Administration Adjusts Homework Hours
The new school year has begun with some major changes in the homework policy at Hopkins.
For the past seven years, the policy more or less stayed the same: one hour of homework from every class except English, which would have about two extra hours in the two week cycle. This excluded work related to term papers in any history class.
The Hopkins handbook now states: “Students in Grades 9-12 should expect up to 45 minutes of out-of class work for every class period except English class periods for which they should expect up to sixty minutes.” It also states “sixty minutes may be expected” while History classes are working on research papers. In addition, “Students in Grades 7-8 should expect up to 30 minutes of out-of-class work for every class period except English class periods for which they should expect up to 45 minutes.” David Harpin, Dean of Academics, explained the details of the new policy to the faculty at a meeting in June.
The new homework criteria are designed to alleviate the stress and pressure that studies indicate have been present among students at Hopkins. This issue became very clear to many members of the staff last year, including Harpin: “Doing the math of the old policy which was an hour per-class-period, it just added up to too much work given that students have many other obligations.” As a result of this, The Academic Policy Committee consisting of Harpin, the academic department chairs, the Head Librarian, the Director of Athletics, the Director of College Counseling, and the Dean of Faculty met to discuss ways to make homework more manageable and improve student health overall.
Many members of the faculty believe the amount of stress among students at Hopkins has increased greatly in the past ten years. According to Director of Academic Support, Matthew Treat, this is not an issue unique to Hopkins: “The demands of college and where you go have really created that stress level... It wasn’t like that thirty years ago.”
Treat also explained that although it is important for students to work hard in their classes, he worries more about the health and development of a student. It is important to not let the pressure get to you and still do things you like to do, not only things that will look good on a resume.” Although there was no student input systematically collected, “it was information that just came to us over the years from students, parents, and advisors,” says Harpin. Student stress has been an ongoing issue at Hopkins for the past few years but “the new head of school, Dr. Bynum, listened and heard some pretty clear messages” says Harpin. “He was a good impetus for the decision to move forward ”
For students and teachers alike, there will be an adjustment period for the new policy. There is still much work to be done to ensure that students and teachers pay attention to these guidelines. In the weeks leading up to the frst day of school, Harpin and many faculty members discussed about possible ways teachers can check in with students about homework “through Google forms or informally about how they’re experiencing the homework in class” to help them adjust and comply to the new policy. “In the meantime, students should feel free to talk to their teachers and advisors about how their workload is affecting them,” says Harpin.