Grace Hess-Quimbita: Momlogic recently had a chance to catch up with film director Vicki Abeles shortly after a busy Chicago opening and Washington, D.C., interview. She is the director of the new documentary "Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture," which parents, educators and policymakers all around the world have been watching. Here's what she had to say about her movie.
momlogic: What is the main message you are trying to convey to viewers with your documentary?
That our high-stakes, high-pressure culture has invaded our kids' lives and schools, and we can't wait for institutions and policies to change to make the changes our kids need today. We are about empowering individuals and communities to come together and create change.
ml: The movie focuses on many causes of stress in schools. I watched the movie four times, and the three that keep popping into my mind are too much homework, an overemphasis on grades and an overemphasis on tests. The film advises parents to speak up about homework. What specific tips can you share?
VA: I would recommend to parents not to allow homework to take over their evenings; not to do the homework for the kids and not to hire tutors. [That] way, the teachers will get an idea of what has been mastered and what our children are developmentally capable of handling independently. [It will] also allow our children to feel a sense of ownership and independence over their schoolwork. I think that we can all look into the research around homework and become advocates of adopting policies and practices supported by the research. Research says that in elementary school, there should be no homework; in middle school after an hour of homework, we see detrimental effects .... At the high school level, there should be no more than two hours, or we begin to see unintended effects, such as cheating. Also, parents should make getting the required amount of sleep a priority. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between sleep and academic performance.
ml: Would you say you are a proponent of no homework across the board?
VA: I am an advocate for the right amount of homework at the right time. But also for the wise use of time outside and inside school ... for the opportunity for other experiences from which our children learn.
Check out the rest of the interview tomorrow.