Effects of no homework breaks

Students reflect on how the breaks effect their workload

While students and staff agree that New Trier’s administration should work to decrease student stress levels, there has been discussion about whether no homework breaks are an effective way to accomplish that goal.

The breaks are long weekends or extended breaks throughout the school year during which teachers are instructed to assign no homework. Additionally, students have no tests or other assessments the day they return from the break.

The administration fully backs no homework/assessment breaks. In a letter to parents detailing New Trier’s 2019-2020 calendar, superintendent Paul Sally addressed this issue.

“This year, we are piloting a formal list of homework/assessment free breaks with teachers. As part of the 2019-2020 calendar, we will publish these dates to students and parents to ensure we implement the homework/assessment free breaks with integrity,” added Sally.

Chimille Dillard, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, said that she supports no homework/ assessment breaks because they give students a chance to relax and disconnect from academics.

“We know that students are under a lot of pressure—in addition to school, you also have extracurriculars, jobs,” explained Dillard. “I know that the district wants to make sure there’s balance with breaks so students can unwind and have downtime.”

In junior Ellie Cummings’ opinion, the no homework/assessment weekends only accomplish their goal if the teacher follow through.

“Some teachers follow the rules, but others find ways to get around them, like assigning larger assignments but making them due the day after the day we get back,” said Cummings.

Senior Laura Meltzer is a part of Student Council. She said they have talked to the administration about enforcing the policy, but have found little change.

In regards to the no homework/assessment policy, social studies teacher Bridget Butterly stressed the importance of communication between students and teachers.

Before Presidents Day weekend, Butterly forgot about the work- free break and mistakenly assigned homework. When students brought up the policy, Butterly switched the assignment.

According to Dillard, the majority of teachers pay close attention to the no homework/ assessment policy.

“[When I started here], I would actually hear teachers say, ‘Oh, we can’t do this here because it’s a no homework weekend,”’ explained Dillard. “It seems like something people have already bought into.”

Butterly does support the concept of no homework/assessment free breaks. But she thinks they are problematic because they often increase workloads leading up to and following these breaks.

Also, according to Butterly, the no homework/assessment weekends are somewhat superficial. She believes that there is an underlying issue at hand.

“I think that overall, we as teachers should reflect on our practice and see if there are ways we can alleviate the workload,”