It’s a dreaded part of the school curriculum. It’s long, arduous, repetitive, and you just want it to be over with. No, I’m not talking about standardized testing (I’m saving that for another day), I’m talking about homework. If you’ve watched the news recently, you’ve probably seen stories about Cherry Park Elementary in Oregon. The principal has joined a handful of others across the country in banning homework. While this isn’t the most relevant school to acknowledge, it is the most recent. It also shows that the number of schools dumping homework is increasing, although most of these schools are elementary schools. There has also been research done that shows that there are many benefits of having a regular homework schedule aside from reinforcing learning. To try to sort through the issue, I have interviewed parents, teachers, and students on how they view homework and read the latest research.
In 2007, a group of researchers conducted the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). This study involved interviewing students from 59 countries worldwide about their academic experience. The study showed that US students are right in the middle of the 59 countries studied. But the most interesting result was that some of the highest scoring countries on the TIMSS’ math exam – Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan – were shown having ‘heavy workloads’ below the international mean. This trend was common with most countries studied; there was no correlation between high scores and extreme homework. Excessive homework was commonly seen in countries with lower income and higher inequality. There have also been links found between excessive homework and sleep deprivation and a negative attitude toward academic achievement. Policies that completely eliminate homework have also been cited as problematic, and are almost universally disparaged. However the main takeaway from all of this research is that homework has no conclusive effect on grades and learning.
While homework has no conclusive benefits on grades, there is evidence that it is beneficial in other ways. One of the most influential effects it has is that it teaches work and time management skills to younger children. It also lets children learn which way they study best and how to become independent. Homework itself is split into two smaller subcategories, instructional and noninstructional. Instructional homework is standard rinse and repeat, practice-practice-practice work that primarily reinforces what students are learning in the classroom. The other type of homework, noninstructional, is assigned for interaction between students and parents, or students and their classmates. This type of homework has been tested far less, but has been shown to very effectively allow students to socialize with others in order to complete a task, thus building teamwork and other character-building traits.
All in all, this is a very tough question to answer just yet. There hasn’t been conclusive research done recently enough to make a call and what research has been done has been focused on younger grades where students are beginning to develop and need the extra practice. High school is a much different story about much different people who are very much different in their own ways. The best answer anyone can give right now is that homework should be treated on a case-by-case basis. Students who aren’t being challenged don’t need more homework, they need time (and motivation) to challenge themselves. Students who are being challenged don’t need the extra stress of daily assignments. But the average U.S. student should be able to handle the current level of homework assigned in this country. Until grades start dropping like flies and the main culprit is Undesirable #1, there’s nothing we can do but accept that homework will be homework.
- LeTendre, Gerald K. “Homework Could Have an Effect on Kids’ Health. Should Schools Ban It?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 2 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
- Pawlowski, A. “How a “no-homework” Policy Is Working for These Schools.”TODAY.com. TODAY, 08 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
- “What Research Says about the Value of Homework: Research Review.” What Research Says about the Value of Homework: Research Review. Center for Public Education, 5 Feb. 2007. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.