Education

The Homework Crunch, Problems of Language, and Poisoned Coffee

By Anthony Rebora — December 16, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It used to be that kids just complained about having too much homework. In these hypercompetitive times, though, it seems they’re reduced to begging for more time in the day to get all of it done. That’s the situation in Norton, Massachusetts, where three 7th grade girls are petitioning their school to restore two weekly study halls it eliminated to meet new state class-time requirements. The girls’ plight has become a focal point in the ongoing debate about homework quantity, with many parents and educators charging that test-score-obsessed schools are trying cram too much into kids’ heads—and backpacks. “The standards have been raised, and it can’t all be covered in the school day,” said Diana Potter, a Norton parent. “But it’s hard on kids who are already overscheduled.” Others, however, retort that if kids don’t have enough time in the day, it’s because they are overburdened by sundry extracurricular and enrichment activities, not homework.

Texas education officials probably should have done a little more homework before adopting a policy backed by Republican Governor Rick Perry to let school districts automatically certify college graduates as teachers. A year and half after the controversial initiative went into effect, the instant-certification measure has resulted in a total of one new teacher—and, having been hired by a charter school, he or she isn’t even technically required to be certified. Some 1,640 people have applied but most—indeed, all except that one—have failed to attain certification because they haven’t received a job offer from a district or haven’t met other requirements, including passing a teacher competency exam. While Governor Perry’s office still believes the program has promise, critics say it places too great a burden on school districts, which have to provide training and mentoring. “Apparently, most school districts don’t want to be responsible for instantly certifying folks as teachers,” said Richard Kouri of the Texas State Teachers Association, in what could be a late-entry candidate for Understatement of the Year.

A high school principal in Kansas City appears to have taken on a little too much responsibility when she suspended a student for speaking Spanish in a hallway. The school district subsequently revoked the suspension and acknowledged that it doesn’t actually have a policy against speaking a foreign language on school grounds. Regardless, the incident—apparently initiated when 16-year-old Zach Rubio, a junior at Endeavor Alternative School, uttered the words “No problema” in response to a classmate’s request—has become a flashpoint in the controversy over bilingual education and related immigration issues. Some advocates suggest that the actions of Endeavor principal Jennifer Watts reflect a broader anxiety about the growing Latino population in schools, even as they question why exactly multilingualism should be discouraged. “A fully bilingual young man like Zach Rubio should be considered an asset to the community,” said Janet Murguia, national president of the National Council of La Raza.

Language of an altogether different sort is being targeted in Hartford, Connecticut, schools. Unable to stanch with ordinary measures the rampant flow of expletives from kids’ mouths, school officials have authorized police officers stationed at two city high schools to give tickets to students who curse. Thus far, some 60 tickets have been issued—with the fine set at the not-exactly-negligible amount of $103—and there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest the strategy has had a positive effect on student behavior. At the same time, critics charge that the fine is too steep, particularly for low-income students, and that the approach is ill-conceived. “Throwing a $103 fine at people who can’t afford it—is that going to going to solve the problem or make it worse?” asked Paul Stringer, principal of Weaver High School in Hartford, which has declined to participate in the ticketing program.

Certain curse words might come to mind at the news that a 4th grade girl at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Philadelphia has been arrested for allegedly attempting to poison her teacher. The 10-year-old reportedly spiked the teacher’s coffee cup with a toxic (though quite feminine) concoction of fingernail polish, nail polish remover, and hand lotion. Fortunately, the teacher, whose name has not been released, did not drink from the cup; she learned about the alleged incident from the parent of another student at a later school event. The student faces a range of criminal charges and possible expulsion from the school. “It appears she did not like her teacher,” commented Philadelphia Police Department spokesman Inspector William Colarulo, another front-runner for Understatement of the Year.

Sources for all articles are available through links. Teacher Magazine does not take credit or responsibility for reporting in linked stories. Access to some may require registration or fee.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Student Achievement Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)