Freeing up summer

Astrid Weisend, Staff Reporter

Continuing their crackdown on excessive homework, the school is now implementing a new policy banning summer homework. Since limiting classes to assigning two hours of homework per week, the restrictions now encompass the summer homework that accompanies upper level classes.
This change was inspired by the emerging data revealing that homework doesn’t help students to learn, as principal Jay Thomas said. “More and more research is showing that kids being active in classes, active outside of school… play in general is extremely healthy.”
He said that parents would often tell him that the amount of homework students were getting over break prevented both the students and their families from traveling and de-stressing over the summer. “It’s just heartbreaking when you hear stuff like that because there is research that shows that it isn’t making a difference,” Thomas said.
Previous to solidifying this change, Thomas encouraged teachers not to assign homework over fall, winter, and spring breaks, so teachers, too, can enjoy the break. Albemarle has been moving towards these new policies for years. Western has not yet announced what they will be doing for summer homework this year.
“Homework has been a conversation with parents and kids for eight years and it hasn’t a positive one,” Thomas said. “So many students were waiting till the last minute, they were cheating, parents and anonymous members of the community were calling me and telling me there are notes that they sell or give for free to kids year after year.”
Thomas continued to say that the grading on some of the summer assignments was also less than helpful. Some students would write nonsense for parts of their essay and still receive full credit. “How was this beneficial? It wasn’t even read,” Thomas said.
Teachers are now having teach material previously covered over the summer. Chemistry teacher Michael Farabaugh is offering a summer review packet as an option for AP Chemistry. As he teaches the second half of the chemistry course, the packet has more to do with informing students of what they should know rather than mandating new material.
If the students choose not to do the assignment, he will be reviewing all the material over the first few days of class.
“I don’t give busy work,” Farabaugh said. “ The purpose of this assignment is preparation for the next level.”
Sophomore Leo Waters’ sees the new homework policy as an opportunity for him to be less stressed coming into the next school year. In the past, homework has stopped him from doing things over breaks, and he didn’t notice it being beneficial in the school year. Though summer homework has never prevented him from taking a class, he said it is always “in the back of my mind.”
Some teachers and students have, however, expressed concern over how this change will affect AHS test scores and ranking among Virginian high schools. Thomas says that the policy won’t have a negative impact on the tests.
Thomas says that it’s the work of teachers, not homework, that makes Albemarle perform well. “It’s the teacher’s passion in the classroom, it’s the teacher’s knowledge, and the teacher’s ability to help the kids– which teachers are doing a wonderful, wonderful job of– that’s what’s making the difference.”