The homework policy at Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) has been a long debated issue that has the potential to alleviate the typically high levels of student stress and workload. While The Campanile applauds the District for its continued efforts in updating the policy to accurately reflect a student’s workload, including the most recent change to include Advanced Placement (AP) classes, we feel that a solution cannot be found in establishing any sort of guidelines when there is such variation among students. Instead, we propose putting control in the hands of students by making more homework optional and increasing the use of periodic, homework quizzes that can be retaken.
Under the new homework policy, Administrative Regulation 6154, “students who choose to enroll in AP, Honors, or accelerated courses should expect higher homework loads, but are not expected to have more then 15 hours of homework a week on average.” This remains extremely unrealistic of what an advanced student’s workload looks like. An academically challenging but standard schedule for a junior might consist of AP Spanish Language, AP U.S. History, Humanities, AP Biology, Ceramics, IAC and Physics H. According to homework data collected by Paly’s Input Club on over 1,000 students, this would amount to an average of 24 hours of homework per week.
While some may advocate for students to take it upon themselves to build easier schedules, students should be able to take a challenging course load that caters to their interests, even though they may be taught in difficult courses. Teachers have made strides to cut back on busywork, but the only way to significantly reduce time spent on homework is to allow students to choose the most effective means of learning the material by providing resources to do so but not requiring assignments to be turned in.
As such, The Campanile believes that giving students more control over their workload will remedy the discrepancy.
Several Paly classes have already implemented methods that operate on this premise. For instance, AP AB Calculus, a senior math class, posts suggested practice problems on Schoology but homework is never collected. This way, students are responsible for gauging their understanding of the material; should they need more practice, the resources are available. At the beginning of each block period class meeting, students take a homework check, testing their understanding of the material they learned the previous class. Students can retake the benchmarks until they receive full credit.
AP Psychology is governed under similar ideology. The class runs on a system that encourages students to do textbook readings with online progress checks, which count for a point if completed. But if a student chooses to forgo the assigned homework, it is not held against them. This gives students the independence to balance their own workloads according to their needs and schedules. It also aligns with grading styles in college where projects and tests count for the entirety of a grade while providing the safety net of homework points.
It is clear that arbitrary regulations will not decrease students’ workloads. Instead, the District should instead look to expand the success of optional homework systems to give students the independence to use homework as they deem necessary.