It’s 8 o’clock. You just got back from a grueling sports practice or extracurricular, tired and ready to settle in for the night. You already finished your homework during Free Block with an hour to spare. With this in mind, you treat yourself to some much needed free time. But right as you are about to put your computer away, a Canvas notification pops up. You click and it takes you to… a homework assignment due tomorrow!
This stressful scenario is a reality to some Hawken students. In fact, until recently, there was nothing in Hawken policy being enforced to stop this sort of situation from happening. Without restrictions on when and where teachers posted homework, teachers essentially had free rein to assign homework, post it whenever they wanted to, and expect it to be done. This sort of laissez-faire approach harms both parties because while students suffer the consequences of having to do work later into the night and potentially losing sleep, teachers are left confused and unhappy if their students show up with their homework incomplete.
To combat these problems, a new 2019-2020 homework policy was introduced to prevent against stress caused by homework assignments being posted late. The new policy specifically requires that all homework be posted by 4:30 P.M. the day it is assigned, limits the amount of homework for breaks, and provides for a homework-free weekend sometime in 2020. These policies, along with the other existing policies in the student handbook establish a reliable mutual contract for student-teacher interactions.
Like in this scenario, Hawken has previously set up and continued to expand student protections in regards to homework and tests. According to Ms. Gray, the 9th grade student dean, “This is my 14th year at Hawken, and we’ve always had some sort of homework policy…[while I have been here].” She states that Hawken has a homework policy in order to “try and create some balance for students and to prevent us as teachers...from going too crazy.” Dr. Ialacci, the faculty advisor of the AffNo and a Humanities teacher explains that the homework policy was previously “enforced for just freshmen and sophomores, [but it] now includes juniors and seniors,” and that it “used to be only for major assignments and now it's more for...all homework.”
The point of this legislation will only be achieved if there is daily execution of the regulations it sets by Hawken faculty. Thus, the job of the AffNo is to check how well the homework policy is being enforced.
The AffNo sent out a survey to all Hawken students that garnered a total 236 responses. The conclusions drawn from the responses to the survey emphasize the need for improvement.
Student awareness of the implications of the homework policy are variable. While 65.7% of students surveyed were unaware of the limits on how much homework teachers could assign, 92.8% of respondents knew the new homework policy. 56.4% students knew of their ability to reschedule major assignments if needed. These metrics show a clear lack of knowledge about the rights students hold in the face of assignments and homework. This lack of understanding is worrying because without proper knowledge, students are not able to exercise their rights and thus are not in a position to advocate for their own wellbeing.
Next, we asked students if their teachers were following specific parts of the homework policy.
First, we asked about the amount of homework teachers assigned. The responses we obtained show that this amount is largely varied and dependent on the teacher. In comparison to the amount outlined in the handbook, 17.4% responded that they get a bit less homework, 36.9% reported that they are assigned the same amount, 36.9% answered that they receive more, and 12.3% stated that they receive way more.
Additionally, many students submitted detailed responses about the variability of their homework load. Consequently, this variability creates large homework disparities between student to student. This results in some having huge burdens (and thus decreased wellness) and some having much less than what is outlined. This sense of inequality is heightened especially if the same course has different workloads depending on its teacher.
Secondly, 62.3% of students responded that teachers posted homework before 4:30 most of the time. However, 20.8% of students answered that if this stipulation was followed “dependent on the day.” Thus, a significant portion of the student body called teachers’ consistency in following the new homework policy into question.
Finally, we asked how accommodating teachers were when asked to reschedule major assignments/assessments to a later date. 42.6% stated that their teachers, on a scale of 1-5, scored a 3. Thus, students believe teachers should be more willing to reschedule assignments/tests if necessary.
In general, when students rated how consistently their teachers followed the homework policy on a scale of 1-10, 22.4% of students reported at or below a 5, 31.3% reported a 6 or 7, 23.7% gave an 8, and 22.4% answered with a 9 or a 10, signaling some inconsistency. When asked to quantify the frequency of homework policy violations on a scale of 1-10, 46.3% of students reported a 1,2, or 3, 19.7% reported a 5 or 6, and 34% reported a frequency greater than or equal to 7.
All in all, from this poll we can see inconsistent execution of the homework policy. While the proper legislation is in place to advocate for student wellness, there is a lack of student awareness about these policies. Additionally, there is not consistent enforcement of the policy by teachers. We need to utilize more avenues to communicate exactly what students are entitled to and what their rights are regarding homework and assessments, and we need to make sure that all teachers are equally aware of and following the policies. To accomplish this, we could set up a system to anonymously report abuses of the homework policy and allow students to give teachers anonymous feedback which could include reminders to follow the homework policy. Regardless of the course of action, only through changes can we secure the student rights the homework policy was meant to promote in the first place.