When Ian Quackenbos moved with his family to the United States from Spain as an elementary school student, one of the first things he noticed was all of the multiple choice tests he had to take.
"They get you to choose from four different ways. They don't let you create your own way of solving a problem," the junior at Hough High School said, adding that he initially struggled within the U.S. school system.
Last week, Quakenbos and his family joined hundreds of other people at a special viewing of "Race to Nowhere," a 2009 documentary that highlights issues in the U.S. education system.
Through interviews with students, parents and educators, the film suggests that too much homework and too many tests are having profound consequences on today's youth, including rampant teenage depression and cheating in schools.
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Hough is the second Charlotte-Mecklenburg school to show the documentary.
U.S. history teacher Jeff Joyce said he was inspired to bring the film to Hough after he saw it at East Mecklenburg High School last fall.
Joyce said when teachers are evaluated by test scores, students end up feeling the brunt of that pressure.
To cope, many students turn to cheating and other maladaptive habits, Joyce said.
A 2009 Science Daily article reported that while 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating in high school in the 1940s, between 75 and 98 percent of today's college students admitted to cheating in high school.
"What lengths do they have to go to to make those grades? " said Joyce. "It's ridiculous. What are they learning to do? They're learning to get away with something."
Joyce said he has stopped giving homework in his classes since watching the film, and he advocates for a change in education so that "the test doesn't drive everything."
Mary Lynne Calhoun, dean of the College of Education at UNC-Charlotte, said professors at the college teach a philosophy of "thoughtful, purposeful and reasonable homework."
Calhoun said homework serves to reinforce lessons taught in the classroom but at some point, repetitive or lengthy homework can prove counterproductive.
"The film...points to a very painful human response where purposes and intensity of that work become distorted and put intense pressure on young people at a time when they're vulnerable," she said. "We have a big obligation to make sure work and standardized tests are not given such a powerful meaning that they are defining themselves by that."
Quackenbos said there is a lot of pressure to perform at Hough because the school is trying to create an identity for itself. He added that it was less competitive and stressful at his old school, North Mecklenburg.
"There's so much competition here," he said. "I hope my teachers pay attention to what this movie has to say."