In June 2018, teachers and school committee members finalized a set of new homework guidelines that went into effect for the 2018-2019 school year. These guidelines suggest that at the high school level, non-AP courses should not assign more than three hours of homework per course per week. Additionally, homework cannot be due the first day after vacations and no-homework weekends.
Now that the guidelines have been in effect for several months, junior Thea Kendall-Green said that even though she has more work this year as a result of a more rigorous course load, her teachers try to be considerate of students’ workload while assigning homework.
“I feel as if teachers are more thoughtful of the homework they assign and the stress levels of their students,” Kendall-Green said. “It’s hard to tell what comes from [being in a higher grade]…but even though I have more work this year, I think the teachers are more visibly and explicitly conscious about the workload they create.”
Similarly, sophomore Allison Kirk noted that she finds herself performing better in courses that closely follow the guidelines, although it is difficult to measure homework load by time spent.
“It helps when teachers follow the guidelines more closely. I find that with teachers who do so, I do better in the class because I’m less stressed about it, and the amount of homework I do is a lot less,” Kirk said. “But there are loopholes in it, since you can’t really say how long someone needs to study for a test, for example.”
However, junior Ezra Gordon said that he did not see an appreciable decrease in his homework load since the guidelines went into effect.
“I don’t think the guidelines have changed anything for me,” Gordon said. “I still get the same amount of work in my non-AP classes, and most teachers didn’t assign work over break anyway before the guidelines were implemented.”
Sophomore Jackie Liu also questioned how courses can remain intellectually rigorous if they are constrained by guidelines to give less homework.
“I don’t think it’s very feasible unless we want to damage the integrity of the courses themselves,” Jackie Liu said. “While some courses assign a lot of busy work, other courses give homework that’s somewhat essential, so I don’t really know how they can keep the courses at the same level of rigor if they can’t give us as much homework.”
Science teacher Mary Liu said that the new homework guidelines have only made her more aware of how she assigns homework for her AP Biology and Introduction to Biotechnology courses.
“It just has made me more mindful to make sure that [long] weekends and breaks are explicit no-homework times,” Mary Liu said. “A lot of the time there will be random leftovers from class, but it has been nice, for both me and for students, to have these no-homework times and to finish units before breaks.”
According to history teacher Michiko Kurata, the new homework guidelines are reflective of a years-long district commitment to considering mental and emotional health while also defining academic rigor.
“In the past several years, there’s been a movement in the district to redefine rigor. Instead of piling on homework as a measure of rigor and challenge, we’re thinking of the big picture,” Kurata said. “For example, we’re considering the health of teenagers, of sleep, of brain development, and emotional health, along with the need for academic challenge. I feel that there’s been more of a push in the district for that kind of conversation and balance.”