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on Mar 2, 2013
Complaining about kids getting together to work on projects outside of school?! really? Kids lives are so booked that they have no time to ollaborate with other classmates? Perhaps their parents need to reassess how over programmed their kids are. This sort of team effort is the model for how you succeed in college and the workplace. Why on earth would we want to eliminate it?
This has caused so many problems in our home for my older kids. My kids have had problems because sports kids can't get together until past 9.00 pm and my kids are just too tired to go out that late - particularly when it involves me driving them across town. I have had to take my young kids with me at 10.30 pm to pick up after a group project when I was the only parent at home.
Please do not bring group projects back unless there is time in the school day to do them.
Suppose you have one student with an after school events say Monday and Wednesday, another student who is busy Tuesday and Friday, another with events Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday... And the last student works after school. Oh, and one of them is going away for the weekend with the family.... someone has to miss out ... who is it going to be? Expensive piano lesson? Church group? Team practice? Family? It's not about overscheduled kids. It's the every day reality of many families here who struggle to eat dinner together as a family.
In the workplace, group projects take place at work. In school, group projects should take place at school. Pretty simple.
In college students typically live on campus and can walk to get together, they don't need parents to drive them. In college, students have class 3-4 hours a day, in high school it is 7. In college most outside activities take place on campus, in high school most activities are somewhere else. In college, you are no longer building your resume for college (the primary purpose of high school), you ARE in college. In college you only have your schedule to coordinate, in high school you are part of a whole family of schedules and activities.
The other benefit to projects taking place at school is that the kids actually do the work, not the parents. There are several physics projects that used to happen at Paly that in some cases, the parents did most of the work. The kids then kept the projects for their siblings or friends (with a little paint and/or a different teacher, you can use the same project) some of them were sold to other kids.
This absurdity of the coopertive learning model has now come home to roost. PAUSD has drunk the kool aid of cooperative learning propaganda, instead of individual learing. It is a complete disaster.
Get rid of it.
> In the workplace, group projects take place at work.
Yes .. but the group participants are employees, the projects are necessary for the companies' profitability, and the participants work on company time to work on, and complete these group efforts.
> In school, group projects should take place at school.
In the school space, on the other hand, the participants are not paid, they frequently are not provided clear goals, or funds for supplies, or work spaces, needed to complete these projects. These projects are not necessarily designed to be finished within the timeframe of the class where the project is assigned.
More often than not, these projects can be less valuable than it might seem from the outside looking in.
PAUSD is always interesting to watch (especially as a MVWSD Trustee). My experience as a parent is the same as the parents writing here. Aaron I think is mistaken. Group work is very useful to mirror the type of work environments after high school. Most of the time can be scheduled at school, not home.
As a teacher, I also found it useful to grade partially on group self-assessment (peer grading). Group gets a B (but students X Y did much more work at home) - X Y get the A, the slackers can get a C. Amazing how the C grades are acceptable to those who didn't contribute much!
PA, thanks for modeling a constituent-responsive system.
Group projects should be completely banned since high school grades determine college selection. A student who strives for the highest grades should not be held back by a slacker student or by someone who disagrees with project ideas. Sure, in theory, it's ideal that students would "learn to work with others" but in reality, it does more harm than good.
Our projects were often delayed due to waiting around for other students to find the time to meet. The Tinsley students who are bused to Jordan could never stay after school or meet after school due to the bus schedule and not having transportation after school or on weekends. Therefore, other students in the group were left holding the bag.
Times have evolved and we are no longer in Kansas. Everyone is busier than we were in the 70s and 80s where we just hung out after school with little homework (and certainly no tutoring), most women were stay-at-home moms, and it didn't take much to be selected to be on the school sports team.
Thank you parents who are courageously pushing back on the group projects.
Group projects have no purpose as homework, and have greater value in the classroom. It's nutty to compare it to the real world.
The real world is you have to be smart about the use of your time.
