Dear Next President,
I would like to bring to your attention a topic that I believe is very important to all of the children of America. This topic is homework, specifically the rising amount that students are assigned every year. Not only do studies show the numerous physical and emotional tolls homework related stress takes on students, they also note that there is no substantial evidence relating homework to greater knowledge or success.
The average high school teacher assigns 3.5 hours of homework each week. Sounds manageable, doesn’t it?
Not really, once you do the math. The typical high school student takes five to six academic classes a day. That’s 17.5 to 21 hours a week. Dividing that by the 5 school days in a week, suddenly students are faced with an average of 3.5 to 4.2 hours of homework a day. This is ridiculous! How do we as a nation expect students to go to school for 8 hours, have time to eat, sleep, and participate in the extra-curricular activities that we deem so crucial, and still manage to complete hours of homework?
According to the American Psychological Association, 83% of teens surveyed said that school was a significant cause of stress. 27% of these teens reported extreme stress. As if stress alone isn’t hard enough to deal with, these teens also have to face stress related symptoms like irritability, sleep deprivation or disturbances in sleep patterns, anxiousness, headaches, stomach aches, and unusual eating patterns. I can attest to this based on my own personal experiences. First semester of my sophomore year, I had 56 absences due to a recurring illness that my doctors now believe was stress-related. How are more people not recognizing this as a serious problem? There is absolutely no reason for homework to put kids under such extreme stress that they show physical symptoms. Stanford researchers also studied the negative effects of homework. This is what they concluded, “Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills.” Many students, including myself struggle to find time to complete their homework while also finding time to pursue other non academic interests. Developing these interests is shown to cultivate important life skills, and therefore the influx of homework is decreasing the cultivation of these skills.
Critics for lessened homework argue that homework is beneficial and leads to improved academic performance. While it is true that homework itself does these things, there is no evidence that more homework leads to more success. The National Education Association endorses the “ten-minute rule”- this means there should be ten minutes of homework per grade level per night, starting in first grade. So, seniors in high school would have the most homework at 120 minutes a night. This rule is in stark contrast to the average of 3.5 to 4.2 hours a night I previously mentioned. Supporters of a lot of homework say homework supplements and reinforces material learned in class. But, most students say that they believe their homework is “pointless” and “mindless”-something they just do in order to keep their grades up. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, shares her opinion on this type of homework when she says, “This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points.” Homework given should have a real purpose, and help to further the student’s learning. The Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) database surveyed the amounts of homework done nightly by country and the achievement scores on standardized tests. In countries that had high rankings on the TIMSS National Math Achievement Test like East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, report homework levels far below the international mean. In the Netherlands, one out of five fourth graders reported doing no homework on an average school night, yet their fourth graders put their country in the top ten for math scores in 2007. So is heavy homework really correlated to academic success and knowledge?
While I am not against homework solely, I am against the amount that is being given to children today. Action needs to be taken now, as the homework levels have risen considerately in the past decade for all kids grades K-12, and I believe they will only continue to rise. As the next President, you need to federally establish and enforce the “10-minute rule”. If this is done, America will not only see an increase in the health and happiness of its students, but America’s current level of academic success as well.