ED. Magazine

Are You Down With or Done With Homework?

By Lory Hough

The debate over how much schoolwork students should be doing at home has flared again, with one side saying it’s too much, the other side saying in our competitive world, it’s just not enough.

Illustration by Jessica Esch

It was a move that doesn’t happen very often in American public schools: The principal got rid of homework.

This past September, Stephanie Brant, principal of Gaithersburg Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md., decided that instead of teachers sending kids home with math worksheets and spelling flash cards, students would instead go home and read. Every day for 30 minutes, more if they had time or the inclination, with parents or on their own.

“I knew this would be a big shift for my community,” she says. But she also strongly believed it was a necessary one. Twenty-first-century learners, especially those in elementary school, need to think critically and understand their own learning — not spend night after night doing rote homework drills.

Brant’s move may not be common, but she isn’t alone in her questioning. The value of doing schoolwork at home has gone in and out of fashion in the United States among educators, policymakers, the media, and, more recently, parents. As far back as the late 1800s, with the rise of the Progressive Era, doctors such as Joseph Mayer Rice began pushing for a limit on what he called “mechanical homework,” saying it caused childhood nervous conditions and eyestrain. Around that time, the then-influential Ladies Home Journal began publishing a series of anti-homework articles, stating that five hours of brain work a day was “the most we should ask of our children,” and that homework was an intrusion on family life. In response, states like California passed laws abolishing homework for students under a certain age.

But, as is often the case with education, the tide eventually turned. After the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, a space race emerged, and, writes Brian Gill in the journal Theory Into Practice, “The homework problem was reconceived as part of a national crisis; the U.S. was losing the Cold War because Russian children were smarter.” Many earlier laws limiting homework were abolished, and the longterm trend toward less homework came to an end.

The debate re-emerged a decade later when parents of the late ’60s and ’70s argued that children should be free to play and explore — similar anti-homework wellness arguments echoed nearly a century earlier. By the early-1980s, however, the pendulum swung again with the publication of A Nation at Risk, which blamed poor education for a “rising tide of mediocrity.” Students needed to work harder, the report said, and one way to do this was more homework.

For the most part, this pro-homework sentiment is still going strong today, in part because of mandatory testing and continued economic concerns about the nation’s competitiveness. Many believe that today’s students are falling behind their peers in places like Korea and Finland and are paying more attention to Angry Birds than to ancient Babylonia.

But there are also a growing number of Stephanie Brants out there, educators and parents who believe that students are stressed and missing out on valuable family time. Students, they say, particularly younger students who have seen a rise in the amount of take-home work and already put in a six- to nine-hour “work” day, need less, not more homework.

Who is right? Are students not working hard enough or is homework not working for them? Here’s where the story gets a little tricky: It depends on whom you ask and what research you’re looking at. As Cathy Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework, points out, “Homework has generated enough research so that a study can be found to support almost any position, as long as conflicting studies are ignored.” Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth and a strong believer in eliminating all homework, writes that, “The fact that there isn’t anything close to unanimity among experts belies the widespread assumption that homework helps.” At best, he says, homework shows only an association, not a causal relationship, with academic achievement. In other words, it’s hard to tease out how homework is really affecting test scores and grades. Did one teacher give better homework than another? Was one teacher more effective in the classroom? Do certain students test better or just try harder?

“It is difficult to separate where the effect of classroom teaching ends,” Vatterott writes, “and the effect of homework begins.”

Putting research aside, however, much of the current debate over homework is focused less on how homework affects academic achievement and more on time. Parents in particular have been saying that the amount of time children spend in school, especially with afterschool programs, combined with the amount of homework given — as early as kindergarten — is leaving students with little time to run around, eat dinner with their families, or even get enough sleep.

Certainly, for some parents, homework is a way to stay connected to their children’s learning. But for others, homework creates a tug-of-war between parents and children, says Liz Goodenough, M.A.T.’71, creator of a documentary called Where Do the Children Play?

“Ideally homework should be about taking something home, spending a few curious and interesting moments in which children might engage with parents, and then getting that project back to school — an organizational triumph,” she says. “A nag-free activity could engage family time: Ask a parent about his or her own childhood. Interview siblings.”