For those who are worried about these kids getting the opportunity to work together, they are doing hundreds of hours in community service, team sports, theater, student government, clubs, debate, choir, even the kids who just hanging out smoking pot are doing group stuff. No need to worry about their group skills.
Working in groups is one of the best lessons to learn and it is commendable that the skills and training in group projects is addressed early in school now. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Group projects are important in engineering, medicine and law. If you haven't learned how to function in group projects BEFORE college working in these groups is foreign. Some I know have nearly lost law careers and some have in fact lost medical education, at college level because of lack of group project skills.
A Gym class does not replace group project skills, take the advice from someone who knows first hand.
I mentioned already the fact that it is very difficult scheduling group projects for students who are involved in completely different activities after school. This is particularly true in families where the high school student has younger siblings which have to be taken into account.
I echo that it is more than just scheduling. I know that parents have been doing some of these projects (physics) rather than students, that good projects are not only passed around but also sold to the following year students.
In an ideal world, yes I agree projects are useful. However, many of these group projects have taught more carpentry, and budgeting rather than physics and have not benefited the group as a whole. Yes, our kids are learning from being on sports teams, school leadership, and some of their outside school activities. It would be nice if they had some time in their lives to be kids too.
no one is suggesting banning group projects, we would just like the group work to take place durung class.
Group projects are very important to students' success in the future. Not only is it a useful skill to figure out how to work with a team, and how to make time and schedule a meeting outside of class, but participants learn valuable lessons about how to successfully complete a project when one or more group members do not come through, just as in real life. I've seen students find creative ways to include an over scheduled team member, and also learn how to succeed even though some people will not do their part. Yes, it is challenging for the parents, just as supporting your child in anything is often a challenge. I hope the teachers continue to give assignments according to what they see fit and don't knuckle under to parents who would take over their role. No, not all teachers are doing the right things, but group assignments that might include some outside time, have too much potential benefit to be banned altogether.
I did my own studying and projects, throughout k-12 and college. I did very well, coming from a very poor environment. When I went to work in the corporate environment, I had no trouble joining teams, when that was necessary. However, these teams were the final nexus to resolve issues. Good ideas initially come from individuals, not committees. A camel is a horse designed by committee.
Cooperative educational models are a disaster. They just drag down the top students, and fail to make lower level achievers to achieve. In the end, this just makes for fewer American jobs, because we have an unrealistic view of international competition, where we face individual excellence. We need top level individuals to lead corporations and insitutions. We do not need 'outcomes based' low level academic achievers to form mediocre entities (mostly in the government system).
No time for group projects at school?? No time for group projects at home!! Other homework has to be done at home, after after school activities. Until kids are old enough to drive themselves, group projects should not be assigned.
There are also problems when teachers assign group projects and one or two of the kids have parents who do not want their kid interacting or socializing or being near one or more of the other kids in the group. This often happens in the case of certain racial groups who do not wish their kids to associate with certain other racial groups, or any other racial groups. How do you get around THAT?? It is often cultural, and the school says they respect that culture, but it seems to be only lip service.
There is one other problem with group projects, and that is certain parents who REFUSE to drive their kids or allow their kids to drive themselves to other kids' homes.
An offshoot of this is certain mothers who never learned to drive and simply cannot transport their kids. The fathers return home much too late.
There seem to be four arguments against group assignments:
First, students on sports teams have practice from 3-9 p.m. every night. And weekends. Thus, no student on a sports team can work on group projects (or have friends) because high school students generally have a 9 p.m. bedtime. Therefore group projects are bad.
Second, high school students need to have their activities scheduled by their families. Furthermore, high school students do not know how to ride bikes, or walk, or drive. The burden of scheduling and transporting these witless incompetents is too much for any parent. Group products add to this already unreasonable burden. Therefore group projects are bad.
Third, education is a zero sum competition. Teamwork at school is evil because when one student cooperates with another student the parasites win. Group projects require teamwork. Therefore group projects are bad.
