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Dublin Students Struggle with Too Much Homework and Too Little Sleep

September 27, 2015

DUBLIN, CA — We recently received the following letter from a Dublin parent which was sent to the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees regarding the homework policy and longer school day. Is this your child’s experience?

To:  Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees,

I have a child who currently attends Dublin High School and is a sophomore. I myself have a background in Education. I am writing to you because I have been increasingly concerned with the time-consuming amounts of homework that the children at Dublin High School (as well as the middle and elementary schools) receive, and the impact on the ability for students to have a full night’s sleep.

We were all hopeful that the extra “Gael Period” would alleviate the amount of homework, however we have found it has only made the situation worse. In addition to having to stay at school longer each day, teachers are piling on even more homework because classroom periods have been shortened and teachers seem to believe the misconception that the students will get all of this extra homework completed during the Gael Period. We have also found that teachers themselves are not following the District’s current homework policy which calls for less homework.

After reading several articles on the importance of sleep it caused me to ponder, “Why has the Dublin Unified School District continued to push our students to the brink of over-scheduling, over-testing, and the relentless pressure to achieve”? It’s not worth it! What is worth it is well-balanced, happy, contented students that have time for extracurricular activities, family, church, sports and time to just be kids! We don’t need our students to disengage, have stress-related illness like burnout, anxiety, depression, and unfortunately even suicide.

Dublin High School has consistently tried to raise the bar and keep up with surrounding schools. If this is the case, then we need to heed the words of wisdom from other schools that have already implemented changes (as noted in the documentary Race to Nowhere) before the problem becomes worse and we start losing our kids to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide as escapes from the stress that has been created by homework overload and a lack of sleep.

I am asking that you place this item on your next agenda and begin the change now… not next year, not two years later, but NOW while we still have the opportunity to see the positive effects of something as simple as this. Please, I urge you to give these kids back their lives before something drastic happens to them. Let’s reduce the amount of homework, let them sleep an extra hour, and let them be kids again!  I’m certain the results you see will be life changing for every family in the City of Dublin. I’m suggesting that Dublin be the leader in change and let others follow us!

Sincerely,

Dana Ogden, Dublin Parent

14 Comments
  1. September 27, 2015 2:57 pm

    Your cannot assume from your situation that this is the norm for all students and that Gael period isn’t working or that all teachers are piling on extra homework. The exact opposite is happening with my sophomore at DHS. His teachers this year all stated that unless it is a project or studying for an exam test , the majority of homework will be whatever work was not completed in class. I don’t believe all teachers follow the same rule and feel very fortunate that his teachers this year do so. My son also utilizes his time during Gael period to complete work. I do not know the specifics of your daughters situation but it does not apply to all students.

    Here are my observations. A lot of the students who I see/know are struggling, are taking multiple (2-3) AP courses. AP courses are college courses and come with college workload. You cannot expect to take college courses in high school and have minimal homework. I agree there is a push to succeed and but I think the district/counselors need to better inform families and students of the workload for AP courses. This is High School. Not all students are ready to be in college and should not be pushed to take them if they are not ready. But as a parents, most of us know what type of courses our children are capable of handling. Course selections should be made with your student after discussing all areas of needs, wants, abilities and future placement beyond high school.

    Again every student situation is different. There are 2,300 plus students at Dublin High. I’m sure there are many different opinions and stories. Having a discussion on the agenda is definitely a first step for any concerns.

    • Dana Ogden permalink
      September 28, 2015 10:49 pm

      Hi Sandra,

      Thank you for your comments and for allowing me clarify some information that was not published in my original letter. While trying to be brief I realize I didn’t include some information that will be helpful to this discussion.

      Our daughter is not taking AP classes. Also, we are not “high achiever type parents” that over enroll our children or push them to do more. She is a bright and capable child that loves school but also enjoys sports, church, and free time. We are seeking a balance here.