Illustration by Jessica Esch

Illustration by Jessica Esch

Instead, as the authors of The Case Against Homework write, “Homework overload is turning many of us into the types of parents we never wanted to be: nags, bribers, and taskmasters.”

Leslie Butchko saw it happen a few years ago when her son started sixth grade in the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) United School District. She remembers him getting two to four hours of homework a night, plus weekend and vacation projects. He was overwhelmed and struggled to finish assignments, especially on nights when he also had an extracurricular activity.

“Ultimately, we felt compelled to have Bobby quit karate — he’s a black belt — to allow more time for homework,” she says. And then, with all of their attention focused on Bobby’s homework, she and her husband started sending their youngest to his room so that Bobby could focus. “One day, my younger son gave us 15-minute coupons as a present for us to use to send him to play in the back room. … It was then that we realized there had to be something wrong with the amount of homework we were facing.”

Butchko joined forces with another mother who was having similar struggles and ultimately helped get the homework policy in her district changed, limiting homework on weekends and holidays, setting time guidelines for daily homework, and broadening the definition of homework to include projects and studying for tests. As she told the school board at one meeting when the policy was first being discussed, “In closing, I just want to say that I had more free time at Harvard Law School than my son has in middle school, and that is not in the best interests of our children.”

One barrier that Butchko had to overcome initially was convincing many teachers and parents that more homework doesn’t necessarily equal rigor.

“Most of the parents that were against the homework policy felt that students need a large quantity of homework to prepare them for the rigorous AP classes in high school and to get them into Harvard,” she says.

Stephanie Conklin, Ed.M.’06, sees this at Another Course to College, the Boston pilot school where she teaches math. “When a student is not completing [his or her] homework, parents usually are frustrated by this and agree with me that homework is an important part of their child’s learning,” she says.

As Timothy Jarman, Ed.M.’10, a ninth-grade English teacher at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, N.C., says, “Parents think it is strange when their children are not assigned a substantial amount of homework.”

That’s because, writes Vatterott, in her chapter, “The Cult(ure) of Homework,” the concept of homework “has become so engrained in U.S. culture that the word homework is part of the common vernacular.”

These days, nightly homework is a given in American schools, writes Kohn.

“Homework isn’t limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important. Most teachers and administrators aren’t saying, ‘It may be useful to do this particular project at home,’” he writes. “Rather, the point of departure seems to be, ‘We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week). … This commitment to the idea of homework in the abstract is accepted by the overwhelming majority of schools — public and private, elementary and secondary.”

Brant had to confront this when she cut homework at Gaithersburg Elementary.

“A lot of my parents have this idea that homework is part of life. This is what I had to do when I was young,” she says, and so, too, will our kids. “So I had to shift their thinking.” She did this slowly, first by asking her teachers last year to really think about what they were sending home. And this year, in addition to forming a parent advisory group around the issue, she also holds events to answer questions.

Still, not everyone is convinced that homework as a given is a bad thing. “Any pursuit of excellence, be it in sports, the arts, or academics, requires hard work. That our culture finds it okay for kids to spend hours a day in a sport but not equal time on academics is part of the problem,” wrote one pro-homework parent on the blog for the documentary Race to Nowhere, which looks at the stress American students are under. “Homework has always been an issue for parents and children. It is now and it was 20 years ago. I think when people decide to have children that it is their responsibility to educate them,” wrote another.

And part of educating them, some believe, is helping them develop skills they will eventually need in adulthood. “Homework can help students develop study skills that will be of value even after they leave school,” reads a publication on the U.S. Department of Education website called Homework Tips for Parents. “It can teach them that learning takes place anywhere, not just in the classroom. … It can foster positive character traits such as independence and responsibility. Homework can teach children how to manage time.”

Annie Brown, Ed.M.’01, feels this is particularly critical at less affluent schools like the ones she has worked at in Boston, Cambridge, Mass., and Los Angeles as a literacy coach.

“It feels important that my students do homework because they will ultimately be competing for college placement and jobs with students who have done homework and have developed a work ethic,” she says. “Also it will get them ready for independently taking responsibility for their learning, which will need to happen for them to go to college.”

The problem with this thinking, writes Vatterott, is that homework becomes a way to practice being a worker.

“Which begs the question,” she writes. “Is our job as educators to produce learners or workers?”

