Homework load under review


For High School students, the school day doesn’t necessarily end at 3:05. For many, homework occupies the rest of the day. According to school guidelines, each class should assign about 45 minutes of homework, resulting in a maximum of three hours per night. However, students often find themselves working more than that. In a recent poll conducted by The Standard, 46.2 percent of students reported having more than the designated three hours of homework on an average night. Of those responding, 4.1 percent said they regularly worked for more than five hours on homework.

According to the survey, 19.2 percent of students said they have exactly three hours of homework per night. When asked how much homework they feel is appropriate each night, the most common answer was two hours, with 29.5 percent of students identifying that number as fair.
There is no clear consensus regarding the amount of homework assigned, but as of late the homework load has been a concern for High School administrators. In fact, a schedule consultant who visited ASL in December, recommended an overall reduction in homework. Roxanne Higgins, a consultant from Independent School Management, reviewed the current schedule and recommended changes, including that ASL should “reduce the amount of homework in the Middle and High Schools.” The administration is currently taking her recommendation under advisement.

Principal Paul Richards said he agrees with Higgins and hopes for a 50 percent decrease in students’ workload. “If you have 15 math problems and prove you know [the material] after five problems, then why shouldn’t you be able to stop?” Richards said.

Richards teaches the Race, Culture and Human Rights course in addition to his responsibilities as principal. In his course Richards tries to assign only useful homework; consequently, there are days when his students have no homework for his class. Richards said that teachers need to ask themselves, “Do students really need to do this?” before assigning homework, and that in some cases, the answer to that question may be “no.”

For some, however, the heavy homework load contributes to later success. Student Council President Julian Nebreda (’13) said that a challenging homework load follows suit with the academic atmosphere at ASL. “I think it’s a hard issue to talk about regulating since it all really depends on what classes you’re taking,” he said. “Graduates I know personally have told me the workload does make ASL students more ready than others to get used to what’s expected of them in college.”

The current guidelines state that, in addition to assigning no more than 45 minutes of work per class, teachers must post the homework on Haiku on the day of the class, and that if there are any changes to the homework, the teachers should email their students about the change. It is left to the individual teacher’s discretion to assign appropriate amount of homework after the class.

Students often find that the current guidelines are not followed. “You’ll have a night where you have a lot of homework that takes hours and hours and it can become very frustrating,” Maalik Mbatch (’14) said.

Students may disagree about the value of homework, but teachers believe it serves a purpose.
“I like to think homework is to demonstrate understanding of a concept,” Science Teacher Eileen Cancella said. “I would imagine students think ‘that homework wasn’t on the test, why did we do that?’ I don’t think that homework has to be on the test for it to be useful.”
Cancella said she assigns about 45 minutes of homework for every class period. “I think that homework gives students accountability and provides immediate opportunity for students to practice their skills rather than procrastinating and cramming before a test or quiz,” she said.

Those reasons may be counterproductive, according to American author and lecturer on education and parenting Alfie Kohn, who listed “frustration, exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and possible loss in interest for learning” as consequences of homework. He also believes that the positive effects of homework are “largely mythical.”

Health Teacher Joy Marchese said that excessive homework “can cause an increase in lack of sleep. I believe that many students are sleep deprived,” she said.

However, she noted that she does assign about 30 minutes of homework per night. “[Homework] is not about the time, but about the purpose,” she said. “If a student can show they can do [the work] well in class, then is there a need for more homework?”