After an eight-hour school day, extracurricular activities, and jobs, homework is typically the last item on students’ daily to-do lists. In recent years, homework has come under questioning of whether students need it to reinforce what they learned in the classroom.
A generational shift has accounted for the homework divide between past generations and Gen Z. Jean Twenge explains in her 2017 book iGen, “High school seniors heading to college in 2015 spent four fewer hours a week on homework, paid work, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities during their last year in high school than those entering college in 1987(…)Thus, time spent on homework and activities doesn’t seem to be the reason teens are now less likely to work during the school year.”
Schools across the country have been testing if homework is not important, as the Time News said, “Already, small rebellions are starting. High schools in Ridgewood, N.J., and Fairfax County, Va., among others, have banned homework over school breaks. The entire second grade at Taylor Elementary School in Arlington, Va., abolished homework this academic year. Burton Valley Elementary School in Lafayette, Calif., has eliminated homework in grades K through 4. Henry West Laboratory School, a public K-8 school in Coral Gables, Fla., eliminated mandatory, graded homework for optional assignments. One Lexington, Mass., elementary school is piloting a homework-free year, replacing it with reading for pleasure.”
But is M-A following this trend? AP Language and English four teacher David Rosenberg said, “I am absolutely positive that I assign less homework than I received at Woodside, which was within this district. Speaking in a sweeping generalist statement, my generation received more homework than Gen Z.”
Chemistry and Biology teacher Dr. Rachel Richards explained her stance on homework, saying, “I think homework has decreased, but education has changed. When I was in school, there were honors classes and regular classes, which is called tracking, and we have been getting away from that. I was definitely in honors classes and AP classes where there was much more homework.”
Advanced classes can also involve extra homework. In addition, as AP Chemistry teacher Matthew Sandora noted, “Traditionally, if you are in one AP, you’re probably in two or three more. And so, lots of AP classes means lots of homework.”
That said, not all AP classes have a lot of homework. Sandora said he doesn’t give as much homework as other AP classes because students tend to care less after several repetitive questions. He said, “After the constant repetitiveness of homework problems that were just the same problem with different numbers or different elements, all students’ brains are like, ‘Ugh, I’m done.’ So, I could assign less homework instead of giving repetitive assignments that would only overwork my students.” Regardless of class level, repetition still has the same effect. Teachers thinking along these lines might have presented a decrease in homework.
AP Computer Science Java teacher Cynthia Donaldson has been centering her class towards meaningful work, rather than busy work. She said, “Being a mother and watching my kids go through high school changed my own perspective on homework. My daughters would come home at 8:00 after going to school and their sport or job, eat dinner, and then start homework at 9:00. It was very hard for them to produce anything of quality that late at night after they’d already had a 13-hour day. That made me more committed to trying to only give very meaningful homework rather than busy work.”
Student-athletes also struggle between balancing academics and their sport. For example, Junior Oliver Novak reflected, “I think with the tennis season starting homework becomes a bit less important to get done. I might not study as much for a test or just care less about the accuracy of my homework.”
Most teachers also believe that students are spending less time on homework. Dr. Richards said, “When I was in high school, I got hours a night of homework. Typically two to three hours freshman and sophomore year, but then with the AP and honors classes it became four to six hours. As a teacher, I think we are encouraged to give less homework today than I received in high school for sure.”
While teachers are attempting to decrease the workload on students, students like Guzman and Brew feel like they are doing the same amount of homework per night as Dr. Richards. Students don’t know how much homework there was before, but they still feel like they have a heavy load. However, both students and teachers tend to think that Gen Z replaces time spent on homework with extracurricular activities and jobs.
Some students have to wrestle with getting home late from a job, and quickly having to face their homework, keeping them awake even later. Sophomore Ana Guzman said, “On a regular day, I go to school from 8:30 to 3:45, and then work from 5:15 to 9:45. There’s a little gap between school and work, but not enough time to get a significant amount of work done. Usually, I do homework after work, so from 10 to about one or two a.m., depending on how much I was assigned that day.”
Extracurriculars are extremely important to most students, like running a club for a cause they believe in. Sophomore Condi Brew added, “Homework takes me three to four hours. On top of that, I have a club called the Pen Pal Club, which writes letters and cards to people in need of socialization, and we meet during lunch. Sometimes it takes time after school, so I either come to school not prepared for the club, or I come prepared and some of my homework isn’t finished.”
Guzman said, “I really want to do my job and some other things with my time after school, but I’m not able to because of the workload homework brings. I’m a lot more cautious about how many AP classes I should take next year, especially since I still struggle with the one advanced class I take this year.”
While teachers have varying opinions on what is a “good” amount of homework for students, it’s clear that the standards for what that amount is have changed. M-A students’ and teachers’ perspectives reveal that homework may not need to be as demanding and necessary as it used to be.