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Parent Issues Complaint on WHS Homework Level

She addressed the problem in public on Dec. 20.

A Windham High School parent delivered a public complaint on Dec. 18 about the homework level for students, a problem which Principal Tom Murphy is already looking at with his leadership team.

Andrea Alexander told the school board that her daughter, who she referred to as a motivated and dedicated student, is pulling all-nighters along with many of her classmates.

"It is unbelievable," Alexander said, saying that the stress level is unbearable in Windham homes with high school students.

Murphy reported that a couple of parents have reached out to him specifically, and that the comments are not new to him.

"(Our) leadership team has begun to craft a spreadsheet of class expectations," he said.

According to Murphy, the school is looking at specific grade levels and determining what a student's workload would actually look like for a particular level of education, such as honors level courses.

He said the leadership team is also trying to determine what an appropriate amount of time to spend on homework should be for each particular class, using the example of Honors chemistry.

Murphy explained that he taught an advanced placement (AP) course for 15 years.

"My expectation was a student should be doing one hour worth of work per night in that class," he said. "If I have a student that is taking three hours, I might have a conversation – is this the appropriate challenge for you?"

Murphy said there was also discussion on putting the homework times in the program of studies for each course.

School Board member Michelle Farrell said that her daughter is in a similar boat, referencing projects that are due after she gets back from winter break although the idea is to give a week for the students to relax.

Fellow board member Jerome Rekart asked Murphy to network with colleagues at other high schools about homework loads.

Alexander stressed the need for parent input on homework decisions, suggesting a possible town meeting on the subject.

According to Superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche, the school district has a homework policy in place.

"Have they evolved to something else?," he asked, "I can't sit here and tell you at this point in time that they have."

He noted that a comparitive analysis is difficult due to Windham High's short history, but added that the district would be more than happy to investigate the situation to help define the magnitude of the problem.

Regarding the issue, it will be brought back as an agenda item and Murphy will return to the board after winter break.