Slate magazine editor Emily Bazelon, in a piece about homework, says this makes no sense for younger kids.

“Why should we think that practicing homework in first grade will make you better at doing it in middle school?” she writes. “Doesn’t the opposite seem equally plausible: that it’s counterproductive to ask children to sit down and work at night before they’re developmentally ready because you’ll just make them tired and cross?”

Kohn writes in the American School Board Journal that this “premature exposure” to practices like homework (and sit-and-listen lessons and tests) “are clearly a bad match for younger children and of questionable value at any age.” He calls it BGUTI: Better Get Used to It. “The logic here is that we have to prepare you for the bad things that are going to be done to you later … by doing them to you now.”

According to a recent University of Michigan study, daily homework for six- to eight-year-olds increased on average from about 8 minutes in 1981 to 22 minutes in 2003. A review of research by Duke University Professor Harris Cooper found that for elementary school students, “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero.”

So should homework be eliminated? Of course not, say many Ed School graduates who are teaching. Not only would students not have time for essays and long projects, but also teachers would not be able to get all students to grade level or to cover critical material, says Brett Pangburn, Ed.M.’06, a sixth-grade English teacher at Excel Academy Charter School in Boston. Still, he says, homework has to be relevant.

“Kids need to practice the skills being taught in class, especially where, like the kids I teach at Excel, they are behind and need to catch up,” he says. “Our results at Excel have demonstrated that kids can catch up and view themselves as in control of their academic futures, but this requires hard work, and homework is a part of it.”

Ed School Professor Howard Gardner basically agrees.

“America and Americans lurch between too little homework in many of our schools to an excess of homework in our most competitive environments — Li’l Abner vs. Tiger Mother,” he says. “Neither approach makes sense. Homework should build on what happens in class, consolidating skills and helping students to answer new questions.”

So how can schools come to a happy medium, a way that allows teachers to cover everything they need while not overwhelming students? Conklin says she often gives online math assignments that act as labs and students have two or three days to complete them, including some in-class time. Students at Pangburn’s school have a 50-minute silent period during regular school hours where homework can be started, and where teachers pull individual or small groups of students aside for tutoring, often on that night’s homework. Afterschool homework clubs can help.

Some schools and districts have adapted time limits rather than nix homework completely, with the 10-minute per grade rule being the standard — 10 minutes a night for first-graders, 30 minutes for third-graders, and so on. (This remedy, however, is often met with mixed results since not all students work at the same pace.) Other schools offer an extended day that allows teachers to cover more material in school, in turn requiring fewer take-home assignments. And for others, like Stephanie Brant’s elementary school in Maryland, more reading with a few targeted project assignments has been the answer.

“The routine of reading is so much more important than the routine of homework,” she says. “Let’s have kids reflect. You can still have the routine and you can still have your workspace, but now it’s for reading. I often say to parents, if we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man or woman on Mars and that person is now a second-grader. We don’t know what skills that person will need. At the end of the day, we have to feel confident that we’re giving them something they can use on Mars.”

Read a January 2014 update.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/monica.vandeventer Monica Vandeventer

    I think it comes down to one big question. What is the end goal of education? Is it it to get into college? Is it to learn and understand a body of knowledge? Or is it to equip our kids with the tools necessary to make them successful no matter what they choose to do with their life? People have different end goals and so the means are of course different.

    There is also the issue of teaching kids too early. Have you ever tried to potty train a child before they were ready? You can spend hours and hours on it with them with little or no success, but if you wait until they are ready it takes a minimal amount of time. I think this is where we are with so many subjects in school. There is a great article in Psycology Today ( http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201003/when-less-is-more-the-case-teaching-less-math-in-schools) that talked about this with regards to math. They basically say that maybe if kids are not forced to do rote math at such an early age they pick it up in no time later and have less distain for it.
    I think it is time that we in this country started having some real conversations about how we teach our kids. What we teach them and what is best for them. It isn’t just about funding and staffing. It is about our education system adapting to the changing world, equipping our kids to be part of a completely new world. Homework is just a tiny part of that discussion.