Fourth, group projects are bad because parents want to raise their children in a racially segregated environment. We should enable this legitimate child-rearing choice. Group project might require race-mixing. Therefore group projects are bad.
I agree. Group projects are very bad because stress! socialism! miscegenation!
Maybe if the group project was in 5th grade or below, I could see some real teamwork, but with teenagers? with half of their frontal lobes absent? Reality is that parents step in with their frontal lobes.
When parents step in, in Palo Alto, it's no longer "group" project.
The district knows this, and like any game, if there are group projects, there will have to be rules appropriate for this community. It's not like these are scrapbooking projects, they are stuff like Physics, and you should know how intense people get about their Physics around here.
One rule I would suggest, an A for anyone who completes the project. That puts it back to the learning.
What is this? In the workplace, there is no homework, just projects, and you have to schedule everything around each other. In college, there is homework, but there are projects, which are more valuable than the homework.
The causes of most if not all the stress due to group projects are:
1. Starting close to the deadline. There is a reason the teacher assigns it a month in advance--because it takes that long and cannot be done in one night, or even a week
2. Students want quick answers. After 3yrs of being a TA at PALY, I have seen all kinds of use of BOB (Back of the book, where the answers as listed, so you can "check" your answers). Sorry, but there is no BOB for projects. Students need to learn the problem solving skills associated with project management, something you cannot learn from a textbook. Please, parents, do not do the work for the child. Let them use the drill. There are preschoolers who use saws. Middle and High school students can definitely use power tools (of course with proper training and supervision)
The key is being efficient. Find a task for everyone, even if it is just gluing these pieces of wood together. I even teamed up with another group for a project so we could be more efficient with each task.
Bottom line: Projects provide invaluable experience that is worth the cost of time and the burden of getting everything together, because that is what happens in the real world. People don't solve textbook problems all day.
Also Facebook, Myspace, Mybook, Facespace whatever they are. I don't use them because they are a huge timesuck. I don't have time for this usually means that I have misallocated my time because I find the internet more interesting. Just another skill that teenagers must learn while developing their Prefrontal cortex.
My child is supposed to present their project in school tomorrow. She has tried over the course of two weeks to meet with her partner and each time, the gal jokes around while my child tries to keep her on course. Tonight, they ended their chat with her partner saying she would finish her end in the morning. They have not even practiced together. Is this undue stress worth it? What is a child to do? In the work force, a person has to answer to a boss. Why is it okay that this child's irresponsibility will affect the grade of my hard-working child? Fortunately, it's only middle school grades but it's been more frustration and wasted time than necessary. The only thing my child has learned is to rely on herself.
Some of the comments here are obviously not made by the parents of high schoolers.
Yes there are some valid criticisms, but our high schoolers are not adults yet, they are not college students yet, they live in families where the needs of the whole family have to be taken into account and they need their sleep.
My kids ride their bikes, do their homework, have outside school activities and are growing up into independent thinking individuals. As part of a family, they learn to work as a team, they have chores and help each other with homework, chores and life. I have seen them coordinate their lives by trading chores (I'll do yours tonight if you do mine tomorrow because I am busy), bribing younger siblings to do busy homework (coloring done by younger siblings in return for candy)and acts of kindness.
I still see no value to group projects where scheduling, buying and selling of projects, parents doing 90% of the work and epic failures which are graded low when the amount of learning is in actual fact extremely high. In the real world, projects do fail, deadlines do have to be extended, and personality clashes do cause major problems to working cooperatively. All the advantages of group projects can be achieved in activities that are not assigned by a teacher.
Please, please, please do not bring back group high school projects. As a parent, it is my sanity that is at stake.
Paly alum -
You are correct the workplace evolves around projects, but they happen during working hours at the workplace. The should also be true for school group projects, they should take place at the workplace, school, during "working" hours, class.
