District should offer standard for AP, honors homework

On Feb. 3, Superintendent Max McGee emailed all district teachers a copy of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) homework policy, after noticing that the policy was “not widely known” among community members. In his message, McGee reminded staff members that the document was created through an “inclusive process,” and as approved by the school board, compliance by teachers is “expected and required.”

In his email, which provides salient excerpts from the full homework policy, McGee emphasizes key guidelines that many Paly students may not be aware of. For example, the policy requires that all students from 9th to 12th grade receive at most ten hours of work, which includes homework, project and test preparation, from Monday to Friday. According to the homework policy, freshmen should expect around seven hours a week, and seniors can look to around ten hours of week. The Associated Student Body (ASB) posted the document to each class Facebook page.

For students who may feel bombarded with work that takes them much longer than the outlined seven to ten hours, the knowledge that their teachers have been reminded of the policy may be a huge relief. However, when one scrolls down the policy, it is noted that “students who choose to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP), Honors or accelerated courses should expect loads higher than those outlined above and should refer to class catalogs for homework expectations”

Essentially, all high-level APs and Honors courses are exempt from the homework policy, needing only to adhere to the estimations outlined in the course catalogs.

The staff of The Campanile recognizes not only that hypothesizing and enforcing the number of homework hours for each student is extremely difficult, but also, that, to some extent, students who choose a high-intensity schedule must be willing to face the challenges that rigorous courses demand.

However, we believe that a homework policy that places APs and Honors courses aside and does not truly attempt to address them is ignoring a huge group of PAUSD students. For the vast number of students who take at least one or more advanced course each year, the current homework policy fails to provide any sort of standard or boundary for weekly workload. While it is true that students choose their own schedules and must live with the “consequences” of the classes they’ve selected, it must be recognized that a beneficial, effective homework policy should support the wide range of high school students in the district — not just the students enrolled in solely non-AP and non-Honors courses.

The Campanile applauds McGee for noting the lack of information related to student time spent on advanced-level course homework in the policy and for providing his own suggestions.

“Based on my experience working with talented and accelerated high school students for several years, it is my opinion (and many of theirs) that generally 15 hours for a seven day week (Monday through Sunday) is a maximum reasonable load for top students,” McGee said.

The Campanile staff proposes a revision to the current policy that incorporates work-load guidelines for students enrolled in APs and Honors. While the limit may not be completely accurate, as a student taking five APs will be working more than a student taking one Honors course, something is better than nothing. Analyses of weekly assignments in a range of AP and Honors subjects, surveys issued to students and discussion with a variety of student groups could be utilized to formulate the hours-per-week guideline.