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Homework: Is it Worth the Stress?

By: Justin Shade

Homework has been a major cause of stress for students in the US, or so it was previously incorrectly thought. Much of the media has released propaganda slandering the good work which homework does for students, like the New York Times’ ludicrous quote, “[t]he presence of homework is negatively affecting the health of our young people,” as recently as 2016. Other organizations have sent out similar complaints in an attempt to dissuade the prescription of homework, despite it having an overall positive effect, like’s statement, “‘students have too much homework and most of it is not productive or necessary,’.” In spite of excerpts like these, in the United States of America, homework has demonstrated only a positive effect on student achievement despite being given far smaller amounts than recommended by the US government. Currently, a re-evaluation of the amount of homework assigned to students is necessary. The assignment of additional homework would only show further improvement to students’ grades, in addition to an improvement in their home and school lives. 

The idea that students are assigned too much homework is a myth and quite the contrary is true. By the guidelines of the National Parent-Teacher Association, a well-informed society of teachers and parents striving for children’s education, “a student should spend 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter,” meaning that students in grades nine and twelve should spend ninety and one hundred twenty minutes on homework respectively. The document later elaborated that, in spite of this, only thirteen percent of high school seniors spend two or more hours nightly on homework. In fact, a 2012 study conducted by the Brookings Institution showed that “twenty-seven percent of seventeen year olds” had “absolutely no homework” whatsoever. According to Brian Gill, one of the Rand Corporation’s social scientists, students only do very little homework, as “‘[t]he median [time] appears to be about four hours’” of homework “‘a week.’,” recognizing that this value was below the nationally recommended time. Based on Gill’s results, the amount of time spent on homework was far below the nationally P.T.A. recommended value. To meet this suggestion, more nightly homework should be assigned to ensure a higher quality of education for all American students. When given a choice of ranking the amount of homework given to their child on a scale of poor, fair, good, or excellent, thirty percent of parents ranked the amount of homework to be fair, whereas “nine percent of parents said [the amount was] poor.” Surprisingly, only fifteen percent of parents rated the total amount of homework as excellent. An increase in the amount of homework in accordance with national guidelines would usher the remaining seventy-three percent of parents towards the excellent category.

Homework is helpful to students because it leads to an improvement in their overall academic scores. This has been proven through various studies conducted throughout history. A series of six studies conducted between 1984 and 1995 between students of varying age groups, which included multiple school subjects, was conducted, and, “the six studies… all revealed a positive effect of homework on unit tests,” displaying that there was a positive correlation between the amount of homework assigned and the overall average of academic achievement on exams. In arguably the most essential of these experiments, two classrooms of math students were established. One class was assigned nightly homework, while the other was not. The end of the study concluded that, “[t]he students in the [math] classroom doing homework performed significantly better on a posttest measure,” which means that the class doing the homework reported test scores that were on average 48.5 points higher than the class which did no homework. This signifies that math students saw the greatest improvement of all school subjects when homework was assigned. The students receiving homework only benefited from it according to their 48.5 point average increase and will continue to do so long as they are continuously assigned homework. This results in them academically accelerating and gives them a significant advantage over other students of their same course who do not receive homework and consequently receive lower scores. Despite the positive outcome of the study, homework has only minimally increased from the time of the study to 2016. Although two hours is an acceptable amount of homework for a high school senior by the Parent-Teacher Association’s standards, “only 12% [of seniors] spent more than that” working on nightly homework, raising the question of why no raise in the amount of homework given has been considered. Another unjust continuity represented is the near equivalent proportion of students still being assigned no homework, which was approximately twenty-six percent, near to the 2016 population of students with no homework, which measured twenty-seven percent. Considering that students with homework have scored much higher on standardized tests than those without, it can be concluded that students’ grades are currently being hampered by teachers who assign them insufficient homework or no homework at all.

Homework is essential in life, both in the classroom and at home, because it provides a student an opportunity for structure and growth. Homework is not arbitrarily assigned by teachers simply to excessively pressure students. Quite the contrary, homework is an opportunity for students to receive constructive criticism about their work, allowing them to academically improve. The United States Department of Education says that, “[h]omework helps [a] child do better in school when [it]… [is] completed successfully and… returned to [them] with constructive comments,” noting that constructive criticism is imperative in a child’s growth and development. According to the Review of Educational Research, “homework is positively correlated with classroom achievement,” and it also helps children to “[cope] with mistakes, difficulties, and setbacks.”  Homework is critical for students to improve academically, but it also improves family life. When students request the help of their parents with homework, working together strengthens their familial bonds and provides quality family time. The US Department of Education even recommends that parents “[a]sk [their] child[ren] what was discussed in class [the] day” that they are given a homework assignment and to show interest in their children’s lives to develop a loving bond and make homework a pleasure, not a chore. Homework is important because with its influence, children develop “[r]esponsibility… [and] [s]elf-esteem,” two essential qualities for successfully cooperating with family. Both of these characteristics play a role in developing an identity and communicating with others.

Contrary to what was formerly believed, homework is not a burden. In fact, when educators assign homework, they are not only doing their duties, but they are also providing students with a service that will benefit them in and outside of schools for their lifetime. With this in mind, additional homework would only further benefit students and improve the uneasy feelings of parents on the matter.

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