    I have been thinking about this quite in depth and have written some post on these topics:
    http://www.familytrek.org/how-travel-will-develop-the-5-most-important-tools-for-your-kids-success/
    http://www.familytrek.org/long-term-travel-and-education/

    Here is a post about the changing role of higher education. If you weren’t focused on getting your kids into college how would that change they way you educated them?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/opinion/sunday/will-dropouts-save-america.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

    Thank you for this great article. I am going to link to it.

  • http://zora-alice.com/ Opé B.

    Questioning homework can’t be separated from questioning the use of school time. If students are spending 6-8 effective hours engaged in academics, then there is probably little need for further homework. The key has to be utilizing classroom time effectively and making sure kids are actually learning during them. In my own academic experience (particularly in college), the classroom time was so poor (ineffective lectures, etc.) that it was only through homework that I actually grappled with and learned concepts. If classroom instruction can be improved then homework is probably unnecessary, minus essays and other long-term projects.

    Kids need time to engage in extracurriculars and a lot of important learning (teamwork, leaderships, etc.) happens through those. Plus we should encourage students to have free time and learn to fill that time with productive pursuits that personally interest them, which is something I see a lot of adults struggle with. Not to mention that our brain performs better with rest. So I say, improve classroom instruction then limit homework.

  • Sunanda Ramasamy

    “Homework can help students develop study skills that will be of value even after they leave school,” reads a publication on the U.S. Department of Education website called Homework Tips for Parents. “It can teach them that learning takes place anywhere, not just in the classroom. … It can foster positive character traits such as independence and responsibility. Homework can teach children how to manage time.”
    I think that homework has quite a negative effect on independence and responsibility, contrary to what the publication read. Homework, at the amount and quality of how it is given, is becoming something done just because someone told you to do it. And the only reason why you’re doing it is so that you don’t get a bad grade.Just like Monica Vandeventer commented below, the question becomes whether you’re going to school so that you go to college, and then get a great job; or if you’re going to school to learn.
    You’re not interested in doing the homework for your own sake, you’re not doing it for your own interest. And the worst part, there’s no actual learning involved, and no sense of wonder and self-discovery. I think that’s quite conflicting with the idea of becoming responsible and independent. Homework is just a part of life, a cult,as Cathy Vatterott calls it. It is not an opportunity to discover the world, its working, its functioning. Isn’t it possible for homework to be something…magical? Looking at the present attitude towards homework and the present take on homework, I’d say probably not. But why can’t it be?
    Homework is necessary when dealing with concepts that are difficult to understand or grasp upon on first meeting. It does make good practice. In this information age where there is more and more to be learnt and understood, the time at school is usually allocated for introducing a concept to the child, and then leaving him to grasp the concept better at the house. There’s not enough time at school to actually practice and get familiar with ideas – the aim of homework – , when there’s so many ideas to be “discovered” and introduced to the child!
    Of course, the whole point of it beats me. We’re all going to grow up and forget half of the things we learnt at school (which leads to the question if we actually do learn at school or just short-termly remember things). So what’s the use of spending all those evenings on getting familiar with the stuff you’re short-termly learning? Just for an A grade? Will that A grade help you build character that you might acquired better through extracurricular activities? In my opinion, extracurricular activities are
    overrated too. Spending time with the family, or spending a relaxed time by yourself, are good opportunities to discover things and character too.
    But this is all just from the view of a student who’s enduring and climbing up the summit of this education system. I’ve yet to discover the view from up top, but I think it won’t be more “breath-taking” than it is now.

    P.S. Sorry for the big time rant. And no, I am not supposed to be doing my homework right now. :)

  • Heidi R.

    Parents can make a big difference here. When I was in 6th grade, my parents became alarmed by the sheer amount of homework I brought home every night. They reached out to other parents to see if others shared their concern (they did), convened a meeting with the 4 teachers in my grade cluster, and talked it over with them (among other things, at the meeting it became clear that the teachers never even so much as checked in with one another to know what they were assigning, what it related to, how much work they were giving, etc.). The teachers’ receptivity to the parents’ concerns was rather lukewarm, so the parents created their own solution: they would have us kids work on homework for one hour each night, supervise the hour to ensure it was used productively and sign off as having witnessed our work, but at the end of the hour, that was it – we would not devote any more time to homework. Given the number of parents who committed to applying this new “rule,” the teachers had no choice but to go along with it and not penalize kids whose homework was incomplete. Eventually the teachers tired of having uneven homework completion rates and figured out a way to coordinate with one another so they truly were assigning (collectively) a hour’s worth of homework each night. This is a great example of how parents can come together and advocate for their children if they don’t like what’s happening in a classroom or school.

