Monday, September 27, 2010

Have a comment, question, or suggestion about our school budget cuts, Race To Nowhere, the LJ Cluster, or our educational system in general? Please post below! (For background information on many issues, please click the appropriate tab above.)

The following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the La Jolla Cluster Association


  1. Just a few reminders about the Race To Nowhere screening Monday October 4th at La Jolla High School:
    Tickets are selling fast so buy your ticket online NOW!
    Your ticket is needed for entry - be sure to print it up ahead of time and bring it with you! It was emailed to you as an attachment with confirmation of your purchase.
    Doors open at 6:10pm, show starts at 6:30.
    There will be a discussion after the screening until 8:30pm.
    If you have any questions, please email Natascha at

  2. Thank you to all who attended the screening of "Race to Nowhere" last night at LJHS. Please post your thoughts about how to keep this conversation going and implement real change!

  3. I want to know how parents in La Jolla would feel if elementary schools eliminated most homework. In the past, many in our community have pressured teachers and principals into giving their kids MORE work, but last night the discussion made it seem as though the tide has turned. Is that truly the case or are there those still out there who believe that homework at the younger grades is necessary? Has anyone seen the studies claiming that homework has no impact on learning/grades?

  4. Thanks for hosting a thought-provoking movie. In response to anonymous, I would encourage you to read "Homework Myth" by Alfie Kohn, in which he refers to many studies that talk about the negative effects of homework. He also has a great article (with a link to the book) at:

  5. For years, advocating a dramatic revision of homework policy and de-emphasis of standardized tests has been a challenging and lonely vocation... I will throw all my mental and physical might behind any and all who are willing to clear a new path in the direction of reason, intelligence and joy.

  6. This parent of 2 at LJES would definitely support a significant reduction in homework. After 6 1/2 hours of classroom instruction my children are ready to exercise their bodies, their creativity, their independence, and their judgment. This is very hard to do while fulfilling a daily regimen of afterschool worksheets and reports. I hold my children's development of resilience, self-awareness and civic engagement as equally important to their academic achievements. "Race to Nowhere" does a good job of showing some of the ways in which a one-dimensional emphasis on academic excellence as measured by standardized test scores can impede these other areas of development that are essential for each child to achieve their full potential and develop as a healthy and well-rounded individual. I am grateful for LJCA for bringing this movie to our community and recommend it to those who weren’t able to attend the screening.

  7. Thank you so much for the posts please encourage others to do so as well. Please refer to the Race To Nowhere website under resources they have lots of information about homework but also the other subjects brought up in this film. I had 2 kids go through LJES. One of the biggest problem with too much homework is the parents! Honestly, I remember parents petitioning for more homework in kindergarten?!? When in the past the school has tried to make changes to the homework parents have been upset.

  8. At the UCSD screening earlier this year a gentleman made an observation that I found as poignant as the content of the actual film: We know that when children are in basic survival mode--and my kid has definitely been there at the tender age of 9--they can't process or ponder information. Their only hope is to maintain facts for the short term, which is antithetical to the definition of education most of us embrace and seek on their behalf. But he pointed out that living in mere survival mode also compromises their capacity for empathy and compassion. This deadening is antithetical to the very notion of humanity most of us embrace.

  9. Watching my child fighting to stay awake so as not to fall short of homework expectations, calming her as she cried because I've forbidden her to finish eventually brought me to one of the most absurd points in my parenting career. Refusing to allow sleep deprivation, I had to force her to make a choice between the extracurriculars that fuel her zeal for living and her rigid expectations about meeting classroom expectations that extended well into the night. She actually cried for hours over it. She could have been featured in the film; she is still in elementary school!

    Oh, and I have done her homework on a number of occasions. So has her father, though he'd never admit it. Am I ashamed to admit it? Years ago I would have thought parents doing elementary grade worksheets and projects to be the real epitome of absurdity. That would have been before I had spent any real time thinking about the balance among sleep, significant learning, the threat of classroom humiliation of one kind or another and general well being. The only shame I feel is in not taking a more aggressive stance. (And perhaps in failing to marshal the courage to sign my name.)

  10. Let's have elementary school teachers assign a dinnertime conversation as homework. :-)

  11. I am a parent from Del Mar School district and would whole heartedly support little to no homework until 7th grade. I have a wonderful child, who at 3rd grade pronounced he “hates” school. Why…because of the homework. At these younger grades they cannot really do homework without lots of parent participation. That really makes for a lot of parent-child turmoil. Why give homework to children until they can do it independently?

  12. I have a child who is dyslexic. Even with all the technology in the world, I find he and I do homework for hours on end and he’s only in 5th grade! (Even with the IEP and reduced homework). This homework struggle will only get worse. I need little to no homework throughout his schooling. They should teach him at school!

  13. I do not believe doing homework all night represents the real world. I rarely work all night at something, and this is generally the exception, rather than the rule. In business what’s important is how well you can problem solve and how well you get along with others (both of which have nothing to do with homework).

  14. Maybe some of the teachers should perform homework all night during the school year and perhaps the high school load will reduce. In college you have a choice of taking fewer classes to reduce your work load. What do you do in high school…take 6 years?

  15. As a LJ parent and former school counselor, I wholeheartedly agree that testing and homework is overemphasized. However, we cannot place the blame solely on our educational system. I believe that the movie revealed valuable points that need to be reiterated. We as parents are also guilty of overscheduling our children with too many activities that, although they are fun and great exercise, can also be demanding on children. If homework demands were cut down I fear that parents would fill that space with more "to do" rather than relaxation, family and down time. Secondly, a child who is driven to excel in school and be accepted into a great college is often times trying to please or fulfill the parents' need/wish to be the top student. Children internalize what their parents' want and try to make us feel happy, proud, successful as parents. We need to be in tune with what are our children's hope and dreams for the future. We need to address this as a system in which everyone plays a part: educational system, society, parents, community, and to solve these issues together. As a licensed therapist practicing in LJ, I am most concerned about the signs of childhood depression and anxiety that go undetected, undiagnosed and untreated.If people want more info on the signs and symptoms I would be happy to post those on this site. Or if you have personal concerns you may call me for a brief (10 min.)phone consultation at (619) 980-8805. Let's keep this vital conversation going to keep our children happy and healthy!

  16. @Anonymous 'homework helper' - my thoughts exactly. Although I've never actually done my kids' homework, I can certainly sympathize with those who have. And many a night I've sat supervising my kids' homework time and felt, as the mom in the movie did, like a prison guard. Survival mode is not the way to go through grade school, surely...
    Does anyone know if Dana Shelburne have a chance to see this movie? And is there any discussion over at LJHS about rethinking the work load?

  17. I asked my so, who does all his homework without pestering, if he really learns anything. His response was I'll do it but it's "just busy work." He loves learning and projects and wants to do well in school and understands the nature of homework.
    But he knows that homework is not what learning is about.
    As a teacher in college for over 14 years I focused on projects and students would work on things outside class to get them done.
    Education and learning would be better served if students learned the skills of life which is finding solutions instead of doing worksheets.

  18. One of the briefly mentioned bullet points at the end of the movie suggested later school start times for middle and high schools. I think this is critical. My 6th grader just started Muirlands and really likes it. However, 5 weeks into the semester he is exhausted and having a hard time getting up in the morning. This is a topic I believe the cluster could start a dialogue on and make a difference - even with bus schedule challenges. Paste this link to read a recent article on the topic.,0,7500807.story

  19. I just hope all teachers and educators make an effort to see this movie.

  20. The major component in change is looking at the culture in which we as a society have created. I found this film as a wake up call. We cannot continue at the pace of always trying to acheive without balance. We all need PLC(play, laughter and creativity)
    Teachers feel this impact too and I'm sure they'd rather spend there time doing something besides grading papers and passing out a thick folder of homework.
    I don't see this film as just about homework, but a system of outside influences that have rendered parents as thinking they don't have power.

  21. Kudos to the comments beyond homework and school related pressures. Race To Nowhere highlighted for me that it's a culmination of pressures that lead children to become "roboticized" and to substitute the joy of childhood for the pressure of achievement. It is not a single component that yields their stress - it is the macro atmosphere in which they literally "survive." Over scheduling comes from after school commitments of sports, music, art, scheduled playdates, etc as well as excessive homework. I believe the solution is to insure there is plenty of time for our children to build in time for boredom, play and discovery. While room for improvement rests within the school system for sure, I also found myself soul searching and discovering there is room for improvement in my/our collective parenting as well. Listening more, dictating less, scheduling less, and applauding simple achievements as much or more than an A+ on a test or a sports win are what I have challenged myself to do! We do have the power to make our child's lives more simple than they are today - and hopefully that will let them discover their soul rather than just grow their brainpower.

  22. If the work done as "homework" is truly essential, why not extend the school day so all the school work can get done at school??

  23. "What We Can Learn From Finland's Successful School Reform" Here is a great article that one of our wonderful teachers just emailed me.
    I'm also curious if are there any opinions about the movie's discussion around AP and honors classes in high school? I for one think we should limit how many of these classes a student can take.

  24. I have to talk personally and honestly(from that space is which it's starts).
    My son (a 5th grader in a high achieving class, with super high achieving kids, some I've known since Montessori pre-school) said he was getting an award, one of the first one in that select group of kids. I asked him what it was for, he didn't know.
    We have given him the space to arrange his own time with homework, especially since that was always a battle for us. He is a very strong -willed kid with thoughts about life that he doesn't think parents should meedlel in.
    So ,we made an agreement, he would do his own work and learn how to pace himself. If he'd fall down, he'd pick himself up and figure it out. If he needed us he'd ask.

    I just gave him a lecture before school about being responsible..blah..blah..blah.
    That morning at the assembly he was given an award for doing all his homework and not leaving a stone unturned.Plus asking questions if he wasn't clear on an assignment.

    Here's the honest part...Underneath my smile and group pictures. My first reaction was WHAT. he didn't get an award for math, but hisTEST scores were so high.

    Second response was. Ha, in your face world, my kid is super responsible.

    I looked at my own behavior and thoughts and wondered how long it took ME to get here. I know how crucial it is to have balance in one's life.
    I know how important it is to have your child, play, dance, create, draw, sculpt and stimulate all of those right brain activities. My husband and I fought for our child to have a teacher that would not only teach, but teach him through creative processes. and held the same values that we have. We had that for our son at his school. But we had to pay close attention for that to happen.

    Some of us parents are silent competitors like myself but we still project on our children.

    I didn't like looking at that part of me and my husband.
    Now we are talking about this and how we need to check our own meter of competition. Sometimes at the expense of our child.
    We asked our child why and how he won that award, and didn't want a patent answer- but how he truly felt. This is what he said

    "I didn't know I was getting an award for homework. I felt really bad, because I just did it because I wanted approval from the nicest teacher in the school.

    I asked "Why did you feel bad."

    He said. " Because I know I can't keep that up for the next 9 months, now everyone expects me to do that and I'm really stressed out about it.
    I don't want to let anybody down.
    Thinking about it makes me itch(he has eczema) and then I can't sleep at night."

    This intimacy of sharing has opened up conversation for all of us, Sharing some of our fears(real and some not so real) together as a family.

    Now the Race To Nowhere can become a Process to Somewhere.

    We are so excited, that we are going play some golf(real golf) Nobody's keeping score.
    O.K maybe in my head. I just need time.
    Lets create a community forum so we can all meet and come up with creative solutions.

  25. After watching this movie, I have no doubt that homework is hugely overrated, over assigned and not an effective teaching tool. I have talked with several friends who have highschoolers, both in public and private schools. Several of them explained to me that each time their child has a big project, they simply hire a tutor at $65 per hour to organize, finalize and clean up their child’s work. It usually takes 2 sessions and their child usually gets an A.. Soo, the cost of the A is about $130 bucks.

