Stuyvesant Implements 30-Minute Homework Policy

Stuyvesant implemented a 30-minute homework policy for all classes as a way to reduce the workload of students.

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By Aryana Singh

After remote learning, many students were worried about readjusting to the school’s workload. To address this concern, the administration established a 30-minute homework policy for all regular, honors, and Advanced Placement (AP) classes for the 2021-2022 school year. This decision, spurred on by Student Union leaders and students, is a response to the major push to address the mental health issues exacerbated during remote learning last year.

Traditionally, homework for regular classes could not exceed 30 minutes while AP classes could not exceed 60 minutes. However, the change was implemented to ease the amount of homework students received each night. “The members of the Leadership Team wanted to reduce the workload for students, particularly for those students who were taking AP classes,” Assistant Thomas Principal of Chemistry and Physics Scott Thomas said in an e-mail interview. “By reducing the homework for AP classes from one hour to 30 minutes, students would be able to focus on the quality of work instead of quantity.”

English teacher Maura Dwyer also cited external factors for the change in the homework policy. “[The pandemic] has affected so many Stuyvesant families—in terms of employment, loss, health (physical and mental), and racial prejudice,” she said in an e-mail interview. “Because we are still experiencing the pandemic, the goal, as I see it, is to help mitigate some of the stress of the past 18 months and ease the transition back to full-time, in-person school.”

For Dwyer, who teaches AP English, she adjusted accordingly to the homework policy. “I am giving less work in the form of fewer major assignments and occasionally, time in class to start a longer chunk of reading. Because the AP English test is very skills-based, I am not worried about my students,” Dwyer said. “For tests that are very content heavy, I can really empathize with the pressure to cover all of the material, and I hope those teachers are getting concrete, helpful guidance about how to help student stress while covering their content.”

Many students found the new homework policy to be fair compared to that of previous years. “I feel less worried that I won’t have any free time and I’m actually able to relax,” sophomore Jowita Walkup said. “Last year, giving more homework didn’t help with the half-day schedule thing we had because they could really only give homework on the things we learned, and it didn't teach us more. Having consistent but less homework makes more sense.”

However, others reported that certain assignments still exceed the 30-minute limit. “Since we had that gap year with COVID, learning was very interrupted. A lot of the math that I have learned [currently], I’ve had to teach myself and that extra studying bleeds into the 30 minutes,” senior Tamzid Tapan said. “Some of my teachers don’t take that into account that extra teaching that I have to do and that makes it closer to an hour or an hour and a half.”

Junior and Student Union Vice President Ryan Lee hopes that the change will positively impact students. “It’s incredibly important to have a balance between work, extracurriculars, and social life at an academically rigorous school like Stuyvesant,” he said.

English teacher Eric Ferencz agreed, noting the impact that the policy can have on Stuyvesant's culture. “I hope that these changes can be permanent,” he said. “Students losing sleep and struggling with mental health is sadly a normalized experience for many at our school. I believe that policies such as this one promote a school culture of prioritizing mental health and I support any initiative that puts our students' mental health first.”

However, from a recent discussion with her students, Dwyer remarks that the amount of time it takes to complete a certain homework assignment varies depending on the student. “I asked one of my AP classes about this and they reported that while they have noticed efforts on behalf of some of their teachers, they believe only the fastest students in the class actually take 30 minutes to complete the [homework]. If it's a subject that the student struggles in, it might take closer to an hour, or even two hours,” Dwyer said.

Tapan, however, finds that students’ workload does not rest solely on the amount of homework and believes the school administration should also focus on ways to slowly reintroduce tests and quizzes. “I don’t think it’s the homework policy that needs changing. I think it’s the testing policy because we didn’t really have that many tests last year so just coming back to the school and being forced to go back to testing feels really weird and foreign,” Tapan said. “They should have tests that are slightly easier or that have less material so that we can get back into the swing of things rather than normal Stuyvesant tests.”

Ultimately, teachers still have yet to evaluate the lasting effects of such a shift. “The leadership team will be evaluating the changes to the homework policy and make further changes if needed,” Thomas said.