Last year my son Ethan was in 3rd grade and brought home 45-60 minutes of homework every night. While this seemed like a lot more than when I was in 3rd grade, I thought that maybe this is just how they do stuff now. This year his teacher’s homework policy is that you bring home anything you don’t get done in class. Ethan has had a total of 10 minutes of homework since school started almost three weeks ago, which averages out to less than a minute per day. Is he going to get stupider this year? Apparently he might actually get smarter.
A recent Time article called "The Myth About Homework" (ht: marko ) says what I and many others have been suspecting for awhile: homework has been increasing steadily since we were kids, and it’s not doing any good. In fact, it might be doing more harm than good. Here are some facts from the article:
- According to a 2004 national survey of 2,900 American children
conducted by the University of Michigan, the amount of time spent on
homework is up 51% since 1981.
- Most of that increase reflects
bigger loads for little kids. An academic study found that whereas
students ages 6 to 8 did an average of 52 min. of homework a week in
1981, they were toiling 128 min. weekly by 1997. And that’s before No
Child Left Behind kicked in. An admittedly less scientific poll of
parents conducted this year for AOL and the Associated Press found that
elementary school students were averaging 78 min. a night.
onslaught comes despite the fact that an exhaustive review by the
nation’s top homework scholar, Duke University’s Harris Cooper,
concluded that homework does not measurably improve academic
achievement for kids in grade school. That’s right: all the sweat and
tears do not make Johnny a better reader or mathematician.
much homework brings diminishing returns. Cooper’s analysis of dozens
of studies found that kids who do some homework in middle and high
school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but doing more than
60 to 90 min. a night in middle school and more than 2 hr. in high
school is associated with, gulp, lower scores.
- Teachers in
many of the nations that outperform the U.S. on student achievement
tests–such as Japan, Denmark and the Czech Republic–tend to assign
less homework than American teachers, but instructors in low-scoring
countries like Greece, Thailand and Iran tend to pile it on.
It’s almost as if we’re living by the dictum: "Our educational system is failing! Look busy, and maybe no one will notice!" or "If what we’re doing isn’t working, maybe it will work if we do it MORE!".
Almost every kid knows that "homework sucks!" Now we know why.
(On a related note, check out my lovely wife’s post on a similar theme – isn’t she a good writer?)
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