm

In Taiwan, after school and homework many students take additional course work at night in downtown teaching centers. The government last year required the centers to close at 10PM so the students would not stay and study endlessly.
That's why they are successful and the US is 23rd in math and dropping fast. Lazy students that think the world owes them a living and because their parents make a great deal of money that they should be treated differently. Two hours/night of homework is not much.

And "excessive homework produces unhealthy levels of stress, sleep deprivation and related health problems as well as reduced social engagement," is just nonsense. Reduced Social Engagement??? The students are there to learn, not to make friends or text or use Facebook. Grow up and understand that if we want the student to be working they have to shape up and study- simple as that.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I wish all the colleges would stop accepting AP classes, the problem would be solved. Are these classes really college level anyway? If they are, why not wait until college to take them and enjoy a more "normal" high school life. My son, who chooses a heavier load than we would like, also chooses not to be involved in other after school activities such as sports, volunteering and clubs so he can get his work done in a more relaxed manner. Sadly, I think these choices will effect his life as an adult; he won't see that sports offer a lifetime of health and other activities offer a more creative life balance. Each of our children approached high school differently and we try to let each make their choices and live with them. But I find it sad they work so hard--there is so much time to work hard in the future. We are squelching their youthful joy and creativity.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Do kids still average 3 hours a day watching television? That's what the Nielsen studies say. Web Link


Posted by paly mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Dear Oriflamme,
I was very sad reading your letter. There is absolutely no valid research showing that there is any meaningful benefit to homework prior to 8th grade; yet schools keep piling it on. You only get one chance to be a kid and the social, emotional and healthy physical growth are critical to developing the whole person. When we value grades and achievement over kindness and creativity, we get sharp-elbowed, self centered "citizens". What a tragedy.
My daughter was a mostly happy B student who followed her various interests and got accepted by a lot of colleges, including an excellent liberal arts school which offered her a huge scholarship we didn't even ask for. I am glad she chose to follow her own path; she has become a young adult of whom we are very proud. She has always been the kid who would stop to talk to a friend who was upset, rather than cramming for the big test next class. I salute those values.
i hope your son finds joy in some activity. The best value in education is two years at community college (practically free) and transfer into UC. When he gets his degree from UC, nobody will care that he spent two years at Foothill/DeAnza!! And he will have met a lot of real people from a tremendous number of backgrounds giving him insight.


Posted by MIT grad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

The problem is that middle school and high school are in session a lot more of the day than college is. Kids in our high schools get hours of homework after being in class about 3 times longer every day than a college student would be.

I do think the schools should get better at getting the kids to learn how to focus and produce during the school day, then relax when they get home and pursue other things - sports, hobbies, science projects, music - after all, that's pretty good practice for work life! Instead, it's almost like the day classes are some kind of prelude to the "real" work that will happen "later" at home. It's very unhealthy.

My kid's after school life includes high-level music, sports, language, writing and science projects not possible in school, all his choice -- in fact, what I see him write at home on his own accord versus what he's willing to do at school is like night and day. I'm so tired of being a cattle prod to get him to do work he is spending all his home time on at the expense of things he would both be learning from and deriving joy from, and at the expense of his friendships and family time.

I am standing on my chair applauding this work. We do have amazing teaching staff in this district. Now we need a school administration that understands this work and will help our teaching staff incorporate changes to bring our education here to the next level.


Posted by MIT grade, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I would just like to add...

I think 90 minutes of homework is too long, speaking as one whose child will usually stretch that 90 minutes into 5 hours (of pulling teeth)....

I wonder where that "optimal" designation comes from, and if it would drop if our schools did a more optimal job of getting kids to produce focused work in the middle of the school day.... Like I said, it's better practice for life!


Posted by very ironic and hypocritical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm

"Applause to Denise Pope for opening this conversation through Stanford's Dept. of Education. However, since the beginning of her crusade (when it was known as SOS, Stressed Out Students), I always found it ironic and hypocritical that this campaign started at Stanford. It's exactly Ivy League schools like Stanford, where students are literally killing themselves to get in, that drive students' crazy work load: too many APs, shooting for 5.0 GPAs, every activity in the book. If students were to limit their time doing homework, and accept lower grades for sleep , you can betcha Stanford would not consider their applications! Maybe Denise and her Challenge Success crew should hop off the pulpit and do something that's not connected to Stanford, the very type of university that drives this insane pressure high school students feel. The pressure comes from the top (colleges) and trickles down!"

I agree, Challenge Success is not really challenging the real problem, which is the college board and college industry.

Pressuring the parents and schools will add no further value except to cause anxiety about the politics of reducing homework when schools like Stanford are rewarding the kids who can do "more."

What is missing is research or an outing of the insane college admissions game which uses silly words like "holistic" to evaluate equally capable candidates. The black box has never been researched.

