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New homework policy aims to ease teen stress

Original post made on Mar 29, 2016

Calling it a key strategy for reducing stress and anxiety among high school students in a highly competitive environment, officials at the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District are moving full-steam ahead on new policies designed to cap the hours students spend on homework.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 1:52 PM

Comments (14)

Posted by Diane
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Good Job MVHS for listening to parents and students about this important issue. Another great challenge is doing make up work when a student has been absent due to illness. Kids who are care will not take the time to get better as they don't want to miss any school or work as it snow balls.

Posted by Jerry
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 29, 2016 at 4:18 pm

As a Stanford professor I could see first-hand the result of over-stressing high school students. Too many of my freshman students were obsessed with being 100% correct, and had little sense of their own identity and interests. I'd love to see more students not afraid to fail, and with a stronger sense of their own personal direction. Constantly hammering on them to be productive and correct in all areas only erodes their love of learning and an appreciation for their own skills (and inevitable flat spots). Reducing stress is a step in the right direction. Keep the conversation going!

Posted by Phil D
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm

So when these kids get a job and have tight deadlines to deliver to, who will bail them out then? If 11% of kids felt stressed and missed school at MV High, that means that 89% didn't. Why are we changing the rules to accommodate the minority of kids who have a problem with stress? I see new college grads in the workplace daily who want everything handed to them, who only want to work on 'glamorous' projects, who need to be pampered to be kept happy. What happened to good old-fashioned hard work and earning your place in society? This country is going down the toilet.

Posted by KB
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm

@Phil D:

So one out of every six kids (and remember, these are KIDS we are talking about here) felt SUICIDAL within the last year due to the amount of stress they are being put under, but they should toughen up and deal with it?

Human brains are not fully developed until the mid twenties, so expecting a teenager to perform up the standards of the modern American workforce so they get used to it now is harmful and cruel. 'Old fashioned hard work' is one thing. Working yourself to death is another. The obsession with work and its conflation with a persons identity is often unhealthy in its own right. See increasing rates of burnout for further evidence of this.

Plus, research indicates the amount of homework completed by a student (particularly younger ones) does not correlate linearly with the student's academic performance. That is, increasing homework load does not necessarily increase performance. Similarly, decreasing homework load does not necessarily decrease performance, and may in some cases even improve it. This is obviously independent of the possible benefits to the students' mental health.

And if you're worried about your anecdotal coworkers acting entitled, well that's a bit of a straw man anyway. But if it's truly a problem or even a new phenomenon, then you have the modern fear-based mass media, helicopter parenting, and decades of an over emphasis on self esteem to blame, much more than any perceived decrease in school workload. On the contrary, kids today are loaded up with an order of magnitude more work and stress than a generation ago. Over scheduled, overworked and overstressed, they have little to show for it but a plethora of stress-induced mental and physical illness, and a bachelors degree (even in a STEM field) that gets them a minimum wage job.

There are a lot of problems here, and I'm afraid the attitude expressed in your comment is one of them. A lack of homework, however, is not.

Posted by Amelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2016 at 8:11 pm

If teachers overload my child with homework, I'm not afraid to admit (anonymously of course!) that I'll be doing some of that homework myself. Some homework is helpful, but some of it is also forgettable slush.

I'd rather my son study for the important tests and spend his free time working on unique projects and skills that will help him stand out when it's time for college and beyond.

Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Thank you MVLA for being proactive in reducing school stress. Thank you also to all the compassionate professionals- teachers and administrators- who are willing to implement these changes to improve our children's lives.

Posted by Married no kids yet
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 30, 2016 at 7:57 am

Looking back to when I was a child in school (like we all should be doing), stress was caused by a multitude of things. Loads of homework just amplified stress because it was hard to focus due to all the other (bad) things going on in my life mostly due to bad parenting and abuse. The percentages of children who suffer from these things are much higher than the percentages in this study, so perhaps we should also be talking a look at ourselves. As mental illness becomes more prevalent and pervasive in our society, things will go downhill despite the amount of homework our kids are given. I think more research and education needs to be given to future parents and new parents to teach them that the future of America is LITERALLY in their hands. Be careful with children. They are sponges and I think will learn mostly from your behavior. Everything starts early, and it's difficult to change. I also think we should be more like almost all other countries and have paid maternity leave for at least a year, but that's a whole other story. Pardon any spelling mistakes. This site is not mobile friendly (extremely small and fixed font), and I have bad eyes and no glasses (and too much pride?) :(

Posted by Married no kids yet
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 30, 2016 at 8:23 am

Just needed to add that I was seriously suicidal for many years before, during, and after junior high and high school (LAHS district), and there was no direct correlation with the amount of homework. Actually, it helped me avoid thinking about many other stressors, and all throughout college too. And it even helps me deal with stressors now, just like a lot of people in the workplace, I.e. workaholics. NB, I'm not saying too much homework is ok, the poll either needs to be more scientific, including other factors such as child and sexual abuse, or this article is missing important info about the survey.