Josh Graham December 20, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I am a sophomore here at Windham high and although we students do get a good amount of homework, the amount is not the only thing that can be blamed. The main problem would probably be a lack of diligence while doing homework. If we students put away all electronics and outside distractions while doing homework i am sure that it would take much less time to complete.
Josh Hebert December 20, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Senior here. Looking just at this article, I see Honors Chemistry being used as an example of this student's "average" class load. The key word here is Honors. In the most unoffensive way possible, if your child is being crushed by work and feels absolutely overwhelmed, I would ask you to take a step back for a moment and think about where the problem is-- Is your child taking courses appropriate for them? Nobody is forcing your student to take these AP/Honors classes. At the High School, we have a wonderful spectrum of classes, ranging from the college level (AP) to college-preparatory (CP), with Honors programs lodged in between. You have the right to enroll in any of your choosing. If this woman's daughter is spending countless hours per night for an Honors level class, perhaps she simply isn't ready for such a class and should consider enrolling in CP level classes next year. As a student that has been enrolled for four years now and that has taken countless AP and Honors classes, I take great offense in the idea that we need to make these accelerated courses easier. I work very hard. I struggle through work every night and am sometimes forced to pull "all-nighters". Yet, I don't complain, and I surely do not ask my mother to complain on my behalf. I realize that if I enroll in difficult classes, I need to be prepared to put in the work. These classes are not supposed to be easy. So please Windham, I beg you to consider that the school might not be the problem here.
Chris December 20, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Mr Josh Hebert is clearly on the right path, well written - congratulations to your parents.
Tim Stap December 21, 2012 at 12:02 AM
I am a sophomore at the school, and I totally concur with Josh. Obviously, AP classes are not options for sophomores such as myself to take, but I am in three honors courses, and I feel very overwhelmed at times. I know that I am not very good at math and science, and therefore, will not be taking any AP courses in those subjects, it would be pointless. I plan on only taking APs only in subjects that interest me. I (without offending anyone) would recommend the same to anyone that struggles in such areas, there are some that can handle it all, but they are the intellectual elite. I am a good student, don't get me wrong, but I know that I am not among the elite in my class. Therefore, stacking my schedule with APs would not be a very good idea. No offense, but if she cannot handle the work load, then it might be time to consider taking a CP course instead, I took 1 honors class my freshman year and the latest I ever stayed up was 11:00. I get stressed out pretty easily, so that will probably work best for me in the future, this AP and honors system is all about students finding their strengths, not to make themselves dislike school. It works very well, if used correctly, and can be an honors student nightmare.
Madison Walters December 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I am Andrea Alexander's daughter who is a sophomore. And I actually do take offense to all you pricks who are too good to help lower the stress level for some classes. I didn't sign up for more than I could handle, my guidance councilor strongly recommended that I take the classes I'm in now. And yes, I sure as hell am overwhelmed by all this bullshit "teach yourself" crap. I go to school 6 hours a day to LEARN! That means my teachers need to TEACH! At WHS the mentality that many teachers have is that the kids should teach themselves by reading the text book at home. Well guess what, that teaching method doesn't work! Many of my friends in Honors American are up insanely late, reading a crazy amount in their text book. And guess what! They learn NOTHING doing that! And that bullshit statement Mr. Murphy made saying that he would address the teachers on not having homework due the day after we get back from vacation DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! I am not hating on the whole school, Im just saying what many people think, but are too afraid to say, because few people here in NH like to make their voice herd and speak up for what they believe. I feel that the math department has a pretty good workload based on the different class levels, and I say this because I'm in Honors right now. So I hope what has been said by my mother, the REAL students of WHS, the parents, and I, will be considered when the school board and the principal of our school come together and address this situation.
Madison Walters December 21, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Well thank you for being so observant and quick to jump to conclusions Mike. Just to clear some stuff up, I went home early today along with half the other students, because of a bomb threat at our school. Sorry for that. And who are you to judge this situation if you don’t even go to the school or know me?
Red Head December 21, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Revenge of the nerds!! The nerds applaud the homework levels. By what other means would they have cause to feel more superior and be so condescending?! These homework fans might be masochistic and dedicated, but they lack analytical thinking skills. Higher volumes of homework do not necessarily enhance a students IQ, knowledge or college entrance exam scores. It seems that many in the current cultural and educational climate presume as much. Honors classes should have more advanced subject matter for the intelligent, ambitious students...... not double and triple the homework load.
Michael Ryan December 21, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Hi all, I see that the comments are getting heated, I just want to post this comment as warning. I have posted our terms of use below. Please be civil toward other users. I understand this is a polarizing subject. http://windham.patch.com/terms
Tim Stap December 21, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I am sorry I didn't mean to offend anyone.
Mike December 21, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I hope the principal is allowed by the school district to fix the problem, whether it's an inappropriate amount of homework, or inappropriate placement into advanced or honors courses by those in the guidance department.
E December 21, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I am currently a sophomore at WHS who is enrolled in 3 honors classes. All of my life, I have been a diligent student who manages my time well, focuses in class, and has gotten high honors. In the WHS 2012-2013 student handbook, it states "on average, plan to spend 1 to 3 hours per night of total homework and study." However, this is the amount of homework we often receive PER class. I usually work on homework from 3-5 after school, go to dance until 8, and then work on more homework from 8-12. When I do this, I usually do not finish my homework though and struggle to get it done early in the morning at about 5 or stay up until 2. On average, this adds up to about 7 hours of homework per night. When involved in school sports, it becomes even more difficult to finish homework. On average I get about 5 hours of sleep and get sick often or struggle to stay awake in classes. I spend a majority of my weekends doing homework too. As an honors student, my teachers recommend that I take these honors classes and do not realize the toll that the amount of homework they give us takes on our minds and bodies. Also, we are constantly told in school to sign up for extracurricular activities, which adds to the stress. I cannot even count the number of students and parents I have spoken with who agree. By the way, I stayed in school the entire day today and there is no such thing as an "easy A" at WHS.
