Parents Against Homework

These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope.

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Parental concerns about their children’s homework loads are nothing new.

Debates over the merits of homework—tasks that teachers ask students to complete during non-instructional time—have ebbed and flowed since the late 19th century, and today its value is again being scrutinized and weighed against possible negative impacts on family life and children’s well-being. In some middle-class and affluent communities, where pressure on students to achieve can be fierce, yes.

Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week.

In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).

Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at p.m. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics.

She eats dinner at and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school.As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently.Thus, a 1st grader would do 10 minutes each day and a 4th grader, 40 minutes.The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association both endorse this guideline, but it is not clear whether the recommended allotments include time for reading, which most teachers want children to do daily.Certainly, young children are still developing skills that enable them to focus on the material at hand and study efficiently.Teachers’ goals for their students are also quite different in elementary school as compared to secondary school.While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement.Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits.Researchers rely on correlational research in this area of study given the difficulties of randomly assigning students to homework/no-homework conditions.

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