Admin has limited influence on homework

Grace Zhang, Arts Editor

Although the administration doesn’t regulate or coordinate the homework teachers assign, the administration is working on creating focus groups for students to talk about health and wellness at Lab, including homework.

Individual teachers, sometimes with their department, determine homework. There’s no rule requiring teachers to give homework, but according to Principal Stephanie Weber, there is also no regulation on how much, how often or coordination with other classes.

According to Faculty Association President James Catlett, a chemistry teacher, it is difficult to put a limit on or identify an amount of time students should spend on homework. Instead of talking with administration, teachers talk within their department to determine the homework given in classes.

“We rely on the professional judgment of teachers and trust their judgment in what’s appropriate,” Mr. Catlett said. 

The question I always encourage teachers to ask is, given the educational objectives and learning outcomes for your class, what work do you have students doing in class?

— Stephanie Weber, Principal

In addition, according to Ms. Weber, it’s difficult for the administration to oversee homework. She said it is up to expertise of the department to determine what homework will best help students understand and practice new material. She also said a time regulation on homework isn’t inclusive of every student’s abilities.

“The question I always encourage teachers to ask is, given the educational objectives and learning outcomes for your class, what work do you have students doing in class?” Ms. Weber said. “And then what work are you asking them to do on their own outside of class and why?”

History teacher Christopher Janus said he tries to be sensitive to his students’ needs and their experiences with the homework.

“My objective is also to listen to the class,” he said. “There’s a difference between complaining and ‘it’s too much,’ and if I hear from the class that it’s too much, I reduce it. I tend to deal with it more on a class-to-class basis.”

After seeing the results of last spring’s health and wellness survey, the administration is discussing homework in the curriculum committee, which consists of department chairs and high school administration. Ms. Weber said that they are considering changes such as incorporating student course evaluations earlier in the term, rather than at the culmination of a course.

She is also planning to create a working group of students, faculty and parents, as well as student-only groups to be led by Wellness and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Betsy Noel to further discuss health and wellness concerns, including student experiences with homework load.

When concerns about homework are brought to the administration, Ms. Weber encourages students to share the concerns directly with the teacher.

Charlie Abelmann

“I will also share those concerns with the teacher so that they have the information and from that can respond to the needs of student,” Ms. Weber said.

Ms. Weber also suggests teachers should regularly check in with students and ask for feedback about the course and workload. This would allow a teacher to learn what parts of the homework were helpful and to make sure the homework matched the intentions and objectives of the assignment.

Director Charlie Abelmann cited other resources students could use if they have concerns about the workload. They could talk with a counselor, an adviser, the dean of students or assistant principal. He also said they could have parents speak on their behalf.

“I think kids need to be able to be advocates for themselves and where they are doing an amount of homework that seems excessive that’s interfering with a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Abelmann said.

“If that is the situation students need to speak up, and by speaking up, that also creates greater urgency for being able to think about change and have change be necessary.”