Tim Stap December 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Mike, the guidance department doesn't decide who goes into honors classes, it is based off of teacher recommendation. I am sorry to seem impertinent, but that is generally how it works, again, I apologize for rudeness. Whoever "E" is, I hope you have a happy holiday! No homework for two weeks! The school handbook is somewhat out of date unfortunately, in a perfect world they'd update that yearly, but I believe I heard somewhere that it was made quite a few years ago. On a separate topic, my view on this is quite simple: It is what it is. The teachers decide our homework, we don't.
cjm December 21, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Why use profanity? Homework is also a life lesson for learning how to prioritize. Also if this issue is real, organize your fellow students and make your voices heard. You are old enough to not need your parent to speak for you.
Andrew December 22, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Hello Madison - I am a senior here at WHS. I have personally taken Honors American Studies and went through all the stresses that you have through in taking numerous Honors classes. Unfortunately, for Honors level classes, you are expected to read the textbook. It has been this way for decades. There's no getting around it, and It is very true that it's difficult. Some people have harder times learning from the textbook than others (like me). But claiming that the teachers "don't teach" because they ask you to read the textbook is not going to be a good argument to the school board. HAS is a notoriously difficult course at WHS, and its difficultly may be need to be adjusted slightly (also remember that it's two Honors classes fit into one) Also, you say that you think the course work for math courses is at an appropriate level. Perhaps math is your strong subject, and you think it's easier. I have many friends who were in honors math classes and they struggled mightily, while doing fine in Honors American. It's all relative. Nobody is forcing you to take these classes. If you are doing many extracurricular activities, then perhaps take less Honors classes or take classes that are less challenging to you (such as Honors math). I hope you don't take anything that I say personally or offensive. Just being recommended to take these courses means you are an incredibly talented individual. But ultimately, one has to make life choices, and taking courses like HAS is one of them.
Josh Hebert December 22, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Really. I would love to see the studies to back your claims up. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but looking at the scores distribution in just the senior class, there certainly seems to be a strong positive correlation between the students that take an accelerated (and thus more homework intensive) schedule and those that score highly on SAT/ACT/AP tests, as well as the quality of college they are admitted to. I'm not claiming to have an education degree (and I doubt you do either), but how it works in this country is that people who work hard in high school tend to go to better colleges and ultimately get better jobs. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant, but that's how it is. So, before you go spouting off about the "masochistic nerds", I encourage you actually do some research on correlation between rigor of high school courses and overall success. Then come back and argue like an intelligent and civil human being. Note that I am not saying that such a curriculum is essential to success, but that it certainly helps very much so.
Josh Hebert December 22, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I'm sorry that you feel the need for profanity. I assure you that I very much am "real" student of WHS-- come chat with me in the halls if you like! Next time you have a free moment, I encourage you to find someone attending college right now (better yet, go see if you can sit in on a class!) and observe how the class is structured. You might find it a little eye-opening, as the model that WHS is using happens to be very similar to that of most colleges. No professor is going to hold your hand throughout the course. She or he will expect you to learn the material on your own time, saving your questions to be answered during class time. So, in reality, the curriculum that WHS has outlined is extremely progressive, and most, if not all, of the now college freshmen I have spoken to have had nothing but praise for the program, as they feel it has very adequately prepared them for college-style learning. Side note, a special comment about Honors American. I took that class when I was a sophomore. It is a HARD class. Yet, even if I had not learned anything from the class itself, the work ethic and ability to cope with difficult situations it helped me develop has been absolutely invaluable. Think of it as learning how to learn: dealing with difficult time constraints, processing difficult material quickly and efficiently, and not taking criticism so personally!
Josh Hebert December 22, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I remember when I was a sophomore. It would seem that you and I have very much in common: we took hard classes, played sports, and were heavily involved in extra curricular activities. I remember the sleepless nights, the awful feelings of sickness and drowsiness that followed. It's not pleasant, and it's not doable by most of us. One day, one of my teachers told me something that has stuck with me in the two years since then. "You guys all push yourselves so hard and think that you can do everything. But that's just not true. Life is all about choices and you have to pick what's important to you." So maybe your dance is extremely important to you. Or perhaps your athletics take priority. Or maybe you are compelled to get the best grades you can. All of these are fine choices, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. I used to play football. I used to run indoor track. I used to play lacrosse. But I realized that I just couldn't handle it all, so I dropped them. The point is, you have to choose what is important to YOU, and run with those. Nobody expects you, or anybody else for that matter, to be a three-season athlete with a 4.0 that is the captain of six different clubs (There are some that do it, and I swear they aren't human). As any college admissions officer will tell you, they would rather see a person with a few passions than one who tries to do everything halfway.
Shyam Sheth December 22, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Y'all kids need Jesus.
Daniel Rubery December 22, 2012 at 11:16 PM
While I agree that the quantity of homework does not necessarily improve a students analytical skills, that is not always the goal of a particular homework assignment. Reading the textbook, for example, communicates a certain set of information to all of the students in the class. The point of such an assignment is not to improve a student's IQ, and certainly not to raise their college entrance exam scores; indeed, that is not even the goal of the class. Higher level classes require more time on rote homework because they simply have more material to teach. While it would be nice to have a few difficult tasks for each class rather than lengthy, simple tasks, it is necessary to spend your time on the simple tasks before you are able to complete the difficult ones.
