Administrators and teachers to analyze link between homework and stress

Math classes experiment with no-homework policy

Danielle Kurensky

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As students express the levels of anxiety and sleep deprivation they experience, the administration and teachers seek to create more balance and less stress for them.

Many students have said that they feel overwhelmed due to large amounts of homework on top of their extracurriculars. Many feel that they never get a break from the constant cycle of homework and activities.

A vast majority of students feel they don’t get enough sleep on a nightly basis. This consistent lack of sleep can be detrimental to students’ health. “Lack of sleep can cause a range of neurobehavioral deficits, which include lapses of attention, reduced speed of working memory, reduced cognitive functioning, depression, and perseveration of thought,” said Social Work Department Chair, Tiffany Myers.

New Trier’s philosophy on homework states, “Teachers are trusted to use their professional judgement in assigning homework that complements the learning objectives of the various courses. It is to be expected that there will be variation in the type, frequency, and amount of homework for any given course.”
While this philosophy allows the discretion of teachers, some ideas are being brought forward at the administrative level.

“In the last few years we have moved towards homework-free breaks. Department chairs and administrators have agreed on that. If a student is to have homework on a break, a teacher might assign nothing more than a regular weekend,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Peter Tragos.

While having homework-free holidays is appealing to many, students feel most stressed about homework during the regular school week.

“The most stressful time is after school when I have a million things to do. I am overwhelmed by everything I have to do and at the thought that I have to get up the next day and do it all over again,” said junior Kathleen Hopps.

Many teachers agree with assigning less homework and have decided to change their homework policy. This year, all of the Level 4 Precalculus and Trigonometry teachers have made homework optional for their students.

One of the Level 4 math teachers, Kyle Ogrodnik, said that requiring every student to have to do every assignment was penalizing students who understand the material.

“Doing it just to get it done kind of defeats the purpose,” he said.

Mona Kolososki, a Spanish teacher who used to assign nightly homework, has a similar viewpoint.

She assigns less after becoming an advisor and watching the way students struggle to get homework done.

“To watch the stress that they are under, the sleep deprivation and the lack of mindfulness that they put into the work while they are doing it. I just don’t see the point if they aren’t putting forth a lot of effort and using resources the way teachers hope they would,” she said.

Rather, Kolososki hopes students will spend this free time with family and friends.

“My dream would be for every student to have dinner with their family and discussions, to talk about the day and unwind,” said Kolososki.

Schools across the country are making similar decisions as more research shows the detrimental effect of homework on students.

A 2014 Stanford University study of 10 high-performing high schools in upper to middle class California found that less than one percent of students said homework was not a stressor.

The same study found that lots of homework was associated with students dropping activities and made students less likely to pursue hobbies.

In response to studies like these, many high schools across the country have implemented occasional homework free weekends throughout the year, especially during times of heightened stress like around college application deadlines.

Almost all students are unanimously behind the idea of having less homework and changing the way homework is assigned.

“Similar to the test policy, I would like if you could only get homework from certain classes on certain nights,” said junior Christopher Wood.

Many hope that the discussion about homework will lead to a more comprehensive conversation about students’ well-being.

“The homework conversation is hopefully part of a larger conversation about student health,” said History teacher, Alexander Klein.

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