Posted by Tbone
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 30, 2016 at 11:25 am

@Married no kids yet - you make an excellent point. While excessive homework absolutely adds to the stress level of teens and oftentimes has diminishing returns, that is far from the only thing making kids depressed and even suicidal. Cliques, bullying, personal image, dating, social status, peer pressure, time management, family finances, parental expectations, and so many other things make this time of life difficult for so many students. Reducing homework is a great step that I would love to see, especially as my kids approach high school age, but we also should be addressing so many other causes of teen anxiety which I would argue are much greater causes of stress. At the end of the day, excess homework is just the cherry on top - it's these other issues that cause teens to take extreme measures.

Posted by FunWithAFinn
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Pretty interesting in the latest Michael Moore movie, "Where To Invade Next" ...
for good ideas, Moore goes to Finland, the #1 most educated country.

He tells us that Finnish students do not have homework.

That all schools in Finland are public schools and they are all the same, and
follow the country's best practices.

It is illegal to have a private completing school so that the rich elite of
Finland if they want their children to be educated must focus on the public
school system.

Lots of good ideas and educational moments in that movie.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2016 at 11:44 pm

My child is on medications, seeing terapists and now on a 5150 psychiatric hold right now with a bunch of other suicidal kids tied to school pressures. He was top of class until the workload pressures mounted in middle school and may never recover fully from this. It's not only the homework but kids shouldn't have multiple hours of homework with tight deadlines every evening. Work should be done mostly in the classroom with light revision homework to reinforce. One once every bright happy student now will struggle maybe for life with learning. Hearing your child say "I don't want to be here anymore" and attempting to take their life because of school pressures cannot be described. Something is very wrong.

Posted by Trudy
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I applaud MVLA & it's teachers in taking an active role in reducing overwhelming homework loads. Having student input is also wonderful. Kids need to feel that they are heard & they should be part of the solution.
It's very important for kids to self advocate when there are too many exams or projects during a week. Being able to self advocate is much better for kids than having helicopter parents who do too much for their kids. Kids need to learn to solve their own problems so they will be better prepared for college & the adult world. Of course, if kids are overwhelmed, they should be guided & supported
I don't understand how MVLA is worried that self advocacy will be too much for kids. It's a very important life skill & should be taught.

Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 5, 2016 at 8:24 am

@Phil D :"So when these kids get a job and have tight deadlines to deliver to, who will bail them out then?"

Sorry, but that has to be one of the lamer comments I have read. Seriously, so we are loading them up with homework to "toughen them up"? The workplace equivalent would be that you perform in your job, then you get home and your boss has given you several hours MORE of work to do from home before you get back to work tomorrow.

Lots of other countries that outperform the US in education have little to no homework. Much of the US school system is "drone monotonously out of the textbook during class, give the kids a ton of homework to drive the lesson in via rote repetition, standardize test to see if they got it, wash-rinse-repeat.

To be honest this new policy does little to address the problem. We should be focusing FAR less on homework and far more on teaching methods and understanding concepts.

Posted by In case you forgot!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 30, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Web Link

The lives we had as teen-ages is not the same as our students have now

The conversation moves to other sources of angst, like the upcoming SAT. Junior Yuki Klotz-Burwell is particularly worried because her twin brother typically bests her academically, particularly in math and science. “Both my parents are computer scientists,” she says. “My brother’s really good at everything STEM [science, tech, engineering, and math]—which they value a lot and is basically what Gunn and Palo Alto are all about. If you’re not into that, you feel that you are not going to succeed.” Her friend Ryeri Lim, a reserved junior originally from Korea, concurs: “I feel like I’m never doing enough, not using my time wisely, not working hard enough. It goes deep, this disappointment in ourselves.” At Gunn, she says, “we don’t have any time for fun now, so we’ll get into a good college and make money, so we can be happy in the future.” Still, they don’t blame their school, and they don’t blame their parents. “It’s more our community,” says Lisa. “Our schools have to reflect the ideals of our community.”

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