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US school districts weigh lightening homework loads

(MCT)
(MCT)

MONTCLAIR, N.J.  - School districts across the United States are weighing the elimination of homework on weekends and holidays, part of a move by educators to rein in student workloads.

Officials at public schools in Galloway Township, New Jersey, this week proposed no more homework on weekends and holidays for their 3,500 students.

The Pleasanton Unified School District in northern California has also suggested drastic changes to homework policy for the 14,500-student district.

The moves come in response to complaints from parents that children spend too many after-school hours buried in work, and concerns from teachers that test preparation trumps learning.

Some, like Grant Elementary School in Glenrock, Wyoming have eliminated homework altogether for primary school children. But others are just trying to lighten the load.

"Kids need to be given balance in their lives," said Jane Golden, Pleasanton's district director of curriculum and special projects.

Parents there said they were outraged that middle school students were spending four hours a night on homework in the high-performing Bay Area district.

Under the proposal, there would be no weekend or holiday homework for elementary students, while middle and high school students would get a reprieve on holidays and vacations.

The new policy in Pleasanton would set time limits on how much homework children can be assigned and require teachers to coordinate tests and projects so students do not get too many assignments at one time.

In Galloway, in southern New Jersey, the suggested changes would limit the time children spend on homework by using a formula of 10 minutes a day multiplied by a child's grade. Thus, a child in second grade would have no more than 20 minutes of homework a day, with nothing assigned on Fridays.

"This is about homework being meaningful and making it manageable," said District Superintendent Annette Giaquinto.

The issue of stressed-out students overloaded with homework as well as tough academic commitments and extracurricular activities drew attention among parents' groups with the release of a documentary film "Race to Nowhere" last year.

"Homework is messing up the balance of kids' lives in terms of having downtime and playtime and family time," said Cathy Vatterott, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of "Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs."

Schools have found that cutting back on homework does not harm students' performance and may even improve it, she said.

But not everyone thinks cutting back is a good idea.

Critics of the trend say that by scaling back homework, students will fall behind because they don't have the time in the school day to cover all the material needed to prepare for standardized tests.

And school board officials in Galloway noted that some parents do not object to weekend homework because it's time they can spend with their children helping them study.

The issue goes before the school boards in Galloway and in Pleasanton for further consideration this summer.

<한글 기사>

휴일엔 숙제 해방? 美학생들 설레겠네

앞으로 주말이나 공휴일에는 숙제  걱 정을 할 필요가 없어질지도 모른다. 물론 우리나라가 아니라 미국 얘기다.

미국 뉴저지주 갤러웨이 타운십 관내 공립학교들이 학생들의 부담을 덜기 위해 주말과 휴일에 과제물을 내주지 않는 정책을 27일 공식 제안했다.

또 평일에도 숙제에 드는 시간을 각 학생의 학년수에 10분을 곱한 시간 이내로 제한하는 방안을 함께 고려하고 있다. 

이 방침이 확정되면 2학년 학생의 경우 하루 20분 이상 걸리는 숙제를 내주지 못하고 주말에는 아예 과제물이 없어진다.

'부자동네'로 유명한 캘리포니아 플레전턴 교육당국도 초등학생에게는 주말과 휴일 과제물을 없애고 중고교생은 제출을 연기할 수 있도록 하는 방안을 검토하고 있다.

플레전턴 교육당국은 또 학생들이 과중한 부담에 시달리지 않도록 교사들에게 과제물량을 제한하고 시험과 각종 프로젝트를 조절하도록 할 방침이다.

최근 미국에서는 와이오밍주 글렌록 소재 그랜트초등학교처럼 숙제를 모조리 없애버리는 초등학교도 늘었다.

미국 공교육 당국의 이 같은 움직임은 방과 후 숙제부담이 크다는 학부모들의 불만과 함께 아이들이 배움 자체보다 시험준비에 매달린다는 교사들의 우려에 따른 것이다.

플레전턴의 경우 학업 성취도가 높기로 유명한 베이에어리어 구역에서는 중학생 들이 하루 4시간이나 과제물에 매달린다는 학부모들의 민원이 속출하고 있는 실정이 다.

하지만 무턱대고 과제와 프로젝트를 줄이거나 없애면 학업 부진 학생이 더 늘어 날 것이라는 반론도 만만치 않다.

갤러웨이와 플레전턴빌 교육당국은 '숙제 규제'에 대한 여론수렴을 거쳐 시행 여부를 확정할 계획이다.

(연합뉴스)

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