      During her first year at DHS she had unreasonable amounts of homework and we found her having to stay up all hours of the night to finish it most nights of the week, just like she is doing again this year. In turn we were also staying up with her too as most of the parents do for their children. I consulted with other parents and they all cited similar problems so I knew our issue was not isolated to our own child. I was hopeful that the Gael Period would alleviate the amount of homework as well as allow her more sleep, but so far this has not been the case.

      While she was involved in (and loved) sports, it only compounded the problem so this year she has opted out of participating in one of her favorite sports which means she now is giving up on not only the physical exercise but the mental break this provided her with as well.

      We attend church at Cornerstone in Livermore. A recent sermon was about building character and leaving a legacy (http://cornerstoneweb.org/sermons/legacy/). The pastor challenged us when he said, “But in the middle of all of this homework we need to imagine the end, because it’s our responsibility to prepare our kids for the end. Instead of asking ourselves what we want them to “be when they grow up” the deeper question to ask ourselves is “who do I want them to become”. This reminds us that along with skill development comes character development. All of our kids must excel in character! Character shines when the world gets dark for our kids. While we still value getting the homework done we need to do it in equal participation of joining a life group, attending church or whatever other events will help build character in our kids.”

      I think at the end of the day, we all need to ask the students and they will tell you honestly their assessment of the balance of their homework/sports/free time/sleep/etc. You son’s situation (based upon my research) is an exception to the rule. I’m glad this has worked out so well for you and your son, however I wish my daughter’s situation and the other students that I’ve heard from were in your shoes, unfortunately this is not happening.

      Would it be too much to ask the teachers to implement the homework policy? Would it be too much to ask to have the Gael Period eliminated and allow school to start an hour later instead? Or will this be a case of, “the School Board can’t or they will choose not to”??

  2. Kimberly powers permalink
    September 27, 2015 3:10 pm

    I currently have a child at Freedom High in the Brentwood Unified School District and my child does on average With no exaggeration 40 plus hours of homework each week. She averages 7 hrs a night plus 12 hrs on sunday. It is crazy and when you have working commuting parents and that child has to be up by 5:45 am it does not leave a whole lot of time for sleep. She almost never hits bed before midnight on a good night. I agree too much

  3. September 27, 2015 4:13 pm

    Suggestion: how about we modify the Gael period so it is not mandatory unless you are in poor academic standing and for the others who want or need it, make it available. Some kids will need it and it can work like the Red Stamps for A.P. at Wells, but for others it is punitive, not productive, and they can’t join electives like band because they don’t have enough time. We’ve yet to see a correlation between the Gael Period and AP classes/college readiness.

  4. Paul D. Everts permalink
    September 27, 2015 5:17 pm

    As a Dublin High School teacher, I will take a risk and reply / express an opinion/thought…

    How do we judge any change so quickly? Where is this “quick-judgment” coming from? We have had this “Six-period-day-plus-study-hall (GAEL Period)” for just over thirty school days. I am neither an opponent or proponent of this new schedule. Why? BECAUSE IT IS TOO SOON TO TELL. However, I am a STRONG proponent of Ms. Knapp’s idea of making “GAEL PERIOD” optional.

    I would ask all of us (INCLUDING ME) to give this change a chance to succeed. We are learning. I am seeing students come into the band/choir room practicing their instrument during their “GAEL PERIOD.” I am also hearing that the students are “doing nothing” during their “GAEL PERIOD.” Interesting choice to “do nothing,” but I think that (doing nothing) is an exaggeration. The students are getting a great opportunity to learn how to manage themselves during this “GAEL PERIOD.” We (teachers / adults) need to encourage the students to be “active” during their “GAEL PERIOD.” Ask your child, “Show me what you did during your “GAEL PERIOD” today? And my heavens, if it is “nothing,” I would hope the parent would encourage a change. This “doing nothing” is MISUSE of the time, but again how often are the parents and children discussing the day when, after-all, they are going to that activity or that sport?

    I agree with Ms. Ogden that four minutes less per period is making an impact and yet, we are learning how to work with this schedule. The twenty minutes less per class period per week is an issue. Yet, with an entire class period “dedicated” to doing homework, maybe this “loss” time can be utilized through the “GAEL PERIOD.” We are learning.

