Homework levels can be changed to fit students’ needs

Student with student

The amount of homework can be tailored to each student’s needs, according to a school board trustee.
Photo Credit: Stock photo by
Steve Woods

Most nights, West Hill parent Lou Cornacchia finds he and his family can’t go out and do anything because of work.

It’s just not his work.

“You can’t do anything as a family because everybody has a couple hours of homework,” said Cornacchia, who has three school-aged children. “I find the young ones especially have way too much of it.”

Not every parent finds the workload stifling. Homework takes only fifteen minutes a night for West Hill parent Laura Civello’s third grader.

At least, it does if he doesn’t have hockey practice, when she says things can get stressful.

What neither of them knew was that there’s something they and other parents can do about the homework crunch.

“[Education] is really a conversation we can tailor and customize per student,” said Shaun Chen, Toronto District School Board trustee for Scarborough-Rouge River. Individual Education Plans can be set up for students with needs that differ from what the school curriculum provides.

If a student were gifted, then he or she could be given work that would challenge them. If a student is struggling, he or she can be given less homework.

Many parents are unaware of this.

“I’ve only had one teacher come to me and say that if it’s getting to be too much, don’t worry about it,” Cornacchia said.

The stress can climb especially high when the student is involved in activities outside school or comes from a disadvantaged background.

“The truth is, kids are busy these days,” said Nadia Bello, school board trustee for Scarborough East. Kids end up with more homework because of the current curriculum set by the province, she says, and it tries to fit in more work than can be done in class time.

Chen said disadvantaged students would be especially at risk from struggling under the weight of homework. If a parent needs to work long hours in a low-paid job, “there’s no time for the parent to be involved in the child’s homework,” Chen said.

“If a kid comes back with his homework not done, you wonder if it’s because the parents aren’t educated to help them at home,” said Civello, of parents who do not speak English.

Homework may actually be needless for students below Grade 7, according to a recently released study from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Not everyone agrees.

“I had homework all through school, and I made it through,” said William Sheehan, a local resident.

“Asking for less homework is ridiculous. The kids need the education,” Sheehan continued.

Some parents have told Chen that they want more homework for their child. Bello adds some cultures value homework and children without homework would be thought of as doing poorly by their parents.

No one has yet come to Bello saying that their child does not get enough homework.

The board is currently consulting parents about the homework issue, and a report is expected to come before the board in mid-April.