Too much homework?

Kid's need homework to help strengthen the concepts they learn and school and to help learn self-discipline and good study habits, right?  At least as far as K-8, the answer is a resounding NO.  Emily Bazelon has a great article in Slate, discussing the findings from three recent books that all come to essentially the same conclusion: homework has little, if any, proven value for students before high school.   Here's a sobering thought with all the emphasis on high-stakes testing:

For elementary-school students, Cooper found that “the average
correlation between time spent on homework and achievement hovered
around zero.”  In Kohn's book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders.
For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on
test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades. (emphasis mine)

Interestingly, in the few studies where homework does seem to provide positive results, the benefit accrues to a fairly narrow group:

When homework boosts achievement, it mostly boosts the
achievement of affluent students. They're the ones whose parents are
most likely to make them do the assignments, and who have the education
to explain and help. “If we sat around and deliberately tried to come
up with a way to further enlarge the achievement gap, we might just
invent homework,” New York educator Deborah Meier told Kohn.

So, if there is not any decent evidence that homework helps kids' educational achievement, why do schools continue to assign so much homework? 

I e-mailed the principal of Eli's public elementary school, Scott
Cartland, to ask about homework, and he emphasized the value of
encouraging reading and making room for long-term projects. But he also
fell back on logic that he admits is not, well, logical. “It has been
drilled into our collective psyche that rigorous schools assign
rigorous homework,” Cartland wrote. “I recognize that this is a
ridiculous thought process, particularly since your research suggests
otherwise, but it's hard to break the thinking on this one. How could
we be a high-achieving school and not assign homework?” How indeed. I
hope the education establishment begins to wrestle with this question.
If not, maybe it's time to move to Japan.

A few weeks into 1st grade, it seems that David has about 10 minutes or less a night, which is in line with the recommendation that the author of one of these books makes– 10 minutes per night per grade level. So far, so good, I suppose.  But I do worry about homework seriously eating into family time in the future.  I am pretty curious as to what sorts of experiences my readers with children have been having with regards to homework (hint: if you haven't commented before, now would be a good time). 

%d bloggers like this: