Homework Policy Needs Recalibrating

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Go around to any student in school and ask them what they hate most about it. The answer you’ll most likely receive is homework.

The average teenager loathes having to go through eight hours of classes and then have to do more work when the day is over.

At HBA, a student’s school week consists of having each of his seven classes four times out of the five day week. Three of those days involve having all seven classes in the same school day. With this schedule, students often have just one day to complete homework for their classes, and this one-day turnaround time can take place a few times per week.

In 2014, Stanford University researcher published a study that investigated the effects of homework on high school students. According to the Stanford Report, Denise Pope, co-author of the study and a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, stated, “Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good.”
The study found that “students who did more hours of homework experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives.”
In the study, researchers created a survey and open-ended questions examining student well-being among ten top performing high schools in upper-middle class communities in California. Students at these schools were averaging about three hours of homework a night.

The study found that “students who did more hours of homework experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives.”

At HBA, where, according to the school’s website, “close to 75 percent of the middle-high school students annually compete in interscholastic sports, with approximately 40 percent of them participating in multiple sports,” students routinely sacrifice sleep time to finish their assignments. On top of this, many students have non-athletic extracurricular commitments in clubs and student committees. Students who don’t initially understand class material take home even more work and often don’t even know where to begin. It’s no wonder students are often falling ill or taking “mental health” sick days just to get caught up.

The Eagle Eye editorial staff believes that a student’s mental and physical health should always come first, and that the education system should not force a student to choose between a grade point average and his or her overall well-being. If the goal of education is to give students tools to think on their own, the urgency to turn in an assignment at any cost, and to quickly move on to new material keeps students from fully absorbing what an assignment was supposed to teach them in the first place. If schools would simply cut back on the number of assignments, there would be more room for students to grow and manage their stress. While you could argue that giving students less work will encourage procrastination, it gives students a better chance of succeeding at time management because they are not overwhelmed or feeling hopeless.

A few years ago, HBA introduced No Homework Weekends, a routine that happens once every quarter. While teachers aren’t supposed to assign any homework over those weekends, students report that some teachers get around the restriction by making the homework due on Tuesday, causing students to use the weekend to complete their work anyway. Non-compliant teachers aside, however, we do feel that the spirit behind No Homework Weekends is on the right track and students generally still look forward to them. In fact, we feel the school should consider more than one No Homework Weekend per quarter, or even no homework over weekends in general. After all, aren’t weekends supposed to provide a breather from work?

Another option would be to ensure that all homework and assignment due dates are not concentrated on the same days. While HBA does have an existing policy limiting the number of quizzes and assignments due on the same day, students report that teachers do not often stick to it.

Revising course workloads and reassessing the relevance of certain assignments and their necessity to a lesson would also make a dramatic change in students’ stress levels. Instead of simply repeating their lesson plans year after year, teachers should always be evaluating what makes an assignment important, and helpful to its lesson and the curriculum as a whole.

Getting rid of homework completely isn’t the point we’re trying to make. Rather, it’s clear that there is a lack of balance when it comes to homework load at HBA. When students come to a point in their academic lives where all assignments are simply overwhelming, a sense of defeat can take over and completely nullify any motivation. Achieving a good balance of homework and free time is an urgent goal that the school must work towards, as it would likely result in healthier, happier students, who would be happy to apply their newfound energy to actually learning at school.

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