    I agree with Ms. Ogden that many adults (including the parents) are asking too much from the children…(always interesting when fingers are pointed at teachers and not at parents when it comes to “too much is asked from the children”) many children are are over-scheduled. I would ask that all of us (adults) look at our children’s schedules: Why are they taking five A.P.s? Why are they playing two sports simultaneously (A DHS SPORT & an off-campus sport)? Why are they playing sports year round? To place the blame of loss of sleep / increased stress leading to becoming depressed or an addict — solely on the reason: “teachers are giving too much homework,” seems to be short-sighted.

    For all of our sake, we definitely need to pay attention to our children. Thank you Ms. Ogden for sharing your concerns.

    • DHS Student permalink
      September 28, 2015 10:15 pm

      Mr. Everts,
      Parents may be asking too much from us, but as a person going into Engineering, let me tell you, this school (and the American education system in general) is lacking. Therefore, to even think about getting an engineering job that allows you not to worry about retirement or going into debt REQUIRES COLLEGE in which case it REQUIRES AP classes and extra curricular.

      In addition, students are required to do Band, PE classes, after school sports, or another type of after school activity that may not even be relevant to say engineering or medical. Why do we require sports/PE? Why Band? How about useful classes that may be relevant to the student?

      The admin here at the school is incredibly backwards. Some teachers are good, but even the counselors messed up a lot of people’s schedules this year. They were incompetent and cancelled AP Computer Science and provide nearly 0 funding towards the Robotics Club and the Engineering Academy.

      How about building a second high school? Afraid DHS would be labeled “a horrible school” because you know and everyone knows an East Dublin school would be an academically better performing school? Why is it that every other district in the East bay has more than one high school? why is it that DVHS is better performing? Why is our tech department so horrible that Les had to leave in order for anything to get done?

      These are all questions that MUST be addressed, and hopefully by someone more competent than those sitting on our District Board.

      DHS Student

  5. Lea Schuler permalink
    September 27, 2015 5:38 pm

    I agree with this letter. Sandra, you are right that this may not be the fact for every student and sometimes it depends on the year your student is in, but I hear many more experiences like Dana’s than in your case. You and your student should feel grateful you are in the situation that you are. I have had three students graduate from DHS and one currently a sophomore. I have two more that will attend DHS so I have a vested interest in making the school the best it can be without it being detrimental to our children. I have also seen a lot of positive things occur at the school and not so positive which I wish would be addressed. The main complaint I hear frequently from parents is how late the students are staying up to finish homework. Some of it being a complete waste of time, IMHO. (Word searches in high school, come on!) These kids are killing themselves with all the AP classes and regular classes that require a lot of homework. My son leaves the house at 6 :30am and doesn’t return until almost 4. He is exhausted and still has hours worth of homework (And he is not taking AP classes), extracurricular activities, that the school encourages them to participate in and we haven’t even started school sports. Somehow we are suppose to squeeze in family time and church. More parents need to speak up to have this addressed if you feel the same way. The school district has a homework policy which I have yet to see enforced. I have previous children that were regularly up until midnight.There needs to be a happy medium for the students. Many are exhausted and stressed causing detrimental effects to their emotional and physical health.

    I have heard and I have mixed feelings on the Gael period. For us it is partially working. My son utilizes the time which does help but the problems he runs into is the noise level is too high to fully concentrate. The HUB staff is aware of it and trying to make changes. He has also had difficulty finding a tutor (teacher) that can help him with his level of math when he runs intoto a problem. If this is the purpose of the Gael period than we need to address some of these concerns. One positive thing I have heard that is occurring in his math class but not in others is homework is to watch a video to learn the next days assignment. In class you do what normally would be homework where the teacher is there to help and make sure you understand as you go. If she senses the majority are having difficulty then she can spend more time explaining. What work isn’t finished in class is then finished at home. I think this is a great concept and wished it was used in more classes. I was told this is only for upper level math but this concept could be great for other levels as well reducing a lot of homework.

    I feel this should be a discussion item. I hope the board of trustees will really listen to the parents and students that are living this with the intent to make things better.

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