A photo of an empty beach and the words “Who Killed Summer Vacation?” grace the cover of Time Magazine’s June issue, capturing the sentiment that summer is now for homework and career experience rather than the beach and camp.
However, as the 2014-2015 school year came to a close, the CHS administration made a move to support the return of summer vacation when they informed teachers that it has always been school policy to not assign summer assignments, even for Advanced Placement classes.
Although there apparently was no change in policy, many teachers expressed surprise at the administrative correspondence, claiming it was not a reminder.
“I reacted to it with surprise because, for me, when I first heard it, it was the first time I had ever heard it,” English teacher Whitney Grummon remarks. “I think that many people thought we already knew, so they considered it a reminder, but I did not know.”
In recent years, it has only been AP courses that assign summer work, since there was a widespread faculty assumption that AP courses were exempt from the policy.
AP Psychology teacher Nora Ward echoes Grummon’s sentiment and makes clear that the administration was not simply encouraging teachers not to assign summer homework.
“It wasn’t a recommendation,” Ward says. “It was a reminder.”
While many teachers maintain that the policy was new to them, Principal Rick Lopez contends that it has always been in place.
Lopez explains that toward the end of the 2014-15 school year he heard numerous announcements for students to pick up assignments, at which time teachers were told that it has always been school policy to make summer assignments optional.
“I understand the desire to get a head start and give kids a good foundation to be prepared for rigorous content,” Lopez says. “That is why I never made a policy of prohibiting summer work, but I just made sure that teachers were well aware that it couldn’t be mandatory.”
Because of the policy, many teachers who had assigned summer work in the past simply did not give work this summer.
AP United States History, for instance, did away with its usual homework over the summer because it had just changed to a textbook that makes it easier to break the work up over the course of the year. History teacher Marc Stafford says that in the past it was students who had actually recommended having work in the summer to lighten their workload.
“The purpose of the summer assignment isn’t to add something on,” Stafford adds. “It’s because so much is added on to these courses already that often times students will beg for a summer assignment because they want to make it a little bit more manageable during the year, especially if they are taking multiple APs.”
And 2015 graduate Christopher Good believes that summer homework serves a purpose and helps students to better understand the expectations of the class.
“For me, summer homework was a pretty painless experience,” Good comments. “Not only did it get some more work out of the way, but it set a precedent for the class, helped to segue into the school year…and, if students resent the material that much, maybe they should consider not taking the class.”
Still, some students appreciate the idea of no vacation work. Senior Rachel Glover acknowledges that assignments can be helpful in introducing the material, but she adds that they can take away from the break as well.
“It does kind of stress me out because I know I have to get it done,” Glover explains, “but I want to do all the things that I had planned to do over summer.”
For AP classes, in particular, the goal is for students to do well on the test in May, and certain courses require beginning early. Grummon opines that students who sign up for an AP course realize what they are getting into. If Grummon were forced to change her lesson plan, she says that she would have to submit a new lesson plan to the College Board since there are certain requirements that must be met.
However, certain classes are able to be more flexible.
Ward accommodates the obstacles that can come with the assignments, since her AP Psych class typically tends to have numerous students who do not know they are taking the class until August. But she gives those students the first quarter to complete the work and take the corresponding test.
The administration recognizes that summer homework is beneficial and, for some classes, necessary, but they also acknowledge that vacation is a much needed break. Their solution—the policy—attempts to balance the two.
“[There is] that challenge of managing the desire for our students to have valuable family experiences on vacations and breaks with the need and the challenge to get kids prepared for AP exams,” Lopez remarks. “But there should be a balance.”