by Emily Moss
In efforts to slightly reduce student stress levels, the Student Faculty Administration (SFA) has voted to pilot the No Homework and Grading-Free Bill—a new policy which prevents students from receiving homework on specific dates—this weekend.
The bill was proposed last year by SFA members juniors Benjamin Cole, Jonathan Halpern, and Sophia Ly and was inspired by a similar policy implemented at South during the 2011-2012 school year. If faculty members and Principal Jennifer Price decide to implement the bill throughout the year after the pilot period, students will receive one designated homework-free weekend or Wednesday per term.
The bill is meant as a “goodwill gesture” to students but is not meant to fully solve the problem of student stress, according to English teacher Kate Shaughnessy, also an SFA member.
“One of the things I like about the proposal is that it opened up a lot of conversations,” said Shaughnessy, adding that the bill has prompted members of the school community to discuss whether there should be limits on the number of honors and AP classes that students take or whether the school should get rid of the weighted GPA.
In addition to preventing students from receiving homework on specific weekends and Wednesdays, the bill discourages teachers from grading during these periods so that everyone can have a break.
According to Halpern and Ly, the vast majority of students who responded to a survey expressed strong support for the bill. Teachers had mixed reactions.
“Some agree that it is a good way to relieve even the slightest bit of stress throughout the year,” said Ly. “Others think that it isn’t realistic because some teachers don’t follow already implemented rules on no homework on religious holidays and vacations, so what is to say that they will follow this bill.”
Halpern noted that implementing the bill will be “a school-wide effort” and that “it’s up to students to remind their teachers not to assign homework if a teacher forgets.”
Shaughnessy added that homework-free periods might be disruptive for teachers who have a curriculum with pre-decided deadlines and checkpoints, and that other teachers feel that students are simply “setting themselves up” for stress by taking unmanageable course loads.
According to Ly, some members of the school community also worry that implementing the bill will “just create more stress” because teachers may be inclined to assign extra homework and tests on the days leading up to the homework-free weekend or Wednesday.
According to Shaughnessy, SFA members hope that holding a trial period will allow them to “trouble-shoot” and gauge the effectiveness of the bill.
Ly and Halpern also say that they think the bill will help ease the transition to high school for freshmen.
“It’s a big shift from middle school to high school, especially in terms of workload,” said Halpern. “With more homework breaks, I think it will be easier for the incoming freshmen to relax amidst a stressful new year.”