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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This article has 816 comments. Post your own now!

Blabs said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 8:05 pm

First off, good job for only being in seventh grade! I'm very impressed.

I'm not sure I completely agree with your point of view. (Though I get tons of HW as well since I'm in High School) Yet you were very persuasive and you cited good facts.

The only thing is Homework is a time where we really soak in what we have been taught that day, and ten minutes is not enough. In college, the common rule is each class you take, you double the studying for that night. For example you take... (more »)

PaRaNoRmAl627 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This was an extremely well-written article. I can't believe you're only in 7th grade; you write just as well, if not better than most high school students I know. The only thing I don't agree with is the obesity part. If a student isn't doing homework, they're more likely to be on Facebook than running around outside. But that's just my opinion. If they want to give us less homework, thats quite alright with me :)

fabulous job, really. :)

scamp24 said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Well said! I love this article!I think every word of this is true!

But, I think homework increases child obesity.Kids are stuck in a classroom doing work all day,then they come home.They want to go play outside,bt they can't because they have alot of homework. Homework should be banned, or at least limited. :)

jacobmhkim said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 12:39 am
Homework is just a small part of a huge system called education. As the amount of students who want to go to college are increasing from the recession, the competitions grows more and more. Therefore, the states create a curriculum that is more advanced and denser with information because they know that colleges will have to pick the top. The teachers have to follow that curriculum and try to give the students more work. It's the same for private schools too but it is the parents who complain to... (more »)
goodnightmoon said...
Apr. 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I understand and agree with most of what you are saying, but I also think you need to consider that, for the most part, teachers don't assign homework knowing what other teachers will assign. Also, most teachers won't pile on lots of hard homework in one night. Usually, they'll give you several nights to complete it. How you spend your time is up to you. As a sophomore, I understand getting more homework than you know what to do with, but I also understand that usually when I have too much ho... (more »)

RiverSong replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

But don't you think that teachers SHOULD consider what other teachers assign? I am currently in eighth grade, and I have a math teacher who gives us, every day, about forty to fifty math problems as homework; "extra" problems that are not extra at all (they are mandatory); monthly projects, daily quizzes, extra worksheets... it's just too much.

Another thing: I have an English paper due on Monday.  Three to five pages.  I also have a report on a composer due on Tuesday, a sci... (more »)

goodnightmoon replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Maybe. But isn't the purpose of high school to prepare us for "the real world," especially college? College professors are going to care even less than high school teachers care.

Don't get me wrong; I've had ridiculous amounts of homework to do in one night, but I understand that that's mainly because I procrastinate. I've chosen not to have a study hall in school, and I understand that I could use that time to do homework instead of being a teacher's aid. When I'm up late finishing a ... (more »)

RiverSong replied...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm

What do you mean, I wouldn't have studied before Wednesday night? I pride myself on doing things when they are assigned, not the day before they're due.  And I always start studying for tests two to three days before them.  I don't procrastinate, I don't text or use Facebook, and I rarely watch TV.  But still I am kept up until after midnight pretty much every day of the week.  And I'm in middle school.

I understand it might be different at your school, and it will ... (more »)

goodnightmoon replied...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

In that case, I apologize for assuming, and my kudos to you for not procrastinating; I'm genuinely impressed. 

I will agree that that is a lot of time to be spending on homework in middle school, but I must ask what else do you do that you're up until midnight. (I completely believe you. I'm simply curious.) 

Another angle on this to consider: how are the teachers supposed to consider other teachers' assignments? Sure, they can talk to one another about it, but not eve... (more »)

RiverSong replied...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Thanks :)

Well, about other things... I mean, I practice music and then sometimes I have play rehearsal or something. And I shower, and eat dinner, and try to squeeze in some chill time but it doesn't always happen...

And yeah, now that I think about it a bit more, it would be harder in high school, what with people not really having the same classes.  But in my middle school, everyone takes the same classes except language (either french or spanish, in addition to latin) a... (more »)

goodnightmoon replied...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Okay. As I said, simply curious. 

Exactly. And I try to consider things from both points of view as much as I can. Even with a graduating class of 36 and few options for classes (I go to a reeeally small school), only a few kids in my class share schedules, which would make it so confusing for the teachers. It's so much easier for them to assign homework when they feel it's fit, even if that doesn't make us happy.

allybymyself said...
Apr. 7, 2011 at 10:43 pm

I will help with the REVOLUTION!!

I know that sometimes when I say "LESS IS MORE" it's because I am a lazy student. True, so who is better quailiifed to have an opinion??

Parents and teachers put too much emphasis on tests instead of actual learning. Most things we learn are for the test, no one remembers the lesson in another year.

At my school SO much is about test scores and GPAs it defines a person. Most people hang out with people that have similar grades ... (more »)

ChoCho1001 said...
Mar. 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm
i agree...i've always made a point on the fact that adults/teachers say we need exercise and then go overboard on the hw so we have no time for anything else (ie exercise)...a lot of times the excessive hw causes kids to feel burned out too early in life(they get sick of school and hate it)...this was a great article and really proved a point...maybe i will share it with some of my teachers
RockGirl182 said...
Mar. 27, 2011 at 11:57 am

i agree 100% 

In France ( I live there ) teacher can give you from 2 to 5-6 hours of work and our school days are very long ( until 5pm ). When I get home I don't feel like doing MORE school work. 

I hope that teachers over the world and in the states will see that extra homework is not necessary and most of the time, those not help us improve.

Scipio said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm
Teachers don't just give you homework so as to make you suffer; homework helps you to learn. If you can't or don't do the homework, there's no way that you'll do well in your classes. Also, do you think that just because you've got it easy in High School by having no homework that it'll be the same way in college? No, it's better to get used to it now than in college, where you're paying over $4,000 a semester
OneBlackGirl replied...
Apr. 2, 2011 at 4:27 am
(complete sarcasm) Yes, doing something wrong over and over and not knowing it, will definately teach me the right way to do it.
GNNINGN said...
Mar. 23, 2011 at 9:21 am
melikwa said...
Mar. 22, 2011 at 9:40 am
I disagree with this article, I do think we have alot of homework somethimes. At my school we only get homework if we don't finish it in class. Im in 8th grade, and I think that it's not to bad if we get homework because the more we learn, in the future we can use these skills that we learned. If we don't know how to do math or make actual sentences, then that won't help us in the future when we need a job to make a living.
bobob123 replied...
Mar. 23, 2011 at 9:09 am



(i think its spelled  rite)

OneBlackGirl replied...
Apr. 2, 2011 at 4:32 am
At my school, we get homework and oftenly take home schoolwork. Practicing something wrong over and over and over and over, doesn't teach you how to do it right. And if you know how to do it right, why are you getting homework. I believe quizzes (which we take daily anyway) would be a more reasonable way to spend time. Not me doing something wrong repeatedly and finding it out three days after I get my quiz back that told me I was doing it wrong already.
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