    My initial reaction was judgment. How can these parents disable their children like this? My next thought – FEAR. If I do not participate in this, then are the teachers expecting my children to complete work comparable to that of a tutor? So this fear as a parent (which I really hate by the way) kicks in as I wonder, will my children have the same opportunities/choices for their life if I don’t participate in this type of behavior?

    Later, I moved to some form of understanding. By the time we get home from after school activities and I get home from work, it is time to start making dinner. By that time it is usually 7:00 – 7:30. If we are talking about a big project, then really we are talking about peace in the home and much needed sleep for our kids, and not merely just the "cost" of an A.

    I am struggling with this. I am wholeheartedly against doing our kids homework for them, but can’t reconcile the idea that, as one local private high school dean of schools advised the high school parents, “Most nights your children will be tucking you into bed.”

    Has the bar been set so high, that unless an adult completes the work, the goals are unattainable?

  26. I thought the movie was incredible and I am thrilled that the key constituencies were there, board of supervisors, superintendent, principals, teachers and parents. I believe we have the ability to stop this train wreck and start a new course.

  27. The film opens a serious can of worms! Homework? It's probably important for kids to learn to do homework at some point, but....when do we teach them to do that and to take personal responsibility for the outcomes? We should probably expect some scaffolding so that as they rise in the grade levels they take on more homework bit by bit. Is that bad? Is it bad for parents to take time with their children helping with homework? Maybe that is part of the "quality time" that parents should "expect" to spend with their children? Lord knows that time with our children passes quickly! Savor that time!

    Do we really expect all our children to go to college and become "professionals?" Should we push them in the directions "we" chose? Is it a good idea to "expect" kids with autism and ADD to travel the same paths toward professional accomplishment that other kids are destine for - is that fair to them? Should we dissuade our children from joining the military as though it was the path for the "lesser" students? Maybe a military career is appropriate for some of our children as they mature - lord knows we all owe a debt of gratitude to those that serve us in uniform.
    There are many roads to Rome, and not everyone needs to go there.

  28. I have two children in the La Jolla Schools, one at LJES and the other at Muirlands. While I know that the best of talent and intentions are present in out teachers and administrators, I believe we are *off-the-mark* when it comes to the amount of homework my kids bring home. The school day for them both is rich--filled with a multitude of engaging lessons and lots of work in literacy, math and beyond. They are mentally and emotionally SATURATED when they arrive home at the end of the day. They are in need of some physical and/or social activity that nurtures their development in other ways and allows their developing brains to take a break from the kind of mental activity involved in homework. My third grader bring home over a hour of homework each night (30-45 minutes of pencil-and-paper, plus 30 minutes of reading). My 7th grader easily has nearly two hours of homework each night. If either of them stumble on a subject, the time and frustration expand exponentially because they are functioning at half-steam (at best) at the end of the day. Practice is good, but the amount of homework our kids get IS OVERKILL. The result is they work a lot harder for very little benefit. With the changing technologies and demands of the world today, especially our children will need to embrace lifelong learning in order to survive and thrive (regardless of where they fall on the corporate ladder). I am concerned we are putting too much pressure and too much demand on them at an early age with excessive homework demands. It leads to resistance and burnout down the road and misses the intended mark by miles.

  29. Teachers probably started assigning more homework as communities told them (perhaps through superintendents) that they "expected" that greater amounts of homework would lead to "better" performance ("clearly" measured in standardized tests that would not be counted on students' grades and administered before the end of their school year). How could we turn back that clock to a happier time when teachers taught what they felt was most important and students learned because they were innately curious souls?

  30. My three sons graduated from La Jolla High more than a decade ago, but I thought it was inhuman how much homework they had, how late they had to stay up, and how little real lives they had -- on weekdays, family dinner-table conversations were about IT. It was horrible, and they were the first to say that the homework was all busy work! Thank God this tide is finally, maybe, beginning to turn!