You are also correct that "Middle and High school students can definitely use power tools (of course with proper training and supervision)" The key there is that they need supervision and tools. Parents should not be supervising school projects, teachers should. Parents should not be supplying the tools, if the school assigns a project that requires power tools, they should provide them. If families don't have access to power tools, should they be required to purchase them? Schoolwork should not REQUIRE an adult in order to be completed. Not all students and families have the time or resources for some of the elaborate projects required in PAUSD. Another thread brought up the State law which prohibits requiring students to provide their own supplies. Wonder how that fits in?
Some group projects can be split up - such as a presentation where each student researches a part and they present together, those make sense.
It is certainly a lot more work for the teacher to have the projects happen at school, but they are the teachers. Learning can just as easily take place in the classroom, as it should.
As an example, Jordan used to have the 7th grade students build a model of a cell at home, these were set up in the auditorium, all the students came to see them, they were awards and the models were really creative (you could also tell the ones that were probably done by parents.) A few years ago, they started building the models in class, as a group, with materials donated by parents. Guess what, the unnecessary cost and parent involvement went away and the same learning occurred, probably more since the kids did all the work and had fun doing it!
I'm sure this was more work for the Science teachers and required them to adjust their curriculum a bit to provide the time in class for the project.
After school projects develop all kinds of real world teamwork and communication skills --- and help students make intellectual pursuits and a natural part of their life.
After school projects also discourage a lot of negative social behavior --- cliques, sitting at Peet's for hours after school, smoking dope behind Trader Joe's, etc.
Group projects were a valuable part of my high school education at Gunn, it acclimated us to the studying and project atmosphere that exists at competitive colleges. This was only 5 years ago. I played two varsity sports, studied for the SAT's, applied to 18 colleges, went to church every Sunday, had an active social life, sat down to dinner with my parents and sister every night and had no problem with group projects.
The notion that it puts a burden on parents is RIDICULOUS. My parents never drove me to school, drove me to projects, or anywhere, have these parents never heard of riding a bicycle or taking the bus? I went to a great college and now have a great job in the area, without my parents pushing me in a stroller until I was 18. Give your kids some independence and responsibility, the town is going crazy.
Matt (and others) a lot of these comments are aimed at a couple specific science projects at Paly that required students to build pretty elaborate structure and bring them to school. They often costs a lot of money, required power tools, wood, wire, light switches, soldering irons, etc. There were families that did not go on family trips over Winter Break because that was the only time that students could meet for the project. Families with several students estimated that it took 30-40 hours for the project and most of the learning was construction related, not science. Not all kids can ride bikes. And not many parents want their kids on the public bus at 13.
Many group projects, at least at Paly, were 5% learning about the subject, 5% learning about coordinating your time and working with others and 90% about the "project" part, the building, videotaping, etc.
Paly Parent posted: "Not all kids can ride bikes. And not many parents want their kids on the public bus at 13."
Not all kids can ride bikes? This PAUSD report states that only 1-2% of students are impaired to the extent that they can't perform basic physical activities. Web Link
Palo Alto is a small town, 98% of kids can ride their bike to school, I did. And I think you are absolutely wrong that many parents don't want their kids on the public bus at 14. Students all over the country take the bus to and from school. Your kids can take care of themselves, all this hand-holding by parents can only do harm to kids' sense of independence and self-motivation, and they will have no idea what to do when they get to college.
These parents are trying to dumb down the curriculum to accommodate their schedule. They could improve their situation by simply giving their kids more independence. the most successful students in my class were self-starters, and not dependent on their parents.
What my children have learned from group projects is that most of the team doesn't do much work. So scheduling is not an issue because it really doesn't matter if the slackers don't show up. Usually, one or two students do all the work, just as in real life.
As a parent of two Paly grads I can say that your kids can get it done. Even if they are on a team or in the band or xyz.
Let your kids figure it out on their own and stop micro managing! If they have scheduling conflicts, they will adapt and make it work. That may mean that your child will have to make a trade off ... Miss part of a practice, miss a dinner, re-arrange a work schedule, etc. We all do this in our adult lives.
If I let my children make all the priority calls in order to do a group project, then they would have been dropped BY those music teachers and teams, would not have been confirmed with the rest of their class, etc. AND my children would only eat cake and ice cream, too, if I let them decide what should have priority.
Believe it or not, my kids have already made priority calls about their activities which includes honoring the very long term commitments they have already. Perhaps we set them up for this by exposing them to these different opportunities when they were young (what were we thinking?!). Now that they have achieved proficiency, they are motivated on their own to continue in order to excel.... because these very activities actually help them to deal with the stress imposed by school. Given that we parents are the ones paying the bills, we should have a say in making those priority calls.
This is not micro managing so much as helping kids figure out how to navigate the impossible and constantly changing obstacle course of moving targets called "doing school." It's bad enough dealing with even one teacher who seems to hate kids (why did they become teachers in the first place)... add to that the perceived punishment of a group project (impossible to get a good grade especially if you don't read between the lines of the assignment and color your picture... and, no, coloring was not on the rubric... in the same way that the rubric said list 10 items... and your group lists 10, but everyone else lists 12... so, points off for that, too.) and you have kids who think teachers' main goal in life is to trip them up or weed them out before they even have a chance.
How many students survive PAUSD and come back from college feeling that they're not so stupid after all? Every graduate I have ever met.
And I consider my kids lucky. What about families or single parent households who are not so fortunate? A group project raises the whole equity issue.
@Parent, Old Palo Alto: Agree that our calendar is a moving target and it's too difficult for students to schedule themselves. I sigh everytime I have to make an appointment for my children with the Paly calendar being block schedule (love it, but can't memorize it or know when they have Advisory without looking it up), and with the other children's schedules to consider. They will be able to handle it in college or in senior year when they can drive themselves. But right now, with 3 children's schedules, doctors appointments, tutoring appts., club sports in neighboring towns, it's just nuts for our children to even guess when they are free. They are not overscheduled, but the calendar changes frequently due to tournaments or cancellations. Life is just busier and we have to also be sure that our children have down time for themselves.
I don't allow my daughters to ride their bikes or take buses after dark. That leaves them dependent on me or another parent for transportation, which may or may not be doable, depending on what else is going on in the family on a particular evening. Keep group projects at school.
I was shocked to find out how many kids from China and Taiwan cannot ride a bicycle. Apparently once they start school, they do not get outside much for physical activity, and are forced to stay indoors and study.
This surprised me, because my husband, who goes to Hong Kong and other southern provinces of China on business, says that lots of Chinese adults ride bikes or mopeds.
It was so very difficult for my son to participate in group projects unless it was with only one other person. We just couldn't manage it . . . the scheduling was impossible, never mind that there was always at least one person in the group who didn't contribute as much as required . . .
What did my kids learn from group projects? Never delegate and work alone when possible.
@Matt, I hear you. Now think about being a 6th grader at Terman who is working with friends up in Los Altos Hills. Those roads and hills are not impossible for an 11 year old biker but they are challenging and potentially dangerous.
One group project my son had at Gunn in history was to make a diorama of a historical scene, so they got together and cut and paste for a shoebox display. It was silly really. Sometimes group projects in science were very demanding and involved teach yourself. Neither of these types of group projects are good. Group projects should be used sparingly, and at least some of the time to do these should be at school.
There are apps which make the group process possible. Google Docs allows kids to work on a single project w/o necessarily having face time with each other.
Stop the neurotic chatter. About 95% of PA parents are great to work with, but that 5% lunatic fringe, helicopter parent attempts to bully principals, teachers, & other parents.
