Is homework worthwhile?

homework SQGenerations of students have had not-so-nice things to say about the homework that keeps them at the kitchen table when they’d rather be out running and playing with friends.

Perhaps, according to some recent science, they were on to something.

A number of studies have found that homework, particularly at the elementary level, does not does not improve a student’s understanding or test scores. Alfie Kohn, author of a host of books on education including “The Homework Myth,” says, “There is no evidence of any benefit of any kind of homework before high school. There are ways of helping kids to be organized in ways appropriate for their age level without making academics spill into the evening hours.” According to a Brookings Brown Center on Education study released in March, the amount of homework assigned to elementary students has increased in the past 20 years.


Although there are benefits found for homework in junior high and high school, Duke University Professor and author of “The Battle over Homework,” Harris Cooper, finds that there is a point of diminishing returns. Anything over 90 minutes in junior high and over two hours in high school contributes to a negative perception of schoolwork.

A Stanford study published in The Journal of Experimental Education in 2013 showed that homework in excess of two hours a night caused undue stress and sleep deprivation, and curbed the ability for teens to meet their developmental needs, such as socialization.

Some schools are doing something about it. Hamilton Elementary School in Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, has instituted a homework ban for students through second grade this year in an attempt to foster a love of learning. In 2011, the school board in Galloway, New Jersey banned teachers from assigning written homework to elementary students over the weekend.

Although the Saugerties Board of Education policy on homework is not on that track, nor does it mention the length of time students should be working, it does maintain that it should be appropriate to the level of the student. The policy states, “The Board of Education accepts the principle that homework, when properly planned and appropriately assigned, is an essential means of reinforcing learning and developing responsibility in the child. Homework should be so planned that it reflects the kind of work done in class, the learning objectives that have been defined, and the efforts being made to develop independence in carrying out learning tasks appropriate to the age and grade of students.”

Some parents say the introduction of the Common Core curriculum has made it more difficult to ensure that the level of homework assigned is appropriate. Jacqueline Deitz Clegg, whose son is in elementary school, says the standardization in the Common Core curriculum has made the homework her son takes home easier than is appropriate for him. She says he is done in minutes and it is not challenging him.

On the other hand, Lisa Bolden, whose child is in fifth grade, says, “the amount of homework is fine but with Common Core math I have to sometimes ‘YouTube’ a how-to video on some of the math so I can assist my son.” Bolden also says fifth graders are required to read two chapter books at the same time, which can be challenging for those with comprehension issues. She said that Mt. Marion offers after-school homework support three times a week, which has been helpful.