No, we didn't get bribed by a set of stressed-out students to write this article. Plenty of educators and pundit-types have been dissing on homework and its supposed value in the educational world for some time now. And we're guessing they weren't bribed by students either.
"Too Much Homework is Bad for Kids." The Case Against Homework, in book or website form. "Is Too Much Homework Bad for Kids' Health?" Whoa, they got doctors in on this? It must be real.
But doesn't homework help cement lessons in those kids' heads? Keep them off the street at night? Teach them about a work ethic?
Hey—we're not here for the defense. This is the zone for airing the reasons people give for eliminating or at least limiting homework at all grade levels.
Let the prosecution speak.
- Too much homework has a negative impact on students' lives.
Stanford researcher Denise Pope found that students who receive too much homework (more than two hours per night) report negative impacts such as high levels of stress, health problems, and a lack of balance (as in work-life or school-life balance…not unable-to-walk-in-a-straight-line balance). Come to think of it, sometimes grown-ups complain about balance, too. Maybe the struggle shouldn't have to start so early.
- Homework creates homework-potatoes.
We know, it sounds delicious. But what we mean is that kids spend most of the school day sitting, and then they come home and (you guessed it) sit down to do their homework. In their book The Case Against Homework (hm…that title sounds familiar), Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish argue that one of the many problems with homework is that it exacerbates the issue of childhood obesity. Imagine kids putting on one pound per algebra problem. Now that's some heavy math.
- There's little to no academic benefit associated with homework.
In a review of the Bennett/Kalish case, the author writes "all the credible research on homework suggests that for younger kids, homework has no connection with positive learning outcomes, and for older kids, the benefits of homework level off sharply after the first couple assignments."
- The positive effects of homework are like unicorns: largely mythical. (That's right, largely.)
According to Alfie Kohn, author of the book The Homework Myth, "there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school. For younger students, in fact, there isn't even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement. At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied. Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits."
You tell 'em, Alfie.
Kohn expands on this thinking in his 2012 article "Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?," which calls into question the legitimacy of studies that claim homework is beneficial. We hope they don't try to pull that kind of stuff on the unicorns.
- Homework punishes economically challenged students for being poor.
According to Etta Kralovec and John Buell, co-authors of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, homework, in addition to its many other ills, unfairly targets students living in poverty, setting them up for failure.
Why? Because while "some students go home to well-educated parents and have easy access to computers…others have family responsibilities, parents who work at night, and no educational resources in their homes." And when that sort of thing is stacked against you, you don't even need lines like "the dog ate it."
- Homework is completed in a black hole, making its worth difficult to gauge.
Another argument presented by Kralovec and Buell is that because homework is completed "in a black hole"—i.e., in a place where teachers don't see it happening, and rarely hear specifically about how the process went—it is impossible to assess its value. Teachers have no way of knowing how students completed their homework or whether or not they've actually learned anything from it.
As K&B state,
"When work goes home, teachers have little understanding of the mistakes that students have made on the material and little control over who does the work.…Did the students do their own work? Did they exchange answers with friends over the phone or before school?….Did they download the paper they are handing in? Homework is a black hole in the learning process, leaving teachers unaware of each student's true educational level or progress."
Feel like doing a little extra homework? Check out the New York Times blog post "Do Teachers Assign Too Much Homework?" The article gives a brief history of the homework issue and then asks students to comment.
Which they probably do when they're procrastinating on their real homework, but hey—it's some tasty food for thought. And even if you don't go the route of the total homework naysayers, it still may feed you for some schemes that can work in your class.
Should Students Get Less Homework
April 8, 2011
Too much homework can cause stress in a student and lead to health issues in the body and mind. Homework related anxiety and stress can affect school work negatively. Stress causes lack of sleep, slipping grades, fatigue, unhealthy eating habits, depression, and many more factors. According to a 2006 poll, 80 percent of teens don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. At least 28 percent fall asleep in school and 22 percent fall asleep doing homework(‘Summary Findings of the 2006 Sleep in America Poll’, www.nationalsleepfoundation,org). In the film Race to Nowhere, the people working on the film interview multiple students and many of them talk about having nervous breakdowns or being very stressed; some even talked about getting depressed because of all the homework in school and depression can even lead to suicide. Nervous breakdowns can make completing homework much more of a struggle and also effect the health and life of a student.
Kids are doing more than the recommended amount each night, with no academic benefits. The recommended amount is 10 minutes times the grade level, so first grade gets 10 minutes, second grade gets 20 minutes, third grade gets 30 minutes, and so on, but kids are doing much more than that. (Homework, www.wikipedia.org) Twenty three percent of 13-year-olds do more than 2 hours a night. The more the students do, the less they get out of doing it. There is no academic benefit for high school students after 2 hours and there are no academic benefits for middle school students after 1 and a half hours. (‘As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It’, www.washingtonpost.com)
Doing homework all night can take away a student's free time and sleep. Always doing homework can lead to less family time and less time for activities. It creates less time for sports and after school activities. Family time is also decreased which can add more family conflict. Hanging out with friends is decreased, so that means there is less socializing. Staying up late and doing homework takes away a student’s time to sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause stress and many more factors. Not enough sleep can leave a student tired, and at school they might focus less or fall asleep during class. Then the student gets in trouble for falling asleep. Homework is taking away a students childhood, no one wants that, do they?
School students in America should get less homework on a daily basis. Too much homework can cause stress and other health issues. Also, students are working more than the recommended amount of time on homework, and this takes away from family time and free time, as well as time for sleep. When it comes to doing homework, students also want time to relax and enjoy other activities. Shouldn’t students get less homework so that they can be happy and have more time with family and friends? Administrators, teachers, students, and parents need to address this issue and inform people about the effects of homework on students in America. If teachers and parents tried to reduce the amount of homework there would be a decrease in stress and anxiety and an increase in happiness! “Homework makes it so I can’t spend time with my kids and family and I resent it.” (Ms.Valette)