by Emily Moss
Between nightly homework, frequent tests and quizzes, and time-consuming extra-curricular activities, high school students often feel as if they never get a break.
Sophomores Benjamin Cole, Jonathan Halpern, and Sophia Ly of the Student Faculty Administration (SFA) had these problems in mind when they decided to propose the No Homework and Grading-Free Bill, which gives students one designated homework-free date per term.
The SFA voted 14-1 Wednesday to pilot the bill during the first semester next year, although the SFA will “reconvene” and principal Jennifer Price will make a final decision after the pilot period, according to Ly. If implemented throughout the year, the bill would give students one homework-free Wednesday during each of terms one and three and one homework-free weekend during each of terms two and four.
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, who is also a member of the SFA.
“One of the things I like about the proposal is that it opened up a lot of conversations,” said Shaughnessy. She added that the bill has prompted members of the school community to discuss 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.
The vast majority of students who responded to a survey expressed strong support for the bill, according to Halpern and Ly. 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.”
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 no-homework weekend or Wednesday.
South implemented a similar bill starting in the 2011-2012 school year, but Price had the idea to pilot the policy at this school before making a final decision because “sometimes things in practice aren’t what they looked like on paper,” according to Shaughnessy.
SFA members hope that having a semester-long trial period will allow them to “trouble-shoot” and gauge the effectiveness of the bill, said Shaughnessy.
Halpern added that he thinks that this school is doing a “great job” of trying to reduce stress levels in several other ways as well.
“Guidance counselors have been emphasizing that they’re always available to talk and help,” said Halpern. “In regard to things more academic, I know that, for example, a student who has to take more than two tests on the same day can ask a teacher to reschedule a test time.”