Get a REAL like!%%$##@@
The same folks who are in favor of these ridiculous assaults on family and child time argue that it's worth it because the poor souls will face this in the work place so they should become adept at it in high school. The same parental mentality has their children primping SAT prep tests in middle school. Baby Mozart types. Are we going to prep kids as embryos. JUST SAY NO!! By the way, Baby Mozart VIdeos have proven to the be the equivalent of ponzi childhood development schemes.
It might end up being more convenient to schedule "regular homework" - but to think that if teachers didn't assign group projects, that your kids would have all sorts of free time is silly. Your kids would instead end up with some sort of solo project that would essentially take the same amount of time...without any help from his/her classmate.
Group projects can be beneficial in a number of ways. It can offer students opportunities to get to know others who might not be in their social set. It forces them to think outside the box. It might even let them out from under the control of their parents for a brief time. I've seen amazing benefits from these projects. Also, most of the teachers who assign them have been more than fair in evaluating each student's contribution, and have demonstrated a lot of skill in putting the groups together. Again, if we let the teachers teach, our students stand to gain so much more than we might have imagined. As my students mature, I'm seeing the long term benefit of what we and they had to invest in group projects and it is exponential.
Everything that has been said about the benefits of working on a group project is true. Just let the kids work on them at school. Especially if one of the benefits is "getting the kids out from under their parents' control".
Maybe they have to take into consideration the time availability of each student when forming the groups. Let the sports students group up with each other, etc. It may not solve every inconvenience but it's worth a try. Shame to eliminate all group projects just because some students have sports or other extracurricular activities. School should be priority and coaches should give some leeway on this.
Some teachers allow students to do projects or alone, which is the best route instead of forcing students to work with incompetent partners. At Jordan, my daughter was friends with a girl but after trying to work with her, she's really lost respect for her. The project was long and drawn-out due to the lack of determination of the other girl. Next time, my daughter will opt out of having a partner. She plays on a team sport and has experienced other activities in groups so she has plenty of group experience. Back in the 70-80s when I grew up, we had no group projects but there are more organized activities for kids these days - they needn't extra stress of group projects in this already challenging school district.
Have parents ever considered that they pile too much on their kids, or allow their kids to pile too much onto themselves? It is so ridiculous how packed the kids' schedules are these days outside of school. Just don't let them!! I have a child in high school and one who already graduated from high school. Neither one of them has ever felt overwhelmed by school work, and they are not unusual geniuses, they are normal students. Parents just allow their kids to do way too much. Step off the treadmill, make your kids step off of it. That's the best gift you'll ever give them. Don't blame the college admission race either. There is no need to pile it on to get into a very good college.
Why is it that my college son gets class time to work on group assignments, but the middle and high school teachers can't seem to manage it?
One more parent - what happens if students play a high school sport? Practice and/or 5-6 days a week. If 2 kids in a group play different sports, that eliminates Monday-Saturday for getting together before say, 9 pm. What if a family is active in their Church on Sundays? With just those 2 activities, it can make scheduling difficult.
When my kids chose to play a sport, we made it clear that they were making a commitment to their teammates. They take that seriously.
I must say that while I at times agree or disagree with the various opinions re: group projects, AP classes, SAT prep classes, etc. I am staunchly against anyone telling us how to raise our children or how we spend our income. I.e. "don't let them do outside activities/school comes first... let them schedule themselves to do projects..., don't let them take too many APs..., tutoring is a cheating way to get ahead...., test prep is the way the rich have an unfair advantage... there's too much global competition...., group projects are the reality of high tech jobs today,...." etc.
I know my children and our family values and my spouse and I will help guide our children to make choices that work best for each one of them. School has my children during the school day. I accept that there is a need to study outside of school to do well in their classes. But deciding what we do with our time outside of the school day is our business to manage. I fiercely object to anyone making that decision for us and group projects to be done outside of school in classes that I cannot choose to avoid are just plain wrong.
Whatever happened to playing as a group activity? The virtue of it is that there is no agenda, nothing hanging over kids heads. That is the time creativity and leadership amongst peers can flourish.
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