Constable Harry Johnson December 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM
While this is a very real alternative, we need to consider whether this "Jesus" actually lightens the load of our dearly beloved students. According to my calculations, adding Jesus to their lives may in fact increase the load, due to church and prayer. This will not do, also do we really want to increase our students entitlement issues? They already seem to fumble over the smallest requests a teacher makes. As Windham's only self appointed constable, I have had the pleasure to observe our students from within the classroom and I can assure you that they are being taught fairly simple concepts in a very appropriate way. The problem is not the teaching or homework level, but that there will always be a fundamentally slow portion of the school. They struggle to acknowledge that they are handicapped in picking up the rudimentary lessons taught, and instead blame those around them for their own failings. Allow me to use the metaphor "finger-painting with a quadriplegic" to describe this portion of the population. We shouldn't be wasting our time guiding their hands and dealing with their complaints that they cannot paint the Mona Lisa, but instead simply ignore them until they realize that with a little effort they can enable themselves to do extraordinary things.
Constable Harry Johnson December 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM
While I wholeheartedly disagree with this lady's viewpoint, I find it rather sad that everyone is focusing this much on her rather tame language. As Windham's only self appointed constable, I can assure you there is much worse language in this world than what she used.
Constable Harry Johnson December 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
What does a bomb threat have to do with anything related to this article? Also I fail to see how Mike is judging anything, in fact he's doing a terrific job at reporting objectively reporting the news in this town. If anything, we should be congratulating him on the excellent work he's been doing.
Concerned Citizen December 27, 2012 at 08:18 AM
Hi, I am a sophomore and I am currently not enrolled in any advance courses, I don't have a job, and I'm on the track team. My homework load is reasonable, but can sometimes keep me up very late. A lot of the time, in my perspective, kids are enrolled in classes they aren't ready for, have busy schedules between school, work, and sports, or they don't put in enough effort. However, on some occasions, I have taken note of some teachers assigning unreasonable amounts of homework every day. Personally, I find my workload challenging, but managable. If a kid is going insane and working hard in an advanced class that he/she's failing, I think they should consider taking an easier class. That's just my input.
Meg Costa December 27, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I am thrilled that we finally have a school in Windham that actually challenges the kids who want to be challenged. I'm sad when parents and students complain, especially at WHS where SO MANY options are available to the kids. I especially feel sad for the daughter who is the subject of this article, on so many levels.
WHS Student December 27, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Wow. All of you need to calm down. I'm a juinor at WHS and have had experience with different types of classes. #1, before taking an honors or AP class I suggest actually speaking with people who have taken it. I took Honors Western Humanities my freshman year, but did not take Honors American Studies during my sophomore year. Why? I spoke to someone who had taken Honors American and a different person who taken regular American studies. I actually thought about my own capabilities, and figured that regular was best for me. Thank god I did that, because friends that I have who were in honors told me about their workload and I know it would have been too much for me. Anyway, I believe the problem with homework at WHS is that a lot of times I will not have homework for a while, then all of a sudden get tons. It isn't just me though, my friends and various classmates have said the same thing. This occurs especially before the end of a marking period. We will have a nice lull of a week without stress, then all-of-a-sudden get assigned two or three projects. The high school faculty and administration should plan possibly certain times of the month for each department (for example humanities, sciences, etc) to be able to have a project or a test happen. I know this may be difficult, but it could greatly improve some student's scores because they have more time for each individual test, project, or whatever is due at that time. Plus there is less stress for the student. :)
Concerned Citizen December 27, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Keep the comments friendly/neutral everybody :)
Student December 28, 2012 at 05:11 PM
WHS prepares us for college and the amount of work we're going to have to do in higher levels of education. I'm sure that many of the students complaining about getting too much work are either taking classes that are too difficult for them, or have an unrealistic idea of what is "too much." Many of you will be unpleasantly surprised once it comes time for college. I'm a sophomore at WHS taking three honors classes and I have no problem staying up late doing loads of homework because I know I'm challenging myself and learning.
Citizen of Windham January 09, 2013 at 06:54 PM
In 8th grade, my language teacher offered to recommend me for Honors Western Humanities, if I thought I had what it takes to maintain a solid grade in the class. After sleeping on it, I thought of the challenges it would bring and decided I would not participate in the class. Since then, I have not taken any Honors classes whatsoever and the homework amount per night seems like a good amount for non-honors classes and I'm able to complete it within a reasonable amount of time without distractions. You need to make decisions for yourself. Sure, Honors classes look great on transcripts, but you need to be able to just deal with the class and do what you're told. There's no reason for "teenage rebellion" against it like most kids nowadays who just argue and try to justify all their actions. Pay attention in class and do your work. Simple as that.
JoeShmo January 09, 2013 at 07:02 PM
I completely agree with E. I understand that taking the honors and AP courses consume a lot of time and require a great deal of effort, however, it should not take away a student's only free time. I understand what your saying Josh, but this isn't college. It's a high school, where you try new things, join clubs, and work hard at what you do. You shouldn't be sacrificing your life because you have chosen to get good grades. Also, colleges are looking for well-rounded students, not students who can "pull all-nighters" and deprive themselves of sleep. The school has only been running for 4 years now and the teachers are just beginning to find their places in the school and start assigning more homework. Having other siblings, I can accurately say that I have had the biggest work load of all of my older siblings. It is getting ridiculous and you talk about these other honors students who are supposedly superior to us, but you are talking to a lot of them and quite frankly I find some of your comments to be quite demeaning. Go Madison and Andrea!

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