Photo by Ryan Weiner.
From Aug. 30 to June 15, students at WCHS labor at school. They go to school bright and early. They do classwork that often serves little purpose other than to keep students busy. They go home. They do homework, some days past midnight. Then, they go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again.
The only liberty students have from this toxic cycle is the two months of summer. They can spend time outside with friends, earn some money and/or experience at a job or internship, or tour colleges. How could school systems possibly think it is a good idea to insert themselves into this luxury with unhelpful summer assignments?
There are many problems with summer homework, with the one surfacing most recently being the mental health and stress issues it can cause. School gives a lot of students stress, and they need the summer to relieve it and give their brains a break before the next school year. However, when they are bogged down with summer assignments students are vulnerable to falling into, as Stanford senior lecturer Denise Pope called it in an interview with greatschools.org, an “academic black hole”.
Another issue with summer schoolwork is the equity aspect. While kids with easy access to supplies can find getting the work done easy as they have everything they need at home, less fortunate communities do not have the same luxury as materials like pencils, pens, highlighters etc. are not items they just have lying around the house.
Additionally, the discipline that is required to complete the busy work is not something kids in middle or high school should be expected to have at such a young age, and so the responsibility often falls on parents to nag them about getting work done. Unfortunately, this causes problems for kids who have parents working all day and furthers the inequality of summer schoolwork.
One lesser-discussed inequality that summer schoolwork has is for kids who move to a new school system over the summer. Often, kids who move are completely unaware of the work assigned months ago and are hit with a nasty wake-up call on their first day of school.
“Even if everyone did the work, what about the kid that moves in during the summer and doesn’t know about the assignment. How is that fair?” Tammy Turlington Neil, a teacher, said in an interview with Education Weekly.
Starting multiple assignments behind in the first week at a new school can be extremely stressful and detrimental to a student socially, as they will have to focus more on making up the months of summer work and less on building new friendships or participating in extracurricular activities.
Especially for high school juniors and seniors, summer is a time to relax before they get hit with the heavy work load of the school year. Touring colleges, filling out college applications or working on other things beneficial to their future are lightyears more important to juniors and seniors than a summer math packet that will likely be about content they’ve already learned.
While the concept of summer work is extremely important in order to keep students’ brains strong, there are better ways for schools to promote the practice so that students can feel stress free while still having the prerequisite knowledge to succeed in the fall.
For example, by making summer school work optional, it allows students to have the option to keep their brains working during the summer without the pressure to do so. Schools can also provide students with a list of topics or recommended books to read so that they have a better understanding of what they might need to know before they take the class.
Regardless, it is necessary for school systems to revisit their summer work policies in order to best fit the needs of the school community.