FALLBROOK – Students spend roughly six hours in the classroom each day while their parents could put in eight hours at the office. When a family returns home in the evening, homework is probably the last thing they want to worry about. Still, homework is part of many families’ daily routine, and chances are it is not going anywhere soon – no matter how much kids complain.
There’s no denying homework can be a chore, but how much homework is assigned could make a difference in a student’s overall academic performance. Parents, students and educators have long debated the homework issue, and that debate has included discussions on determining the right amount of homework and if homework has any actual benefits on student performance.
Is homework beneficial?
There are various points of view regarding the benefits of homework. The prevalent philosophy in education for decades has been that students learn better when lessons are reinforced through homework. Yet new findings indicate that homework may benefit certain age groups and grade levels more than others.
According to Harris Cooper, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Missouri, the benefits of doing homework seem to depend on the student’s grade level. After reviewing more than 100 studies on the effectiveness of homework, Cooper found high school students who do homework outperform those who do not on standardized tests, and those who do homework earn better grades. Homework is only half as effective for middle school students, while at the elementary school level, homework has no apparent measurable effect on achievement.
Still, some educators are reluctant to stop assigning homework. Some teachers assign homework, but only after fine tuning assignments to be as effective as possible, while others feel homework diminishes interest in learning, especially time-consuming or especially difficult assignments.
Ultimately, homework is a way for teachers to measure how well their students grasp lessons and concepts. Parents of struggling students can always ask for additional work to help kids better understand their coursework.
What is the right amount of homework?
Homework assignments are on the rise, and that increase may be fueled by certain factors. Intense pressure on educators to meet national testing standards likely influences the number of worksheets and assignments teachers send home each night. If students do not get work finished in the classroom, they usually must complete it at home. In addition, the idea that excessive homework is synonymous with a rigorous education is common among some parents, who may feel that extra schoolwork will get their children into top colleges and universities.
According to Bruce Ravage, the executive director of Park City Prep in Bridgeport, Conn., homework is only given in his school to reinforce and review what students learned in the classroom. He says the charter school has been emphasizing the quality of homework assignments over the quantity.
The National Education Association suggests 10 minutes of homework per night for first-graders is sufficient. This amount of homework should increase by 10 minutes per grade level, so second graders would be assigned 20 minutes per night, third graders 30 minutes, and so on. However, the NEA said there should be a cap on homework so that it does not exceed two hours per night.
Parents should be available to provide guidance and help with homework when necessary. But parents also should be careful not to do the homework for their children, which only undermines the purpose of the assignments.
If homework appears burdensome or a consistent source of struggle for students, parents should speak with their children’s teachers to discuss both the amount and type of homework given.
The homework debate figures to continue with each new crop of students entering school. Educators and family can continue to work together to help students make the most of their educations.