Monday, November 16, 2009

What You Can Do

The "Race to Nowhere" documentary website now includes a petition. I've copied it below. You can go there to sign the petition.

"We invite you to add your voice to a growing movement of educators, parents, medical professionals, policy makers and concerned citizens who want to see real change in education policies and practices.

Too many students in all grades in the U.S. are under undue performance pressure and stress, get too little sleep and exercise, have too much unnecessary homework, and attend schools that are overly focused on standardized test scores, grades, and/or college admissions. Too many teachers are unable to engage in quality teaching because they have inadequate resources or are under too much pressure from federal, state, district and board mandates that force them to “teach to a test” as they attempt to “cover” an unrealistic volume of content.

As a result, students are no longer in classrooms that challenge them to solve complex problems and think creatively, to work collaboratively on projects, to explore issues with real-world connections, and to develop the real skills needed to succeed in the 21st century and the global economy. Many students are exhausted, anxious, disengaged, unhealthy and unprepared for the future.


We the undersigned demand educational policies and practices that recognize EVERY child as a “whole child” and promote quality teaching in EVERY school so that every child has an opportunity to engage in meaningful learning, recognizing there are may paths to a successful future.

We ask to see a transformation of U.S. education in the 21st century and demand policies and practices that are in line with the known developmental needs of children and adolescents and which authentically engage students in developing inquiring minds without interfering with their right to a healthy childhood.

This petition will be presented to all major stakeholders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, members of Congress, as well as members of state boards of education, state legislators, and local boards of education. We also encourage the use of this petition in your local school community."

Please pass on the link to friends, family, students, educators, spouses, etc. I've also included a direct link on the right side bar of this blog.


  1. I’m a parent of a 5th grader and I struggle with the amount and type of homework my child gets. Some days it’s okay, other days it’s way too much or it’s just busy-work. Last week my child's teacher gave him “double homework” on Tuesday night since they had Wednesday off for Veterans Day. I was so irritated! It was a HOLIDAY and we had plans to spend the day with extended family at the beach. My child asked his teacher on Thursday why he had given them double homework on a holiday, and his teacher replied that it was a holiday for VETERANS, not for the kids. That’s crazy!

    I know some other parents who also struggle with homework, but I think a lot of people don’t talk about it for various reasons. I’d be curious to know how many people even know what our District guidelines are. I’m pretty sure not all of the teachers are following them – but sometimes I think that’s partly our fault as parents if we aren’t giving them any feedback.

  2. In this situation my advice is to be respectfully vocal about your feelings about the extra homework given over the holiday. You are right that teachers don't know how parents feel unless they speak up. Email is an easy way to politely buy firmly let teachers know what impact homework is having on your family. Encourage others to email the teacher, too, because chances are there are many other parents who feel the same way you do. And always know what your district's homework policy is. Highlight pieces of it and share it with the teacher, too. It's possible the teacher may not even know what the policy is.

  3. I enjoy your blog. Thank you.

    I thought you'd get a kick out of this one: I emailed my child's Algebra teacher about the amount of homework lately. 43 problems last night!!! and about the same the night before and last week.

    She replied: it shouldn't take as long since the worksheets already have the graphs printed and ready to use AND we have a break next week for Thanksgiving! So then I emailed her and said 43 problems are a lot. For kids that understand it is just grueling and for kids that are having trouble it is more and more frustrating. She said that I should be the judge of how long to put in timewise (keep in mind the undone problems would be marked wrong) and that she is available at lunch.

    They correct their homework in class and then don't finish the new lesson . The new lesson notes are emailed home (for me to teach???)

    I am frustrated, and grateful to you and your hard work.

  4. You are doing a good job of being persistent and advocating for your child. Perhaps you may want to send another email with some choice paragraphs from the district homework policy? You can get it through my blog (right green sidebar under my picture) and I've already highlighted in red the parts that I think are worth sharing with teachers, especially the part about homework being highly discouraged over school holidays.

    8th grade Algebra was the tipping point for my oldest son. It truly made him hate his experience at his middle school. It is so sad that this is allowed to happen. The kids spend so much time on problems they will forget and then their homework isn't even seen by the teacher to assess learning. I feel your frustration. There are many better ways to teach math.

    You may also want to copy the principal on your next email correspondence with the teacher. Principals need to be aware of parents' complaints. At the very least your emails will be documented if you decide to copy the principal on them.

  5. Kerry,
    I love your blog. In the new year I hope to have more time to explore it more regularly. Your articulate overview of issues is incredibly valuable.

    On the topic of Race to the Top I agree that there is nothing positive that I see, or new. Just by naming it 'Race to the Top' it implied that there are winners and losers which runs counter to my belief of what education should be.

    More later, but thank you again for taking the time to provide this resource to us.