Homework blocks seen as solution to students’ workload

Emma Roeder has a busy life. A Grade 10 student at Riverdale Collegiate Institute in downtown Toronto, her day is full with school, soccer practice and hanging out with friends.

School doesn’t end at 3:15 every day, though. Roeder usually has homework every night.

“Sure, I don’t like it, but it’s not that bad,” she said.

The proposed homework policy by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will allow more time for students’ extra-curricular activities and time with their family by assigning homework in blocks.

“Families can best support homework completion by balancing the time required to complete homework with extracurricular activities scheduled outside of the school day and activities that support personal and family wellness,” the policy says.

The TDSB will vote on the proposal April 16. If accepted, it will begin during the 2008/2009 school year. System-Superintendant of Programs Karen Grose co-wrote the policy.

“It’s designed to provide families with the greatest flexibility,” Grose said. “Say your son is assigned homework on Wednesday and he has a hockey tournament that night. He will have until next Wednesday to finish it, for example.”

Emma Roeder finds homework doesn’t interfere with her other activities; one helps the other.

“If I have three hours of homework, it’s usually my own fault because I slacked off,” she said. “Say I have soccer practice until 6 p.m.; then I’ll do my homework. I find the energy from soccer gives me energy for my (home)work.”

In a TDSB survey, 27 per cent of students in Grade 4 to 8 and 30 per cent of students in high school found homework always interfered with extra-curricular activities. By assigning homework over a period of days, educators hope the students’ homework will be finished, not forgotten.

Laura Volpe, a high school French teacher, already assigns homework over a block of time. Volpe said students should come to her when they have a conflict with homework.

“It’s a time management and communication problem between teachers, students and parents,” she said.

In her class, Volpe uses student agendas, notes on a whiteboard and phone calls to parents to ensure homework gets completed.

“If a kid is getting below 60, I like to keep an open dialogue with the parents,” Volpe said. “If they’re getting below 60, there’s obviously something going on, in terms of homework.”

Teachers reported to the TDSB that on average, 40 per cent of students sometimes complete homework, and 38 per cent say they often finished homework; only three per cent never finish it.