  • Anonymous

    There are many studies out there that show that those adults who work an 8 hour day and are kept to 9-5 hours for their work day are much more effective during their time at work than those who are forced to work 10-12 or even longer days.

    As children lack the patience of adults, school time including homework should be limited to 6-8 hours and I think teachers would find students actually absorb what they are seeing and hearing in class. The true problem is that the school year needs to be extended for the school day to be shorter, and the teachers’ union would never allow that without significant salary increases.

  • Ngozi Enelamah

    The truth is that if our children are not well engaged after school, homework or not, they will find other activities to occupy their time such as games, the internet and more, some of these in excess. The children of this generation have an information overload, and the interesting information (which is often leisurely and more fun) is not coming from school. So that makes school work all the more of a chore.
    Homework is one of the activities that help bring balance after school, if it is not too much and every other activity has its place. Children need time after school to rest, relax, play and do ‘some work’. Yes but it must not be school work -everyday! If parents are actually home early enough to assist with homework, then that makes a difference. It can be turned to ‘quality time’ with your child. I find that when I do homework with my children, I am able to see their weaknesses, line of reasoning and areas where they have potential challenges. I am able to work towards assisting them overcome these especially when I sense the teacher maybe not have observed it even with small class sizes. I have used force, bribe and what have you to get homework done. And sometimes we just rush over it for want of time.
    As the article says, so much research has been done on whether or not to drop homework that there is more than enough evidence from either side to back each stance. While our children will benefit from the rigors of academic exercise, one of the keys is for schools to pay attention to this issue in a fresh way and with a new lens. There must be a balance. Too much homework is too much and becomes rote –a despised one at that. Another way to look at is to consider the learning styles or personality styles of children. Some children are of a studious nature and will thrive on homework anyway. But there are more playful ones who though intelligent will not win a prize in performance based on the regular forms of assessment. What sort of children and for what sort of future are educators preparing for?

  • ColbyHermanowski

    I know that students also have been sleeping in class because of lack of sleep. Reason? Homework because as I know homework is one of the main causes children have been getting a lack of sleep ending them up sleeping in school I even saw a student get expelled for being asleep in school for the entire time he was at school and that is sooooo mean. Would you want your child to be like that student?

  • Anonymous

    parents i know you are trying to do good but homework hurts childrens fun time.Children want to spend it with you guys the parents. Also HOMEWORK is hard so if someone needs help the parents cant help and what are the children going to do then? FAIL the HOMEWORK? I know parents want the best for the children so just CUT homework not take it out totally!

  • Vivien Yu

    on my, who knew that homework was THAT bad?

  • Joshua McKendry

    Last year I had so much homework that I sometimes didn’t get to bed until midnight, my mum got so worried that she told me to do only 45 minutes a night and she would sign to confirm that I spent the hour doing that. I had a very hard time for the next few weeks at school being yelled at so much that I got more annoyed at my mum for limiting my work but they started to give in because everyone else was doing it. But I have to say the internet is a lot more fun way to learn, wikipedia, google and even youtube help me learn and I actually remember it because of the way that I am taught it, through animations. I live in the 21st century, I am brought up with high speed technology and realistic graphics as the norm and being taught like that instead of 1000 words in a book is a lot more appealing and works more for me, all I know is that my new school uses the internet as homework, they say go on this website and do this and we’ll have a test on it tomorrow, and the websites are very good. That’s just my opinion though.

  • Ingrid Moon

    What happens when a child is gifted (or other special circumstance) and doesn’t need the extra practice, but does need the extra imagination and play time? Can a parent tell the teacher “no thanks” without it affecting the child’s evaluation, even if their performance isn’t affected?

  • Chris Yarsawich

    Favorite observation from the article: “Let’s have kids reflect.”

