Is Madison High School Giving Us too much Summer Homework?

Swarna Gowtham

More stories from Swarna Gowtham


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Is summer homework actually beneficial to future success in the following upcoming year? An article in The Washington Post highlighted a mother’s struggle to get her kids to read. She partially blames this lack of interest due to her kids’ summer reading assignments. According to her reasoning her kids felt guilty for reading anything outside of their assigned books. She didn’t go into much detail after that due to the fact that this article’s purpose was to give other parents’ advice on how to get their kids to tackle school reading (The Washington Post). Nevertheless, what the mother said about her kids’ reluctancy to read for pleasure striked me. This is because I have felt this in the past with summer reading as well. Whenever I read anything for my own pleasure, I felt unproductive and I had an innate feeling that I should be doing my schoolwork instead. This feeling may not be such a bad thing throughout the academic year but what about the summer? Even as high schoolers, should we be getting so much homework over what is supposed to be time for rejuvenation and personal enjoyment? Or is this workload normal for a highschooler and maybe the students at Madison High School complain too much?


To put these questions into perspective MDO interviewed three competitive high school students from three different school districts. I gave each of these students a sample summer hw course load selected from a random Madison High School students.


This sample course load included such:


– Write an Essay with six cited and annotated articles and be familiar with 20 given questions, three of those questions will be given as a quiz on the first day(AP gov)
– Read a whole book, make a picture PowerPoint of book with voiceover audio to explain pictures chosen, take a picture of an animal or several plants that is rare to the local area and then try to identify its species and what natural environment you found it/them. Do write up on book and watch at least 90 mins of Ted talks and write an additional write up to the Ted talks (AP enviro)
– Read Three Memoir- essays, annotate them and write three page long journals to three of the prompts the teacher lists( AP Lang)
– Annotate a professional  psychological academic journal and be prepared to do DBQ on first week of school ( AP Psychology)


First we interviewed a New Providence High School senior, Srivi Vinjamuri.


MDO: So what do you think about this summer course load? Is it reasonable?


No I do not think this is an okay amount of work to do considering no teaching has been done prior. How do they expect students to excel when they’re just throwing work at them? I do understand it is important for students to have some work required over the summer in order to be prepared for the course but it can be done in a manageable amounts. It also helped students reiterate what they learned in the past so they can better apply themselves in the coming year. However the summer is also a period of time where students need to take a break especially for mental health reasons as well as gearing up for the next year. Many students work and participate in a variety of activities over the summer, and it’s important for schools to understand this, in order for the student to benefit holistically.


MDO: How does this workload compare to the summer work at your school?


Vinjamuri: My school gave me a book to read for AP lit and a three hour documentary for AP bio. I had nothing for AP gov or AP Econ. So even with the heavy amount of AP classes I had, my workload for the summer was comparatively light. Madisons’ summer work surprises me.


MDO: Thank you for your input Srivi


Vinjamuri: No problem


Next we spoke to Ariana Tarhanidis, a junior at Chatham High School.


MDO: So what are your feelings on this sample course load from at student at MHS?


Tarhanidis: I mean it’s definitely doable especially since you have the whole summer to do it but it’s still a bit much. I think the summer course work for Madison students is a lot even if they are AP heavy. Obviously it’s something you guys are required to do and have done for years  so it’s not as though you can’t do it; yet still I think it’s a lot of work.


MDO: How does this list compare to the summer work your school has given you?


Tarhanidis: This summer I was required to read 180 pages of a book and then write a minimum of two to four out of five discussion forums which resulted in nine posts total at the minimum. Additionally, I had to read the first chapter of a textbook, study maps from the textbooks efficiently enough to take an assessment on them on the first week of school — this was all for AP World History. I am also taking AP Lit but I wasn’t given any summer homework for that course. The amount of work this sample has is very strange, it’s unheard of at Chatham.


MDO: Thank you Ariana.


Tarhanidis: You’re so welcome.


Finally, we spoke to Shirley Zhu. She is a senior at Livingston High School.


MDO: What do you think of this sample course load and how does it compare to your summer course load?


Zhu: It’s a surprising amount. My high school didn’t give us this much work over the summer. My summer work consisted of four packets on limits, domain, and range, fifteen quizzes on Khan Academy. This was for math. For Environmental Science I had to watch two one-hour long videos and take notes. For Psychology, we had to take notes from four chapters of a textbook and apply specific behavioral terms to TV show characters. That was all.   


MDO: Thank you Shirley.


Zhu: No problem.


After hearing from all three of these students who attend schools with a similar curriculum to ours, it may be time to question our summer assignment practices as a highschool especially since high schools that neighbor us tend to give their students less over the summer .