By Rayyan Ahmad
With the start of the new 2019-2020 school, the Howard County Public School System introduced a new set of policies that affect the entirety of middle and high school students. These modifications have altered many different aspects of Howard County schools and have also received a mixed response from students, from homework policies and submission times to the removal of extra credit entirely. Many of these policy changes were targeted to the grading guidelines used in HCPSS schools in order to “ensure that information on grading, reporting, promotion, retention, and homework is determined in a clear and consistent manner, and reported to students and their families through regular and timely communication about student academic progress.” (hcpss.org, Policy 8020 - Grading and Reporting: Middle and High School)
One large aspect the county was keen on changing was the amount of homework for middle and high schoolers. Many students are occupied after school, either with sports, clubs, volunteering, or just socializing to give a “mental break” and relieve stress, making it hard to find a lot of time for homework. “After school, I have football practice until 5:00 PM almost every day of the week, then when I get home, I rest, eat some food, and shower.” says Glenelg Junior Pierce Pushek, “Some days I can’t even start my homework until 9:00 PM.” This has resulted in many high schoolers, including Pierce, sometimes having to skip or not complete homework due to lack of time. Excess homework can make it very difficult to balance a well-rounded life while maintaining good grades for many students.
To prevent the lack of time from lowering the grades of their students, HCPSS decided to limit homework per class to 90 minutes or less a week. For those students taking rigorous AP courses, this time was slightly flexible, to prepare these students for the difficult AP Exam in May. Ms.Currie-Scott, GHS Media Specialist believes this to be unfair. “ It is nearly close to impossible to measure how much time homework will take a specific student,” she says, “maybe a certain student is good at math, so they can finish a math assignment quickly and easily, but another student might be bad at math, so it takes a longer time to finish the same math homework.” This policy, Ms. Currie-Scott thinks, does not change anything and has not overall effect as teachers may base homework time only on one student. Students who are weaker at some subjects will still take longer than their peers, and the teacher will be left thinking that if one student is able to complete the homework in 90 minutes or less, then other students should be able to as well.
Another important policy that was implemented this year by the county was homework submission time. As many HCPSS teachers utilize Canvas, an educational software, to assign homework for students to submit online, the default settings were the assignment being due at 11:59 PM on the due date. Students used this time limit to their advantage and completed their online assignments late at night, sometimes submitting it mere minutes before midnight, so it would be on time. HCPSS started cracking down on this mostly due to some students not having access to the means of being able to submit an assignment in their homes. To keep it fair for all students to have the same amount of time to complete assignments, the Board of Education decided that it had to be turned in during the school day. However, many teachers did not feel this would help any students in completing their assignments, so they try to help by changing the due dates to the beginning of school, the next day. Some are opposed to thus, “The policy just seems a little pointless to me,” says Emmanuel Mekasha, another Junior at Glenelg High School, “Teachers just change the due dates to the morning of the next day, so many students still procrastinate on their homework and stay awake late to complete it.” As many students agree, this policy change doesn’t seem to actually “change” anything.
An openly disliked policy change that was made by the Howard County School System at the beginning of this school year is the removal of extra credit from all 6th-12th grade classes. This had enraged many students, not just in Glenelg, but throughout Howard County. Trey Fleece, GHS Junior does not see the reason for the addition of this policy. “I do not understand why the county removed extra credit… I have sports and I get home late, so I sometimes can’t finish all my work,” he says, “I need all the help I can get to increase my grade, and small points never hurt anyone.” The extra credit may not hurt anyone, but it seems unfair if only certain students were given extra credit, while others were not. Even if there is extra credit for the entire class, students may not have the time or opportunity to complete it giving others an unfair advantage.
The new policies introduced by the Howard County Public School System for the 2019-2020 school year incorporated varying degrees of change to schools all throughout the county from submission time to the removal of extra credit from all classes. The HCPSS owes us an apology for changing the policy without realizing the effects it would have on the GHS community.