    As a new teacher at a demanding private high school in North Atlanta, I have grappled with the question of homework repeatedly throughout the current school year. Parents want rigor, but also balance, as most kids are involved in several extracurriculars. In addition to the question of time, I noticed something else: students who proved quite perceptive and thoughtful in class were turning in hastily completed or incomplete homework assignments. It made me rethink what types of assignments I gave for homework.

    Now, I save the most rigorous work (reading, responding to critical thinking questions, roleplaying, even research) for class time, and instead have students complete only reflection questions for homework. The results? Thoughtful writing, requiring no more than 15-20 minutes, which demonstrates not only critical but also creative thinking. Students love making a personal connection to material or activities from class, especially since the only wrong answer is “IDK.” They’re happy with an assignment that doesn’t take an hour to finish, I’m happy that they’re developing the reflective thinking that promotes executive functioning skills AND gets them thinking about the material in a personal way. Let’s have kids reflect indeed!

  • SB

    Instead of homework, here’s what I would like to see as a
    parent: Marked in-classroom work and tests sent home once per week, so I can
    (1) See what my kids are actually learning and (2) See where they are
    struggling so I can supplement with in-home parent-child tutoring ONLY those
    particular areas where they are struggling and in a style that works for them.

    Instead, most parents these days get daily, detailed,
    proscribed (“do it exactly like this”) homework, which is sent home
    like an untargeted, gargantuan shotgun
    blast in hope that it will hit something because parents are not trusted to
    supplement their children’s education at home. Give the parents more credit than
    that. Send home papers, and we’ll see where they are struggling and then, over
    a weekend full of hours, FLEXIBLY fit in review time. We
    parents will assign any necessary “homework” ourselves. And maybe our
    kids will learn HOW to study EFFICIENTLY according to their own INDIVIDUAL
    needs instead of learning only how to follow the step-by-step directions of
    daily homework.

    When my generation went to elementary school, we got, simply,
    “Be ready for this test on Friday.” Now, kids get: “On Monday,
    write out words 1-5 three times each. Then write a sentence for each word. On
    Tuesday, write out words 6-10 three times each. Then write a sentence for each
    words….etc.” I fyou leave it to the parents, the kid isn’t wasting time on
    stuff he already knows and therefore has MORE time to practice stuff he’s
    struggling with.. If homework is not improving grades or is even negatively
    correlated with them, I can tell you as a parent why: homework takes away the
    time I would otherwise be spending helping my child with TARGETED review. But
    now I can’t, because that child has exhausted his or her time and, especially,
    focus on the assigned homework that only hit on one or two things he or she
    needs to review, and eight or ten things she doesn’t.

    Now, a parent can tell the child to ignore the homework and
    do X,Y,Z instead, but then the child is downgraded for not doing homework, and
    the child is taught to disregard the authority of the teacher, neither of which
    a parent wants. So just don’t send home the homework. Send home the marked classwork
    , and TRUST US as parents to decide where they need extra review and to provide
    it.

    What about kids who have crappy parents? Well, they are SOL
    I’m afraid, but they are under a homework regime as well, because the parents
    aren’t going to make sure they do the homework anyway. The best you can do with
    the kids of crappy parents is to give them extra tutoring in-class or after
    school.

  • AMB

    I am relating an anecdote not a scientifically measurable sample. As an HGSE student just two years ago, we heard numerous comments from Harvard Graduate Law School students that we worked too hard, did too much work and were not socializing enough. Often these law students couldn’t figure out why the ed students would work so hard, especially since we were going to make so much less.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spk.02052 Sean Kennedy

    Rather than just the quantity, I’m most concerned with the quality of the homework. Does it enrich the learning experience in a meaningful way or is it merely repitition? Does it take advantage of the opportunity that exists outside the classroom to flex to individual student needs, or is it yet another exercise in making kids conform to a single standard? Does it encourage independent learning or rule following? My daughter has often been given homework that reviews material she mastered over a year ago. That’s a waste of time and is part of the drudgery that eventually turns many children’s love of learning into a dread of school.

  • Amy

    I am a 7th grade math teacher. (10 years exp.) I have spent years researching the question of homework. I have came to the same conclusion as this article.. All sides are right!

    Like most issues in education a valid argument can be made for more then one way of doing things. The thing that I do know to be true, is my homework(or lack there of) policy changes year to year, and even class to class. Making a policy (as it pertains to learning), that locks all students and their families into one way of obtaining your content is going to fail for many students.
    What is the most effective homework policy… Spend the first week or two of school getting to know your students and their parents and then decide. If it doesn’t work to improve students learning then change it. If it works for some and not others change it for the others.
    I am not sure if there is any research to support my current “homework policy” but i have tried a 30 minute a night policy, a do your unfinished classwork policy, an all homework is due on Friday policy, and a no homework policy just to name a few. What I find is misery for all involved parents, students and mostly me.

    The goal is that students learn the content. It is not possible to decide how a student will get there until you have laid eyes on and spoken to the student. In a class of 30 students if three students get there the same way then you are a lucky teacher.

  • Jacob

    I’m now in college however I recall during my last year of high school my senior class came together and added up all the things we’re told we’re supposed to do and found that mathematically you can’t do EVERYTHING the system asks of you. This included 8 hours of sleep, 1 hour of exercise, 1 hour of study per subject, our 7 and a half hour school day, among other factors and it was all just too much to be able to do without sacrificing time spent on certain areas.

  • Ronald Isaacson

    Homework is practice. In order to become proficient at any learnable skill — such as a sport, or a musical instrument, or mathematics, or any other topic — the given skill must be PRACTICED in order to be perfected.

    Now that having been said, homework/practice time can be wasted. Practice can be useless, if not utilized in the correct manner. If the music student continues practicing the wrong notes or phrases; if the athlete continues to practice the wrong movement or process; then the practice can be useless.

    If, in homework, a student continues to practice skills that have already been attained, then they should move on to practice the next skills that would be a more advantageous use of their practice/homework time.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    Homework and practice should ALWAYS be pertinent; should always be relevant to the topics and/or subjects being studied. If not, then yes, it can be a waste of time.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    To the same extent… if the students at Gaithersburg Elem. are going home and really reading quality books (with the TV turned off!!), than that is time well spent. If they are reading comic books or “Where’s Waldo?” or the like, and reading while watching the drivel on TV, than they are wasting their time!

  • Thiha Win

    minimum amount of home work should be done, but too many home work make them frustrated. It is forced to do something, and not an effective way of learning process.

  • Louise Campbell

    How can one teach AP without homework? And why call it homework? Why not just call it learning beyond the 40 minutes? Applying primary school level norms to high school is like having a pediatrician do gerontology.Stop making blanket statements in which one size fits all. Reading is a good thing, as is journaling.

  • Sally Johnson

    I am a tenth grader who recently transfered to a private school and the amount of homework I receive per night is well over four hours. Usually it adds up to be around six hours of homework and on some nights its been more than eight.

  • xjkz

    I Think we should use class time better so homework is lessened

  • Lan

    I am an 8th grader in high school from Singapore. Personally, i feel that kids really do have too much homework. Typically, a student would wake up at 5-6am, go to school and reach home at around 2-4pm. Here in Singapore it is compulsory to have an extra-curricular activity and hence many students reach home after 7pm.

    Students also have other obligations such as tuition, leadership positions, or they may take extra language classes.
    I myself take Higher Chinese/Mandarin and half the people in my class take Malay or Tamil in addition to Higher Chinese or regular Chinese. I take piano and art classes and am part of Girl Guides and thus my schedule is extremely busy.
    This schedule is made worse during the exam period where almost every student in my school will stay up till 3am, wake up at 5am and skip meals just to study.

    Despite being thoroughly exhausted, many students still have to struggle to finish the assigned homework or projects. I quote from a newspaper, “That’s 120 hours of classes and homework over four weeks, or 30 hours a week. In other words, about three-quarters the load of an adult working full time. At least adults get paid. Students just get exhausted.
    Another student, 15, in Secondary 3, was given assignments in every subject, including having to finish every essay question listed in her biology 10-year-series book.
    Is it time for schools here to revise their homework policy?”

    Yes, it is. Add this up with the above mentioned obligations and extra classes, students really do get too much homework. In fact, the only reason i am reading this article is to complete an essay that was given to me during the holidays.

    Though i agree that homework can help students practice learned topics and effectively grasp concepts, there is simply too much stress put on the average student.
    I hope my comment sheds some light on the situation most students are in and on the fact that students really get too much homework.

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