UAHS reinforces the long-standing recommendation that teachers assign no more than three hours of homework per week

by Clare Driscoll and Sophie Yang, ’19

Over the summer, administrators restated a long-term guideline that teachers should assign no more than three hours a week of homework. However, this guideline can be difficult to follow and monitor.

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The word “homework” is scrawled across a blackboard.

According to an Arlingtonian survey with 497 responses, 67 percent of the UAHS student body spends more than three hours per week on homework for a certain class.

Sophomore Katherine Dominek works at least five hours on her homework every day. As a result, she’s had to give up activities like tap dance and outside-school orchestras.

“I probably start homework right away [when I get home] and work until ten at night,” Dominek said.

Dominek sees that some of her teachers don’t follow or don’t seem aware of the guideline. The three-hours-a-week recommendation, which was established in 1995, was rehashed in the AP/IB/Honors letter sent to parents in August.

“We are establishing the expectation that no more than three hours per week of outside work be assigned in any course,” the letter said. “Throughout the year we will solicit feedback about homework assignments in order to give teachers feedback about the amount of time students are spending on out of class assignments.”

The guideline was reiterated due to research that too much homework is counterproductive to learning, and according to AP/IB coordinator Cynthia Ballheim, it’s an issue that homework from different classes can quickly add up.

“Students are taking at least six classes a day, and some even more, so if every teacher even gave even just a half hour of homework a night, then it’s just too much,” Ballheim said.

Although the administration may check student homework loads, teachers are still responsible for giving out reasonable amounts on a day-to-day basis.

“We bring up regulating the homework that is given, but we don’t necessarily monitor what the teachers are doing,” AP/IB coordinator Cynthia Ballheim said. “We do suggest, though, that they ask students if what they are assigning is too much.”

English teacher Matthew Toohey, however, believes that this rule is difficult to define.

“Three hours is such an arbitrary number,” Toohey said. “If someone’s a slow reader or if someone’s an incredibly meticulous reader and takes copious notes, maybe it will take three hours. But if people have great retention of what they read or photographic memory, it’s different.”

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-4-02-45-pmLike many other teachers, Toohey assigns his classes homework according to a weekly syllabus so students can plan ahead.

“As a father, I do see at home the overwhelming schedules that high school students have,” Toohey said. “I tended to give more homework [before], but now that I see it firsthand, I’ve learned that maybe I shouldn’t stress so much on what happens outside of school and give kids plenty of time to prepare.”

Science teacher Jeff Schuster believes that students can learn course material with less outside-of-class work, although it will have impacts on the curriculum.

“It would be possible to have students do homework-like material in class,” Schuster said, “[but] if there’s going to be less work done outside of class, then there will probably be less content covered over the entire school year.”

If students are spending too much time on their homework, counselor Allen Banks suggests that they talk to their teachers first.

“Meeting with the teacher, the teacher might have some tips on how to get through the homework and make it so it’s not so difficult a task,” Banks said. “If that’s still an issue, I would like my students to come down and talk to me about it.”

Banks strongly believes that too much homework, alongside many extracurriculars and clubs, can be counterproductive for learning.

“I think that [the three-hour guideline] needs to be emphasized by our administration more,” Banks said. “It hasn’t been a philosophical discussion with our staff… After a certain amount of hours spent on homework, it starts to lose its effectiveness.”

Sophomore Josh Gorski also supports the three-hour guideline.

“I think most teachers follow that guideline, but it would be nice if they could really buckle down on [it] with teachers,” Gorski said.

Sophomore Katherine Dominek said that although it would be hard to achieve, following the guideline and having less homework would be appreciated.

“I don’t think [the guideline] is being followed very well at all,” Dominek said. “I would like for it to be followed, but for my AP and honors classes, I understand there is more of a workload.”