  31. I think one of my jobs as a parent is to prepare my children for life on their own. They need to learn how to organize and plan their work, strategies for dealing with problems when they get stumped (other than ask mom), resourcefulness, how to ask for help and get it from their teachers, how to pick themselves up when they blow it. And they will blow it if I don't rescue them.

    I don't see how tutors or parents doing homework for children help accomplish this goal of independence. I'm not planning on hanging out at the dorm to write my sons papers and organize his projects.

    So I think that the right amount/kind of homework is that which a kid can accomplish on their own in a reasonable amount of time, allowing enough time most nights for creative play, fun (non-assigned reading), hobbies, sports, and plenty of sleep. My 6th grade son gets that right now (homework runs about 90 minutes/night M-TH) and I can see him gaining more and more confidence as the year goes on.

  32. I read the interview of Bill Gates on teaching and the movie "Waiting for Superman". I went to the screening of "Race to Nowhere", the film about the pressures on students to excel. As a mother of two and a substitute teacher, I see the demands made on teachers to do it all - to make sure all their students do well on the standardized tests w/o teaching to the tests, to treat all students the same when they have different learning abilities, styles and needs, to jump through the constant demands by adminstration and pressures to make sure all their students are performing well, to attend administrative, departmental, and development meetings as well as give of their time before, during and after school to parents and students. They have less and less support in the classrooms which have more and more students in them and have more demands on their at-home time responding to e-mails, updating their websites for students and parents, and grading for a rediculous number of students. It's no wonder teachers have gone to scantrons and away from essay tests in english and history- it's no wonder kids are going to the next grade level unable to write legibly. The demands upon our teachers and students to perform extraordinarily despite their different needs and abilities have backfired. We have created stressed out teachers, students and administrators who have swallowed the unrealistic challenge to insure every child reach achievement goals that have been set by the outside (we are not all cookie cutter!). And all this, while funds to our schools have been on a downward spiral. We need to start a dialogue with students and parents, administrators and teachers, about the unrealistic requirements of colleges and the detrimental push for all kids to be over-achievers.

  33. No Really, There IS Some Benefit To Homework... (Tidings 11/10)

    "Although much of the research on homework shows little, if any correlation between homework and achievement, most researchers still recommend that students do some homework."

    The ONE TIME we find that there's an miseducational practice that they can't somehow manage to justify with "research"--and low and behold--they offer a one-time-only strictly-researched-based-practice pass and prescribe it anyway. I give up.

    "Only extraordinary education is concerned with learning; most is concerned with achieving; and for young minds, these two are very nearly opposite." --Marilyn French (quoted in Alfie Kohn)

  34. The current "Teaching to the test" for better test scores which funds public schools has dumbed down public education in my opinion. Kids can take tests really well today, but they don't learn or retain much. When academics created the profitable testing culture in public schools, and attached money to it so that district chiefs would get on the testing treadmill, public education became a false measuring stick that has kept alot of talent out of the school system. I think home schooling and specialized charter schools will become more and more popular.

  35. My main concern is my children's health. In addition to all the academic stress, I take issue with the start times of both Muirlands and LJHS. For this age group of kids who need extra sleep in the morning it is ridiculous that they start school as early as they do. Lack of sleep weakens the body's immune system and its ability to fight off the constant attack of viruses these kids are exposed. The other thing making my kid's sick is having to do a swim rotation during P.E. They are forced to swim no matter what the weather. One of my kids got bronchitis after swimming during the winter months. It went on for 2 months and when the swim rotation came up again, the M.D. said he should not swim again. We were told if he does not swim he does not graduate. We are still in the process of fighting this for next year. Countless kids have told me that they get sick from swimming during P.E. Swimming should be a P.E. elective, not mandatory. Its about time that Muirlands and LJHS start listening to both parents and students about issues that are affecting the daily and possibly even the long term health of the students.

  36. I have a question.