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March 27. 2012 9:14PM

Manchester School Board asks for homework relief

MANCHESTER -- High school teachers may soon be asked to rein in heavy homework loads for upper-level students after the Board of School Committee raised concerns over the amount of work given during vacations.

The Committee on Curriculum and Instruction is considering a new policy that would require teachers limit summer assignments, reduce the amount of homework given during school vacations and better communicate with other teachers about their homework loads when unusually large assignments are given to a class.

The committee agreed to have Assistant Superintendent of Schools Michael Tursi take another look at the policy and adjust the language to address concerns about summer homework and requiring teachers to coordinate homework assignments.

The issue was first raised by committee member John Avard, who said he has both seen with his own children and heard from other parents that students are given hefty workloads during vacations. This is especially a problem in upper-level high school classes, known as Level 4 and Advanced Placement classes.

Avard said one of his children was given a 600-page book to read over winter break and a 400-page book to read during a one-week vacation later in the year.

“They spend their entire vacation doing homework,” said Avard. “When do they get a mental break?”

Avard also argued that giving large assignments during vacations hampers the student's ability to go on trips, for school or with family, or work at a job.

“We have students really going above and beyond. They have the work ethic. That's why they are in level 4 classes but they are being made to feel they are being punished because they don't have the vacations their friends have,” said Avard.

Avard and others also worried that excessive homework hinders a family's ability to take trips, visit family or simply spend time together. Committee member Debra Gagnon Langton said it's OK for teachers to advise students before vacation of work coming up so they can get a jump start but did not favor requiring lengthy assignments.

“To mandate things like that may put a child or family in predicament,” she said. “They can't take a family vacation and that adds a lot of stress.”

Avard said he would even support a ban on assigning homework to be done during vacation weeks.

“I wouldn't go to the full extent of no homework,” said Tursi. “I think teachers should have the flexibility to give students assignments over the summer, but I agree there should be a limited amount.”

Committee member Sarah Ambrogi agreed, saying teachers in Advanced Placement classes have a lot of material to cover before the May test for college credit and summer is an opportunity to get a jump on it.

Note: Earlier versions of this story contained a misspelling in the headline.


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