School Committee Debates Student Homework Loads

School Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.

The Haverhill School Committee Thursday broke into a debate over student homework loads.

A review of a revised program of studies at the high school kicked off the discussion.

In a presentation to the committee, Haverhill High Principal Beth Kitsos outlined planned changes in the course of studies during the 2015-2016 school year. Among them, freshman algebra would be supplemented by additional “foundations” course work; a senior project requirement for graduation under the technology-oriented “E-bit” academy; and bringing the math and science “stem” academy in line with industry trends to meet student needs and interests.

Committee member Shaun Toohey raised questions about homework loads between the various academies, “classical” and “advanced placement” studies, for example.

“As we know, these kids are very young and want to have a life and enjoy their high school years. I want to make sure that we not deterring the kinds, sending them in the wrong direction, to leave the academy or any of the academies, because it’s—I hate to say the word—too rigorous and done unnecessarily,” Toohey said.

Kitsos explained they are making sure the academies have similar levels of rigor and homework.

“I think the point is we want to make sure all of our courses are challenging and rigorous. And that the expectations, even in our college prep, because one of the things I noticed when I got to the high school I would have parents telling me, ‘my child in college prep doesn’t get the homework and the teachers say they can’t do it,’ well that’s something we have moved away from over the last five years. All of our students need to be challenged academically, the curriculum needs to be rigorous, whatever it is,” Kitsos said.

According to school officials, the high school plan is part of a “bigger vision of the district.”

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