A few of my thoughts in advance of the third Ridgewood showing of Race to Nowhere, tomorrow (Monday) night at the Ridgewood Public Library Auditorium (7:00 p.m.).
When I watched the movie the week before last, I noticed what I felt was a moment of irony. A parent in the film said that she has always wanted her kids to do better, to succeed, so that they will have "more choices in life." But when I listened to these pressured kids talk, it was clear to me clear that they actually end up having fewer choices. Or no choices. No real choice about where they go to college, or what they're going to study, or where they will find their passion. They are on a track and there is no getting off that track.
On the topic of homework, the film cited research that looked at the correlation between the amount of homework kids have and how they perform academically. (To be honest, I don't remember what they used to measure that performance...I think it may have been standardized test scores.)
According to the research cited in the film, in the elementary school years, there is no correlation between the amount of homework and achievement. In middle school, there is some correlation, but it falls off after one year. And in high school, there is some correlation, but not after an average of two hours of nightly homework. Any more than two hours of homework has no effect of achievement.
This actually dovetails nicely with the Parent/Guardian Survey results, which I wrote about earlier today. In some of the parent comments for elementary schools, parents wrote that they wanted more homework and more rigor in their children's education. There were parents who want more tests in kindergarten and first grade, to "prove" that kids are learning! Here's a little snapshot of the problem, right here in Ridgewood: how do we balance these parents' wish for "academic success" with these emerging conversations about the so-called "race to nowhere?" Are we really willing to make a change?
And on another related note, the principal of Ridgewood High School announced that this upcoming Winter Break will be "homework free." The high school administration wants to see what it's like -- for students and for teachers -- if kids are allowed to simply rest over the break. Of course, in our house, this has already created some confusion. My son has a large research/writing project that's currently underway. My son is wondering how he can just take a week off without falling behind on the project overall. My natural response is to hope he can get enough work done this week so that he can enjoy the experience of the "no homework break" next week. But something doesn't feel right to be "rushing" now in order to "rest" later. Jumping off the merry-go-round is a little scary. Sort of like...jumping off a merry-go-round.
What are your thoughts on the concept of a "race to nowhere?"
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