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.

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sailerc This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm
I have to disagree with this. I am a freshmen at a public school and usually have no homework because I find time to fit it in between classes, at lunch time, and during inactive periods during classes. If students could be more hardworking like I try to be, they'd have no homework to complain about! I don't feel challenged enough at my school as it is.
lovelaughliveurlife replied...
Sept. 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm
Congratulations on being so productive, but not everyone can be.  I spent most of middle school not being challenged either.  Now, I'm a junior in high school, taking as many honors or AP classes as I can. I don't have a study hall and the time (five minutes) I have between classes is barely enough to get to my next class on time, since teachers often don't let us go until a minute or two after the class is ended. Yes I'm at public school too, but that doesn't mean I'm not taking as ma... (more »)
sailerc This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm
I DO take the most challenging courses for my grade level. My parents are working to get me into AP courses in tenth grade next year though, so it's not like I'm not trying. 
UncleBorz said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm
Although this was well written, I have to disagree with it. We live in an incredibly competitive and demanding world. The future job market that's waiting for our generation makes sure that only the top tier students from around the world can establish a stable and comfortable life for themselves. We have countries in the Far East, such as China, the Koreas, etc., who are actively preparing their youngest generations to be the very best competitively around the world. In the United States and mu... (more »)
Mello0936 replied...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 8:22 am
Do you really believe spending healthy positive family time in the evenings is worth so little to our children?  
Mello0936 replied...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 8:32 am
If a Chinese student spends over seven hours at school (like our American children do) and seven hours doing homework (as you claim), when do these children sleep, eat or play? My child rides the bus and gets home from school after five. If he did 7 hours of homework, he would be going to bed at midnight with no time for dinner, bath, reading for pleasure or recreation. Since he has to get up at 6:30 am to get ready for school, he would only get 6.5 hours sleep. Is this really what you... (more »)
Afra- replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 6:55 am
I don't think they do seven hours staright. Tehy will obviosuly take breaks. Im sorry if you are a parent don't mean to disrespect you. But i agree that to survive in this world with a goo furture you got to work hard from the start.
Mello0936 replied...
Jan. 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm
I am not advocating indolence. I absolutely agree that students (and everyone else for that matter) must work hard to be successful in life. This has always and will always be the truth. However, success does not just mean acheiving high scores and high paying jobs. Success should be veiwed from a more holestic perspective. From my viewpoint, in raising two sons, 90% of the homework is more "busy work" that is not contributing substantionally to their knowledge or success but takes significant... (more »)
SecretSearcher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm
I thoroughly agree with almost everything. Another problem, at least in my school, is that the homework is extremely tedious and therefore takes so much time. I can't even tell you how many times I've stayed up until 11 at night writing essays for my reading class, and I'm only going into 9th grade!
Laura_Oliver said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 11:41 am
I agree with your points, and this is very well written, but students these days do not really receive as much homework as it is all made out to be. If you are taking longer than three hours to do your homework in seventh grade, you need to get a tutor because you are having trouble with the work itself, not the quantity. Seventh grade is simply NOT that hard, unless you attend some ultra private Ivy League-prep school, which in that case you asked for it when you applied. It will only get harde... (more »)
Laura_Oliver replied...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 11:43 am
May I add that we American students get it easy, because in one of the Korea's (I believe it is both, but I am not sure) and in many of those eastern Asian counteries students have ten-hour school days and literally HOURS of homework. I don't complain in the face of that.
Mello0936 replied...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 8:41 am
Just because other countries are overworking their children, doesn't justify that for us.  Some countries send their children to work in sweat shops by age 12 to help support the family. That doesn't mean that American kids should do that!
Mello0936 replied...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 9:10 am
It is well documented that there is a significant increase in depression and suicide amoung high acheiving Asian children in grade school and college. The cultural pressures of academic acheivement take a high toll on the mental health of these children.  Is this what we want for our children? To compete with other cultures for acheivement at the risk of mental health? 
schala replied...
Oct. 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm
well said,Mello0936
Afra- replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 7:09 am
Good argument. The parents should have doen more than jsut tellt heir kids to study. But mental issues are  barriers that people have to overcome. It can be cause by so many reasons that may also be linked to the fact that these kids work so hard. But I mean you have to learn to be strong, everyone has issues EVERYONE soemworse than others, but it depends on how you deal with it.  
schoolgirl13 replied...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm
I understand what your saying, but just because a child takes more than three hours on schoolwork, doesnt mean they need a tutor. I am an intelligent person, and i can take up to four hours, not because i dont understand the material, but simply because i have soo much too do. Its like this with many kids. Dont just assume were not bright because we take a long time, even though it seems very rational.
BeatleMania16 said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 9:42 am
bravo!! i thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. all of your points were valid.
BlueMoon17 said...
Jul. 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm
Love the article, I agree that we need less homework, sometimes it takes more than a hour to write a essay. This is the reason why I would end up turning work in late!
With-the-Wolves said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 10:35 am
This was a GREAT article, and you had many great points. I agree completely.
LifeWrite This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm
I could not agree with you more!!! DEFINITELY time for a homework revolution--and good writing too, by the way! I wrote a MUCH shorter article about a similar topic regarding education. Here's the link if you're interested:
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