Why not make a big part of Stanford's admissions a lottery? What would be the risk?

Time to change the focus of challenge success' research, and look within.


Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I'm surprised that kids have any time at all to do homework, between TV and cell phones. Didn't I hear that they sleep with their phones? Makes for a lot of lost sleep, eh? I'm not sure that I believe that homework is the villain here.


Posted by very ironic and hypocritical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

stretch,

"I'm surprised that kids have any time at all to do homework, between TV and cell phones. Didn't I hear that they sleep with their phones? Makes for a lot of lost sleep, eh? I'm not sure that I believe that homework is the villain here."

Though phones and social media are a problem, it could also be the three sports, the three tutors, the viola, the first novel, or finding the cure for something that is making after school like a second or third job.



Posted by revdreileen, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

Any of the leaders of faith communities in Palo Alto can attest to the high level of stress over homework of the youth of our community.


Posted by don't they wish, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Posted by Ironic, a resident of Midtown
4 hours ago

"Applause to Denise Pope for opening this conversation through Stanford's Dept. of Education. However, since the beginning of her crusade (when it was known as SOS, Stressed Out Students), I always found it ironic and hypocritical that this campaign started at Stanford. It's exactly Ivy League schools like Stanford,"
Stanford people are trying ultra hard to claim to be Ivy league...but they 'aint.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm

And I used to stress over delivering the Palo Alto Times to a hundred customers six afternoons a week. Until I started stressing about my draft lottery number and Vietnam. But stress was a way of life when you grow up cowering under the school desks once a quarter listening to the air-raid sirens that would signal incoming H-bombs. Oh, the halcyon days of my youth. Amazing what one can become inured to.


Posted by Think again, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Having lived on Taiwan for two years, I can attest to the fact that most Taiwanese kids ( as well as Japanese kids) are very overstressed. They have a higher rate of teen suicide there and in Japan than anywhere else in the world. Their parents pressure them so much that they have a high rate of nervous breakdowns that usually go untreated, as to do so would shame the parents. The parents achieve high results from their kids with horrible threats ( such as being disowned or kicked out on the street for a month) which they usually follow through with.

These kids often come over here for college, and away from their parents, they GO WILD with freedom. In Taiwan and Japan, all the real work is in high schools. my cousin is a professor at Tokyo University, where he teaches advanced English. His first semester there he flunked half the class. The dean asked him why he did this, and he replied that half the students never showed up, the other half did sloppy work, so to them he gave Cs. The dean replied, NO! NO! To the ones who attended,you give As. To the ones who never showed, you give Bs. Understand?"


Posted by Betsy, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

So many excellent comments here. Personally, I am intrigued by those who are "flipping" the classroom, esp AP classes. Teachers video their lecture and that is the homework, plus reading. Then class is spent in discussion, projects, problem-solving. At the end of the day, I don't think it is homework, but our outdated style of pedagogy that needs to be examined.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Bravo!!! The truth about homework is finally outed. This report should be mandatory reading [portion removed.] The 5% fringe group of parents need to digest this research and take it to heart. This will take the pressure off teachers [portion removed.]


Posted by Think again, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I read a book a while back about the education system in Finland. While they do have a longer school day, they also get more recess time, even at the high school level. Homework is non-existent before 10th grade, at which time it is only one-half hour ,
the school work gets done IN school, with teachers there to assist.

And Finnish kids are kicking the butts of Asian kids with their scores! Go figure.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I was just about to talk about Europe. We all keep being told about how hard the kids work in Asia, but Europeans tend to have a longer school year, a longer school day and much less homework. They tend to have a central college application process too which makes a lot less stress. They can only apply for 5 or 6, get accepted to no more than 3 and depending on exam results are selected for 1.

It is about time education was simplified and quantified here.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:26 pm

@Think again - In the most recent PISA math scores, FInland ranked 12th. The top 7 were all in Asia:

1: Shanghai-China
2: Singapore
3: Hong Kong
4: Chinese Taipei
5: Korea
6:Macao-China
7: Japan
...
31: United States

Web Link


Posted by Parents of a senior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I guess my kids are among the 44% students who don't think homework is overly taxing in PA high schools... My kids took AP classes including in math, science and languages, so they were in high lane classes. However, they refused to take all APs (no AP English or AP history). I've never seen them spend that much time studying. They certainly are in bed at a reasonable time every night (between 10 and 11 PM for my senior). And he has a job outside of school and belongs to a club at school.

Honestly, if my kids had less homework, I'd worry that it's way too little.

So, you can be in high school in PA and not be the stereotypical kid drowning in homework. I think some kids take on too much, either because of parental, or peer pressure, or for college admissions (we circle back to parental and peer pressure on this one).


Posted by Parent of 4, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Parent of a senior: If your children are sailing through the most difficult AP classes doing fine and well-rested, holding a job, it points to one thing: they are supersmart. Don't give people the wrong impression because not all have it as easy as yours do.


Posted by Ohlone Mom, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Wouldn't it be great if Ohlone extended through 8th grade or even high school?
After school today my daughter attended play rehersal, built a Lego city, made Jello AND baked a cake with her big sis. Then they played in the back yard until dusk and finished a book before going to sleep at 8:30pm. So much learning happens after school - memorization, fractions, design, reading and so on. Ohlone rocks.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 8:16 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Allen Veaner, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:38 am

A totally different era! Grew up long ago (1930s/40s) when TV, cell phones, computers and computer games did not exist. Homework was mostly in math, which took 30-45 min. to complete. Then: stickball, hide & seek, tree climbing, long bike rides, the occasional fight with the neighborhood bully, or reading a book. AP did not exist. I went on to finish college in 2 and a half years, was invited to Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to a great career in a highly competitive field: administration in higher education. Today's kids face far too many demands on their time and energy; they have little time for unprogrammed fun. No wonder they're stressed out!


Posted by Another Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:44 am

I have 2 kids who went through the entire Paly public school system. They took mostly the same classes up through junior year in high school.

One spent maybe 45 minutes per night on homework. The other one spent probably 2hrs per night on average, but many nights much more than that. Both learned the material although to varying degrees, and they were also better and worse at different subject areas.

Given the differences in kids (even apparently between siblings), "hours of homework" seems like a metric hard to draw conclusions from. Or maybe it's really argument for lane-ing, yet you can find plenty of people in this district who don't want lane-ing either.

At the very least, I hope the study came to deeper conclusions than "homework which 'cultivates learning and development' is good, but homework which is 'busy work' is bad."


Posted by Marty B, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:19 am

G6od bless the Experimental School of Education! I trust school officials and parents in Asia are paying attention to this!


Posted by pa parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

My oldest child is in 5th grade, both are in elementary school - they have never had homework that couldn't be completed in under an hour (often far less), and often have no homework nights. Maybe things will change radically in middle school and high school, but so far we have found our school to be a good balance of work and play. I don't get the depictions of this district as a pressure cooker. It hasn't been our experience at all.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

the problem with classroom flipping is that kids become so dependent on who they are sitting next to. to be effective it also necessitates that teachers enforce a rule that the classroom operates in english only so that kids can't be excluded by a table group where they are the only english speaker and everyone else speaks spanish or russian or chinese or urdu or farsi. teachers are afraid of being perceived as racist so they usually turn a blind eye to that phenomenon making them, of course, reverse racists.


Posted by JLS parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:44 am

Yes, things will change radically. Get ready for 8th grade. That's when the demands really went to 11.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:54 am

I have a senior at Gunn (Palo Verde/JLS/Gunn) and an 8th grader at JLS. Both kids are rarely overwhelmed by homework and have plenty of time for sports, socializing with friends, and other extracurriculars. My younger child does do more than her brother did, but she is a different student than he is and the assignments take her longer. BUT both my kids (and my husband and I) are OK with Bs, which around here are often considered "bad" grades. My son is graduating Gunn with a GPA that is definitely below their average but we're in the middle of college acceptance letters and so far he is 6 or 6 in acceptances. His GPA might not have gotten him into MIT, Stanford or Harvard, but there are 1,000s of other colleges out there and 6 very good ones have accepted him. He's happy, well adjusted and not stressed or sleep deprived.


Posted by This isn't rocket science, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:55 am

@pa parent: The study was on high school homework. Elementary schools here don't have much homework and were easy academically. Middle and high school will be much different unless your children have easy teachers.


Posted by Parent too, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Always hard to know if conclusions drawn in reports like this, where all the authors are affiliated with an advocacy group and so are like-mind going into it, are sound. It looks like Galloway and Conner were Pope's students and involved in Challenge Success' advocacy efforts before they took jobs at other universities.

Were the survey questions clear and unbiased? When my child took a Challenge Success survey what I heard afterwards was that the questions were confusing and the answers that could be checked were too narrow.

Add to that that the questions were "open-ended," that leaves lots of room for confirmation bias when interpreting the responses.

Same can be said about the findings. I am confused by Challenge Success' conclusion: "many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems, including headaches, exhaustion, weight loss and stomach problems"

How many? If it was a high number Challenge Success would likely have noted the percentage like it did in its other findings. Could "many" have been better stated as "not many?" No way to know without more.

I tried to pull up the report through the Weekly's link but you have to pay to get the details which makes it hard to verify. Web Link.


On homework, I agree with Another Paly Parent. The same homework assignment can take two students a vastly different amount of time to complete. Homework expectations should be clear at registration so each high school student can select the class mix that will have the right amount of homework for him.

I heard that Paly wanted to take away lanes and make ALL 9th graders take the hardest, most advanced English class. I hope that student choice - and the ability to self-regulate the homework load that comes with that - prevailed in the end.


Posted by Tori, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Agree with Parent: "I wish all the colleges would stop accepting AP classes, the problem would be solved. " We have never had college level classes in high school back to Russia ( so don't blame Russians :-), spent about a couple of hours for HW, were accepted to great colleges and got good jobs in competitive Silicon Valley market.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Parents of a senior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm

@ Mom - Palo Verde resident

Exactly!! I so totally agree. My senior (Palo Verde/JLS/Paly - so our kids were classmates for a long time obviously) followed the same route as yours, and the end results are very similar.

I believe the stress comes from wanting to go to Ivy Leagues or Stanford at any cost. Silly, especially at the undergraduate level.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

It's interesting to me that there are so many more comments on this thread here, than on the Almanac thread with the same article. Many of the Menlo/Atherton/Woodside/PV kids I know are stressed, too, whether they're in private schools or public.


Posted by Parents of a senior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:20 pm

@ Hmmm

Maybe, just maybe, it is because Palo Alto parents tend to blame their schools for anything that can possibly be an issue with their kids. Perhaps Menlo/Atherton/Woodside/PV residents have a different outlook on this.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

@Mom from Palo Verde - I like your approach. No need blame others - the high schools, the colleges, "Tiger Moms," etc. - for something that is really under our own control. We too accept Bs (though cheer As), and adjust the lane to the interest and ambition level of our children. Our kids do deal with stress and failure at times, but when and how they choose.

As you say, there are lots of colleges out there that will be lucky to have our kids. And I've known many, many folks who somehow managed to be quite happy and fulfilled despite not attending a college ranked high by US News!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Parents of a Senior - good observation. I don't know the answer, but it's good that parents are paying attention and concerned. The other parents I mention seem to put into place as much help as possible, via programs, tutoring, etc. It's a huge amount of context shifting for all involved, and I feel for all of them!

I recall being shocked by a weird combination of helicopter parenting and ignoring kids to pursue their own agendas from the parents of a number of kids at Paly when I went there. I know now that some of it was just their way of trying to balance demanding careers, personal ambitions and kids' needs - not easy at all - in order to keep up with the Joneses. Of course that happens everywhere, but this particular combo seemed to be really obvious in Palo Alto.

When I look back at who went to what school and what they're doing now, I honestly see a mixture of kids who went to both junior college first and those who went straight to a four year school. Many of them went to state schools, not UCs, and they're employed, seemingly happy, make a good income and are raising kids on their own.

Of those from my AP classes, I'm more in touch with those from AP English, many of whom went to fancier universities. I can't honestly say that they're more successful than the ones who went to state, because as we grow and change, hopefully our idea of what constitutes success does, too.

And amongst the younger generation - the only recent college grad I know who actually owns property on the Peninsula went to San Jose State, working the whole time :-)


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Posted by Allen Veaner, a resident of another community
4 hours ago
A totally different era! Grew up long ago (1930s/40s) when TV, cell phones, computers and computer games did not exist. Homework was mostly in math, which took 30-45 min. to complete. Then: stickball, hide & seek, tree climbing, long bike rides, the occasional fight with the neighborhood bully, or reading a book. AP did not exist. I went on to finish college in 2 and a half years, was invited to Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to a great career in a highly competitive field: administration in higher education. Today's kids face far too many demands on their time and energy; they have little time for unprogrammed fun. No wonder they're stressed out!

***************

Wonderful post, Allen! I love the idea of "unprogrammed fun." Rarely do I see kids in my neighborhood out playing, running around, exploring, and doing the things they should be doing in childhood. Sad.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

It seems very unfair to all of the Gunn kids that across town the Paly kids are benefiting from a block schedule. Block scheduling helps alleviate the stress of daily homework, as advocated by Challenge Success. At Gunn we still have students trying to jam their load of college-like courses into a high-school schedule and it simply doesn't work. Something has to give. That's why nearly all of the local public and private high schools have moved toward block scheduling. Except for Gunn.


Posted by Another Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm

As Dana Tom said to Gunn parents about counseling, sit down and be quiet. Paly is no Shangri La.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

"That's why nearly all of the local public and private high schools have moved toward block scheduling. "

That's interesting. It seems like most schools do have some blocking - some have 2-3 days blocks, others 4-5, but most have many days with longer periods. As with the calender, there is some sense in following the crowd on things like this.

Here's a nice "Pro and Con" article from the Gunn Oracle last year on this very topic: Web Link


Posted by Confused, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

@hmmmm and @parents of a senior bring up an interesting question i have never understood.

These discussion boards are full of paly/gunn related issues and commenters: too much homework, too much pressure, too much tutoring, ucla didnt take my kid, go east kids, we can do better, no we can't, etc.

there is rarely (that i have found at least) a similar discussion re nearby highschools, be the Menlo Atherton, Woodside, etc.

MA for example does not have the same net high test scores across the board (more diverse student body) -- but a very large cohort of kids there go to great colleges each year (stanford, cal, ivies, great independent small schools, etc etc, plus do marvelous things and seemingly much less energy is expended on this stuff.

are they less stressed? is that just that they are sleepy in menlo/portola? or are we uniquely frantic even as others do similar things without all the hoopla? are palo alto schools really that different? seriously -- what is the comparison and why is it so different (or silent) nearby?


Posted by Answers, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Confused: Do they have Town Forums? People move to Palo Alto for the schools so there is more competition of nerd genes. It's perhaps easier to attain a higher GPA at M-A for the same amount of work that would get a B in PAUSD?


Posted by Confused, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Answers -- thanks. I am not trying to offend, but my concern is those are stereotypes we create and then attempt to force for ourselves. i say that mainly because i am in this district and have friends who send kids to MA. the idea that effort X gets you grade Y there vs here rings false from a number of parents i talk to.

here is what i understand:

- on a test score basis -- PA/GUNN does better than MA -- but that is mainly do to MA having a large population of students learning english (so the scores are more widely distributed). this test score alone is the source of how we compare the schools.

- that said there is a cohort of 400 kids every year at MA who are are quite good. a friend of mine recently attended an 8th grade info night with a table full of older MA kids as speakers -- ALL of whom were on their way to stanford, brown, wellseley, etc.

- that cohort of 400 plus apparently operates with way less stress, agita, etc. vs what we do to ourselves.

- the parent group in PA may just approach things differently -- ie more aggressively in a way that creates agita that otherwise would just be a normal demanding school like exists in many well off areas without anywhere near the stress etc

the question is if groups in other places dont have the same madness -- but perform very near the same -- what can we do to be less insane. its concerning.


Posted by very ironic and hypocritical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Confused,

It could very well be that Menlo Atherton handles diversity better than Paly and Gunn. One look at their College Counseling website and it's much easier to understand than Gunn's or Paly; they even have a section in Spanish.

Handling diversity better means they probably handle kids in the middle better too. That's a huge indicator of school culture.

We have all sorts of drama like the Paly Math letter, and the English 9 de-laning. Both related to better serving under represented minorities. That's all at Paly alone. Gunn has it's own issues. Two schools, double drama.

The overall pressure though comes from the top though. AP's are really unnecessary. What possible rationale is there to take college level work in high school, when you are going to be taking college level courses for four years.


Posted by Liyla, a resident of University South
on Mar 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hey J99 you scare me
Sounds like a terrible lifestyle


Posted by Education Not Homework!, a resident of University South
on Mar 11, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Homework and education are mortal enemies. Homestudy and education are best friends.


Posted by Pressure Here!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

PA Parent and Rocket Science,

My PAUSD 5th grader has had TONS of homework and big projects so both of you are mistaken about the current amount of elementary school homework, at least at my son's school. My child just turned in a long term project that was mostly worked on at home and that we spent many weekends working on! Many of the other parents here have been complaining about this project too. That is not the only one. My child is about to begin another huge project and that will be interspersed with math, science, book reports, and other miscellaneous work. Much of this work is worthwhile, in my opinion, but it is just too much to do at home and too difficult for my chid to do without help from parents and teachers. I really wish most if not all of this work could be done in school. I blame it on the new Common Core tests all of the schools are trying to get ready for.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:28 am

@ parent 2
Challenge Success did a survey at Gunn a few years ago and would not release the results to the school, the challenge success club at the school, the ptsa or the site council. Presumably the results did not coincide with their theories at the time. I would never let my kids fill out one of their surveys again because of the way the data is used/not used.

I hear that their theories on stress have changed recently anyhow.

The other big problem is that their message to high schoolers was "its okay if you go to Tulane, Wash U, or other high-priced private schools instead of Stanford" while completely ignoring kids who will be going to state schools or community colleges. So elitist that people were walking out of their seminars.


Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

@parent

Wow, that is a huge amount of misinformation crammed into one post. A nice mix of falsehoods and unsourced rumor. Wonder why you have an ax to grind on this?


Posted by This isn't rocket science, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:49 am

@Pressure Here!: Sometimes there are super-challenging elementary school teachers and it seems your child has one. The last of my three children is in 6th now and we never had much homework in elementary school - usually none at all or 15 minutes occasionally. Perhaps talk to your principal. Are you at Hoover? The Hoover parents have no problem with hours of homework, as many of them grew up with hours of it in Asia.

I find it hard to believe Common Core is going to change anything in PAUSD since our district already over prepares our children.


Posted by very ironic and hypocritical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

This isn't rocket science,

"I find it hard to believe Common Core is going to change anything in PAUSD since our district already over prepares our children."

This term "over prepared" should give people pause, as it relates to homework and stress.

The college racket has caused an official system of over preparing. It is carried out in a million ways, and kids, and families are under assault. Colleges border on being family life wreckers.

Change the college application system to a lottery. Colleges should trust districts like PAUSD who turn out decent kids to have a pool of kids who are considered qualified if they have completed normal, regular work. Make a separate small pool for first generation, and athletes, if that is so important.

Anyone who wants to "over prepare", do it by choice, and that should not be on the application.

What colleges want is a steady flow of olympians and rocket scientists, and they have corrupted the system to attract these types. Colleges should suffer the reality of the stats on how many of those there really are instead of making everyone work as if.


Posted by Monica Dhandapani Mallon, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I am a sophomore at Woodside Priory School and I think that there is way too much homework. I remember the days in elementary school when I would come home, do around half an hour of homework, and then play with my brother until the sun went down. High school students need time to play just like younger kids and we should not be spending our time stressed out over homework. I really wish that I had a chance to just have fun and figure out what I want to to with my life.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm

@pressure here - your 5th grader's homework has nothing to do with the Common Core. 5th grade at Addison (my kids are now in high school and college) was filled with project, events, assemblies, etc. The teachers were fabulous and caring BUT a lot of the work required significant parental time, involvement, and often $$ (my eldest's 5th grade class had many kids who rented costumes for the "Wax Museum" project of famous, deceased americans).


Posted by homeworkParent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2014 at 7:48 pm

You can pretty much ignore any individual anecdote which indicates homework is easy or non-existant. Dr. Pope's statistics capture a much broader view of homework than a single Parent bragging that their kid has no problem.

Dr Pope's data pretty much matches surveys done locally by the city - youth council and by the district, over multiple years of surveys. about half the kids are Very stressed, and the time spent on homework skyrockets in middle school. Teachers here assign about 50% more than guidelines ( yes we have guidelines) and about 1/4 of the students are burning almost 20 hrs/week on hw.

Homework load varys by teacher, and many are quite rigid about hw rules and grading. in Jordan we saw excessive pressure from teachers intimidating students about hw: "...you'll fail high school if you don't do this work!" you can almost hear the witches cackle.

Anyhoo, get yourself a tutor in middleschool - that's what the teachers want you to do, and there is no use fighting it. This will make your students life easier, the tutor will actually teach your kid the material, and hw will go much faster once they know the subject. Also, you are not the hw whip anymore. plus they can edit your kids papers and give your student the immediate writing feedback which they get so rarely from most of the English teachers.

Once you understand the dysfunction of this district, the solution is not too hard to accept. Either a tutor, or private school, or depression & darkness.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:46 am

@ gunn mom
No axe, just a point of view. And not misinformation either. I was one parent who attended presentations at Stanford and at Gunn by Challenge Success where they specifically said there are dozens schools worth attending and advised students to go just beyond the Ivies and Stanford. In fact there are thousands of schools in the US alone. At least once I witnessed another panel member challenge Denise on that topic. I think Challenge Success should really put their money where their mouth is and embrace all kids, not just the sub-Ivy set. Otherwise they are Elitist. Period. The presentations were probably recorded so you might check for yourself.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 11:14 am

"Anyhoo, get yourself a tutor in middleschool - that's what the teachers want you to do, and there is no use fighting it. This will make your students life easier, the tutor will actually teach your kid the material"

If you want to go this way, that's fine. It is not necessary of course - many (most?) do without tutors, or get spot support when needed. They do fine too.

In my view, the dysfunction isn't so much in the schools, as in some of the families. The teachers and material seem fine (esp. if you and your kids select lanes/classes that are a good fit for them). Some families treat education as an arms race, which we simply try to ignore.


Posted by Gunn parent of 1, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

Fred's "everything's fine, and if it's not it's your fault" perspective doesn't fit my experience. My son went to Gunn excited to be in high school, and intellectually curious. Not a powerhouse, but interested in school and in his friends. He quickly realized that there is no place for kids who don't or can't want to do many hours of homework a night, but don't want to be in the lowest lane in terms of content. I can't believe that there is no way to provide the average kid a stimulating education that doesn't require that that they give up their after-school activities and weekends, and that doesn't leave them feeling like they aren't cut out for school.

I just don't buy the Libertarian, blame the kid view that I see some holding around Palo Alto.


Posted by Pressure Here!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Palo Alto Parent,

Funny you should mention Addison because guess where my kid goes? Yes, Addison, not Hoover, like somebody else guessed! And the Wax Museum was a major endeavor and like you said it required significant help from parents. I thought the project was interesting and definitely worthwhile, but why not have it shorter, less involved and much more manageable so that a kid could do it him/herself? I don't know about you, but my husband and I had to help in every aspect of this nightmare project! Will it really help my child once he gets to Jordan next year to have completed a project for which he had to have a lot of help from his parents? And he continues to be bombarded with one project after another, reading letters (essentially mini literary essays), the Inquiry Fair, etc... The teachers are good and I feel are preparing him well, but why can't a lot of this work be done in school? It is almost like there are really two separate issues, not only the excessive amount of HW, but that the HW is so difficult that the kids can't complete by themselves. It's almost as though the school/district has some lofty image to uphold and they don't want to tarnish it by having the kids do less and easier work otherwise that will decrease the rigor thereby decreasing the reputation of the school and district. And the 5th grade teachers (who all collaborate on the curriculum, at least three of them do) explained that each project/assignment was to be explored MUCH more in depth than in previous years in order to comply with the Common Core. So yes, they did mention part of all of this is due to the Common Core.


Posted by no pressure here, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm

@Pressure Here,
Funny you should give the "wax museum" as an example of additional homework, my child did it all alone. The only part we, as parents, got involved with was help in learning the lines. Her teacher adjusted other homework to limit the impact on homework overall.
To be honest there was no notable spike in homework effort and it was managed very well by the teacher involved.


Posted by This isn't rocket science, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

@Pressure here! Maybe it's the Addison parents who are kicking it up because we experienced the Wax Museum three times and it was easy - they did the work in class besides memorizing. Or perhaps it's an issue with your specific teacher - when things are out-of-control difficult, it's the teacher.

@Fred: You are partially correct - some parents expect too much from their children. But there are also teachers who expect too much from our children. It's not one or the other.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Confused - I don't know the answer as to why there's more hoopla/conversation in PA than in MP/PV/EPA/, etc. In my experience, many of the PA adults do get all het up in a much more entitled fashion than the other parents. But when it's PA monied parents vs the other local wealthy parents, I've seen things much more contained amongst the non-PA parents. Money gets quietly thrown at problems, whereas in PA, money gets thrown w/a lot more drama. And of course, the infamous Palo Alto Process, which has now been around for decades, creates an ongoing wrench in the works when it comes to civic and school matters.

In Menlo, there used to a be more quiet modesty about things were handled - which wasn't always for the better, but of course, that is changing.


Posted by Pressure Here!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Hey no pressure,

Is your child a current student at Addison or a past one? Why are you bragging for him/her and what is the point of being so smug? The Wax Museum was only one project (a huge one nonetheless) out of many and I think I made that clear. That combined with everything else is hard. Not sure who your kid has but not all of the teachers adjusted the homework schedule to compensate. In fact one of the classes did the entire thing in school, but the other three did not. Not sure who you talked to but every parent I did said what a huge project it was and how they had to help their children. Plus we are talking 5th grade here. If your kid can do Wax Museum by himself good for him, but that wasn't the case for many of the families I know of. Plus what does it say about you to be bragging about your kid on this forum anyway? That you live through your kid's accomplishments?My kid needed absolutely no help whatsoever with his lines and gave his performance beautifully! He will also need no help with his Inquiry Fair because that is more his thing. But that is not the point. the point is that our child and others at Addison have been experiencing quite the HW load this year and I think it's too much and too difficult. Every family and each child is different but that's our experience. And for the record, my child is pretty smart too.


Posted by no pressure here, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Not bragging, didn't give any results. Just stating how it was managed by the teacher (well) and how it impacted homework overall (not at all). This was down to the teacher not the child.
As I stated, the only time we got involved was on helping to memorize the lines and I'd expect to help out on that. It's easier when you have someone to work with. Hardly a "project from hell".


Posted by very ironic and hypocritical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm


Pressure and no pressure,

Depending on the child or the family, historical re-enactments can be grueling. That fact alone is enough to reconsider their value.

I always found projects for "show" or "tell" fun and cute for the people taking pictures, and great for the family photo albums, but it is not for sure that they add a huge amount of depth to learning compared to the theater involved. Theater is simply not something that works for everyone, and people who are not into that kind of pressure should not be forced into it. Maybe one max in elementary, end of story.

Theater just compounds the idea that kids have to "demonstrate" something, and the bigger the production the better?

PAUSD is too full of these re-enactments. How about Medieval Feast at Jordan?

Worst part, when you get graded on costume, or whatever. They can be really annoying after second grade.


Posted by Hoover Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:40 pm

In response to the comment about Hoover, above, and as a data point for others: my child attends Hoover and he really likes it.

He is in fourth grade, and has never been deluged with homework. He enjoys school, feels safe, likes the teachers and staff, and has good friends there.

As a family, we find the diversity of the student body to be a strength of the school.


Posted by libertarian, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:47 pm

the answer is easy. school choice and vouchers. take your kids to where they want or need to be. ivy league at all costs! - public education in palo alto is an absolute disgrace!


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Vouchers are utter bullcrap, but leave it to a Libertarian to think they're a good answer.


Posted by HomeworkParent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:13 am

[Portion removed.]

Addison parents: no matter how well you think your child is prepared, they aren't. The surveys show the transition to 6th grade is hard. You kids will face an ungodly crap-ton mountain of homework at Jordan, the likes of which would make a Tiger mom quiver. You see, teacher success comes with scores, and they get this success on the backs of student labor, not teaching brilliance. The teachers will pressure your kids quite enough.

If you want to lower your students stress level (without dropping lanes, skipping class, or shirking) your student will need help. We're not talking about the 1% genius kid, but rather an average kid who is fine with a mix of A's and B's. School will be he'll for that kid, and they will burnout and checkout.

But - a little help will go a long way. You can tutor them, or hire a tutor, or look for free tutoring services/help after school. 1or2 times a week. It will boost their confidence, give them help understanding material, and they can connect with someone in the education process who encourages them as students. (something you 'LL find rare at Jordan)

The surveys are clear - you are facing difficult times ahead, and the school has no motivation to address the issues that are there. Don't pressure your kid - help them.


Posted by HomeworkParent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2014 at 6:52 am

Heh, heh,.. . Wow I have been remembering our days at the Jordan Gulag, and I am so relieved to be out of THAT hellhole.

Good example of too much pointless homework and the innovative skills of the teachers. Apparently they got together in a coven and decided that literacy and writing skills should be distributed across all classes. No research backing this up, just a pure-hearted motivation to ruin the one class that had no homework.

THEY MADE THE KIDS WRITE AN ESSAY IN P.E. !!

No shizzle. True story. Of course this was not part of any unit, there were no writing skills or analysis skills presented in class. They were not practicing anything taught in class. Just pure work for the sake of work. When it was graded, there was no feedback that would help them write better, nor help them improve at P. E.

Of course, not that we expected a useful educational experience; we had learned by now that this game is about obedience, compliance, organization, and work volume.

So the net result of an assignment with 1) no relevance 2) no class support 3) no useful feedback ?; it was actually a net negative experience. Like most things at Jordan Gulag it burned time, deprived sleep and demotivated kids. In P.E no less!

The fires burned high in the coven that night! You could hear the witches cackle as they finally figured out how to load homework in the one class that had avoided pointless drudgery -P.E. It was a moral victory for the side of evil.

Anyhoo, that kind of nonsense was a weekly drama at Jordan Gulag. Boy am I glad to be out of there!!

Trust me, you don't need to pressure your kid - there is plenty pressure already in th Gulag.


Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Homework Parent's summary could be appropriate for one of my children, who had a difficult duo of teachers (but is no longer a duo). But another child had a different duo and it wasn't so dire.

I do agree with HP that paying tutors lessens stress for both parent and child. I formerly thought people paid tutors to ace classes, however, we have hired them to clarify for our children so they are less frustrated and this has not always resulted in "A"s but has resulted in far less stress for us. Some of the math/science is quite difficult in high school, and my husband has a math/science graduate degree but claims he has to relearn so it's just easier to hire a tutor. Chemistry at Paly is challenging (college textbook), both in regular and honors lane (most have tutors in AP and honors lanes of math and science). Surely, someone will brag about their children never having tutors and taking advanced classes - kudos to you for having super-intelligent, driven children.

My biggest disappointment is that the Jordan English department has been failing students for at least a decade now. PAUSD's English department was excellent back in the 70s and 80s. We all learned to write and papers were returned with comments. Nowadays, both Jordan and Paly fail to teach writing skills or return papers with useful comments so we have had to find instruction outside of school or I have helped our children learn. There are a few good English teachers at Jordan/Paly, but I emphasize "few" between the two schools.

To those of you elementary parents who are living from mortgage to mortgage, I encourage you to save for tutoring, which costs $45-$85/hour.


Posted by PA middle schools suck , a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2014 at 10:34 am

The middle,schools,in Palo Alto, especially Jordan , simply do NOT prepare the kids well for high school. I have noticed a trend the last 15 years of Palo Alto parents taking their kids out of middle school and putting them in private schools for those three years, THEN placing them back in Paly or Gunn.

Amazingly, many parents who do this state that's their kids have less homework in private school ( with the exception of Castilleja) than at Jordan, JLS, or Terman.


Posted by HomeworkParent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

@PAmiddle school Sucks: yep, that pretty much sums it up. Jordan creates a ton of work, and results in underprepared, burned-out students.

No surprise that parents look elsewhere. The Jordan Gulag has an image problem and a dissatisfied customer problem. Neither will be fixed of course, because - hey we're PAUSD, and we don't have to reform broken culture.


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