Kids Get Too Much Homework, Study Says
As New Jersey kids get ready to return to school in a few weeks, a new study confirms what many parents already know - their children are getting too much homework.
The study, published on Aug. 12 in The American Journal of Family Therapy, found that children in the early elementary school years are getting as much as three times more homework than is recommended by education leaders.
The study was carried out by researchers at Brown University, Brandeis University, Rhode Island College, Dean College, the Children's National Medical Center and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.
The study involved questionnaires filled out by more than 1,100 English and Spanish speaking parents of children in kindergarten through grade 12.
The standard amount of homework which has been endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA) is known as the "10-minute rule," which basically means 10 minutes per grade level, per night starting in first grade. By applying this rule, a senior in high school would get no more than 120 minutes of homework a night.
According to Pat Wright, the executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, every local board of education in the state develops their own policy for how much homework is assigned for each grade level.
What schools have to keep in mind though, according to Wright, is the amount of other responsibilities kids also have.
"We have to keep in mind that students also have a life outside of school. That's very important. They are involved in many activities," Wright said.
A sample policy from the New Jersey School Boards Association, which any district can follow, states that “teachers must use discretion in deciding the number and length of assignments.” It also suggests that homework not be used for punitive reasons.
Wright stressed homework is a valuable tool, but it should not be overdone.
"Many districts have even gone to the point where they do not assign homework on holiday breaks or on weekends. Different districts handle this in different ways." Wright said.
Some educators, including National PTA and the NEA, don't even believe in homework for kids in kindergarten.
But what happens when a child's homework load gets too big?
For some, it can result in stress. In fact, Wright pointed out stress and anxiety can increase in students and at times, in parents as well.
"As parents perceive a greater need to be involved in the homework, family stress increases," Wright said.
If a student is challenged with a particular homework issue, open communication is essential.
"If a student is struggling, that can be made known to the teacher so they can intervene in the classroom and assist that student," