The Homework Revolution This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

June 12, 2009
A young girl sits at her desk, reviewing her homework assignments for the evening. English: read three chapters and write a journal response. Math: complete 30 problems, showing all work. Science: do a worksheet, front and back. French: study vocabulary for tomorrow's test. It's going to be a long night.

This describes a typical weeknight for students across the country. Now is the time to start a homework revolution.

Do students in the United States receive too much homework? According to guidelines endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), a student should be assigned no more than 10 minutes per grade level per night. For example, a first grader should only have 10 minutes of homework, a second grader, 20 minutes, and so on. This means that a student in my grade – seventh – should have no more than 70 minutes of work each night. Yet this is often doubled, sometimes even tripled!

There are negatives to overloading students. Have you ever heard of a child getting sick because of homework? According to William Crain, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at City College of New York and the author of Reclaiming Childhood, “Kids are developing more school-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression than ever before.” The average student is glued to his or her desk for almost seven hours a day. Add two to four hours of homework each night, and they are working a 45- to 55-hour week!

In addition, a student who receives excessive homework “will miss out on active playtime, essential for learning social skills, proper brain development, and warding off childhood obesity,” according to Harris Cooper, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

Everybody knows that teachers are the ones who assign homework, but they do not deserve all the blame. “Many teachers are under greater pressure than ever before,” says Kylene Beers, president of the National Council for Teachers of English and the author of When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do. “Some of it comes from parents, some from the administration and the desire for high scores on standardized tests.” Teachers who are under pressure feel the need to assign more homework. But why aren't teachers aware of the NEA homework recommendations? Many have never heard of them, have never taken a course about good versus bad homework, how much to give, and the research behind it. And many colleges of education do not offer specific training in homework. Teachers are just winging it.

Although some teachers and parents believe that assigning a lot of homework is beneficial, a Duke University review of a number of studies found almost no correlation between homework and long-term achievements in elementary school and only a moderate correlation in middle school. “More is not better,” concluded Cooper, who conducted the review.

Is homework really necessary? Most teachers assign homework as a drill to improve memorization of material. While drills and repetitive exercises have their place in schools, homework may not be that place. If a student does a math worksheet with 50 problems but completes them incorrectly, he will likely fail the test. According to the U.S. Department of Education, most math teachers can tell after checking five algebraic equations whether a student understood the necessary concepts. Practicing dozens of homework problems incorrectly only cements the wrong method.

Some teachers believe that assigning more homework will help improve standardized test scores. However, in countries like the Czech Republic, Japan, and Denmark, which have higher-scoring students, teachers give little homework. The United States is among the most homework-intensive countries in the world for seventh and eighth grade, so more homework clearly does not mean a higher test score.

Some people argue that homework toughens kids up for high school, college, and the workforce. Too much homework is sapping students' strength, curiosity, and most importantly, their love of learning. Is that really what teachers and parents want?

If schools assign less homework, it would benefit teachers, parents, and students alike. Teachers who assign large amounts of homework are often unable to do more than spot-check answers. This means that many errors are missed. Teachers who assign less homework will be able to check it thoroughly. In addition, it allows a teacher time to focus on more important things. “I had more time for planning when I wasn't grading thousands of problems a night,” says math teacher Joel Wazac at a middle school in Missouri. “And when a student didn't understand something, instead of a parent trying to puzzle it out, I was there to help them.” The result of assigning fewer math problems: grades went up and the school's standardized math scores are the highest they've ever been. A student who is assigned less homework will live a healthy and happy life. The family can look forward to stress-free, carefree nights and, finally, the teachers can too.

Some schools are already taking steps to improve the issue. For example, Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton, Massachusetts, has limited homework, keeping to the “10 minute rule.” Raymond Park Middle School in Indianapolis has written a policy instructing teachers to “assign homework only when you feel the assignment is valuable.” The policy also states, “A night off is better than homework which serves no worthwhile purpose.” Others, such as Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, have considered eliminating homework altogether. If these schools can do it, why can't everyone?

So, my fellow Americans, it's time to stop the insanity. It's time to start a homework revolution.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 816 comments. Post your own now!

Afra- said...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 6:48 am

I have so much to say for this. I respect your opnions. I do agree with your last few paragraphs of only assigninf useful homework. But, seriously, homework is tehre for you to study what you have learned through the day. So, if you don't have enough homework to do that how will you get good test results?

Also, I am not sure about your statement of Denmark, China Japan and those countries giving less hoemwork, not sure as in if its right or wrong. But in countries such as Japan/China, ... (more »)

Afra- replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 6:51 am
Oh and one more thing I forgot, the main driving force that makes theses asian kids study so hard with "less" homework are their parent's who drill them very hard. Its rough and I don't think they should be so strict, but i do think that having your parents push you to your limits is evry important. Afterall, we are kids, and our parents teach us how to survive, and studying hard and getting good grades is one way to survive WELL int his world.
donb036 said...
Nov. 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm

There's a few problem with your logic. 1). You say Czech, Japan and Denmark all have higher test scores and less homework, so therefore homework has nothing to do with getting higher test scores. Really? That's like saying Bob wears flip flops every day, and has never gottan cancer, so therefore flip flops prevent cancer. It's an logic fallacy. Just because we have lower tests score then Denmark and happen to give more homework, doesn't mean that the homework doesn't improve test scores. You'... (more »)

SallySunshine replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm
You do realize that this was written years ago, and that some of the statistics and facts have changed. 
skittles(: said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm
Im in eighth grade and i only have like 20 min of homework a day from if u take 3 hours to do your homework, get tutoring!
Crazymonkey replied...
Dec. 2, 2011 at 11:51 pm
Or maybe u have teachers that know how to do their job. I did standardized testing last year and scored 98% above average. I get all A's and takes me 4-5 hours to finish my homework. Plus I am not even in 8th grade I am in 7th!
Xella714 said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Whooo revolution!!!

By the way, read kids right to vote.

TheIntellectualOne said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm
I gonna go ahead and be the bold one I STRONGLY disagree, well not strongly but I do believe homework has value not at all worthless as you have said. mainly because it helps you stay on task, as oppose to one who isn't assigned homework will do anything but study in his leisure. in fact homework (in moderate amounts) improves test scores , why do you say doing tedious homework with wrong answers is of no purpose. this is the very moment you, yes you the radical student pick up that textbook and... (more »)
Tcoolgirl said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm
I think that we shouldnt even be doing 70, or 80 minutes of homework! I stay home from school alot because of Anxiety and stress attacks, which are 90% caused by too much homework.
RedFeather said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 7:31 am

I completely agree! There needs to be a lot less homework being assigned to students. Just yesterday, I had off from school because it was an in-service day, yet I was loaded down with so much fricking homework that I literally spent ALL DAY doing homework! (Got up at 8:30, did reading homework, had lunch, replied to an e-mail, did my science project, went to CCd, had dinner, read a chapter of my history book, did a worksheet on that, and had half an hour before I had to go to bed.) Too ... (more »)

ALenny said...
Oct. 19, 2011 at 12:11 am
I am an American but recently moved to Australia. When in the US i received a significant ammount of homework every night however here in Australia i barely do any homework. Despite this difference i'm still getting equal results in comparrison to the rest of the world. Doing homework or not doing homework made no difference to my overall results so i don't believe that there's any point in doing homework when the time could be spent on other important activities.
AJfabrizzi said...
Oct. 13, 2011 at 11:36 am
Brilliantly written. You have great sources, and this isn't just a rant againt homework. I'm very impressed, and I completely agree!
enough is enough! said...
Sept. 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm
I really liked the article! I am a parent and literally tired of my childs home work everyday.Just as tonight it's 9:30 and my child still working on her homework.She is tired and angry! Why must they have to do so much home work? It's true we are ruining their childhood and I feel so bad for them.My kids always enjoy playing outdoors and when school starts it's like a nightmare for them because they don't have time to go outside.We are the parents need to find the way to make our kids happy!
Mello0936 said...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 8:50 am
I know of many families who home school their children. These children spend less than half the time "in school" than children in our public schools and generally excel beyond those kids. Unfortunately, most American parents can not home school their children.  Why can't the public schools accomplish in seven+ hours what the homeschool parents do in less than half that time?  It is an issue of Quality vs Quantity. Quality wins every time!
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm
I am homeschooled so I have no homework :) Unless you count all my work as homework
ZetaTheGreek said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm
 You really have it easy in america-.- Here in greece they give us  TONES of homowork not only from school but also from the 2 foreign language lessons and some additional subjects lesssons that an average child here should attempt to have a complete education...Just Don't Complain -.-'
Afra- replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 7:05 am
Do you get good test results from the work you do?
ZetaTheGreek replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 7:14 am
I personally do. But my best friend, who does the same private lessons as me doesn't. Our educational system sucks so much that is actually recommended to do mostly foreign language lessons to keep up with the school ones. The additional subjects lessons are nessecary only at the end of High School in order to get a good mark to the exams and go to the university you want.
Afra- replied...
Nov. 6, 2011 at 12:05 am

wow, thtat is confusing. and odd what do langfuages have to do so much...=)


schoolgirl13 replied...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm
it isnt even really depending on what country your learing in or how your taught ( though some styles of teaching are more complex ), it can just depend on the person learning it all, like you said with your best friend. Its like that here too. And trust me, they give us a ton of homwork too, it just depends on how you juggle it :) Like you have two foreign languages, I learn forensics and Food science both at college levels and im in eighth grade, so trust me, i understand.
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