Stuyvesant’s Homework Policy Three Months Later
Issue 7, Volume 112
After concerns regarding Stuyvesant’s workload were brought to light during remote learning in the 2020-2021 school year, the administration passed a new homework policy, which limits daily homework to 30 minutes per class. While some teachers, the Student Union members, and a great number of other students at Stuyvesant support this change, the effects of the homework policy after its implementation have garnered a variety of responses from teachers and students alike.
Many teachers understand the stress that comes with a large workload and believe that this homework policy benefits students. “I kept hearing the phrases ‘the grind never stops’ and ‘Stuy or Die,’” art teacher William Wrigley said. “Giving students the opportunity to reflect on their learning in ways other than intense six hours of homework every night benefits them more than the ‘grind.’”
In addition to relieving stress, the policy change is intended to encourage homework that is more conducive to learning. “One of the goals of the new policy was to promote a more thoughtful, intentional approach to assigning homework,” Assistant Principal of Math and Computer Science Eric Smith said in an e-mail interview.
On the other hand, others expressed concerns with the number of topics that must be taught within the time constraints. “[My AP chemistry teacher said] that he can’t expect [students] to learn with only half an hour of homework,” an anonymous student said.
Additionally, the amount of time spent on homework varies depending on a student’s pacing, convoluting what constitutes 30 minutes of homework. “What’s tricky, not just in English, is that some people are faster readers, [and] some people are slower readers,” Assistant Principal of English Eric Grossman said. “It is impossible that there is always going to be exactly 30 minutes of homework for everyone.”
In teaching art classes, especially one that is project-based like AP Art and Design, Wrigley feels that he has more freedom when assigning homework and that the homework policy has had little effect on his class. “I myself am very on board with a lower level homework policy, but I also recognize that my particular example is not one that a calculus instructor or Mandarin instructor might agree with,” he said.
Math teacher Patrick Honner, who teaches AP Calculus BC, believes that homework is a necessity for students to improve in math but also makes an effort to accommodate students who have difficulty completing it. “I’ve always offered students flexibility when it comes to homework, so my approach hasn’t changed much as a result of the new policy,” Honner said in an e-mail interview. “I expect students to use their time as they best see fit, and if they find themselves working for 30 minutes and not making progress, that’s a sign they should see me to talk about it.”
At the same time, many teachers who teach core subjects at the AP level are reluctant to talk about the homework policy, possibly due to a fear of being placed in a difficult position. “[My teacher is] very serious about not giving the administration or parents anything to complain about. He does complain [...] but also [adds] that students always complain and he doesn’t want to take the fall for that,” the anonymous student said.. Several teachers who teach AP STEM courses declined an interview from The Spectator.
English teacher Mark Henderson, who teaches AP English Literature & Composition: Society & Self, believes that the most efficient way to follow the homework policy is to facilitate daily communication with students, which he ensures through ways such as posting daily Google Classroom questions for students to assess how long the homework takes. “The most important thing for students to know about homework is that teachers do not have any way of knowing how long it takes you to do unless you tell us,” he said in an e-mail interview. “If you don’t tell us how long homework takes you to do or if you cheat rather than telling us because you’re afraid that we will punish you, nothing will ever get better and your learning will suffer.”
Similarly, Smith emphasizes the importance of open communication between students and teachers. “The question is: does it appear that the assignment is designed to take more than 30 minutes, or is there a situation where some students are taking longer than the intended 30 minutes?” Smith said. “If the assignment itself looks to be too lengthy, then I think a simple conversation with the teacher should be sufficient. If it is taking a student longer than 30 minutes, then I think some form of academic intervention may be necessary.”
However, certain students are hesitant in reaching out when their teachers are violating the homework policy because they are worried about potential repercussions. “It really depends on the teacher,” freshman Tam Shafiq said. “Some teachers, like my biology teachers, are so nice, and I’d totally feel comfortable talking to them. However, for most teachers, I most likely would never ever talk to them, unless it’s anonymous, if they violate the policy, either because I don’t want to ruin their impression of me or I know they won’t be reasonable and will just be pissed off at me.”
Despite this sentiment, many teachers encourage their students to reach out regardless of whether or not they are having trouble with the subject. “In most cases, I don’t think it is reasonable to be intimidated by teachers,” Grossman said. “Most teachers want their students to be happy and successful, and very few people get into teaching if they don’t like and support their students.”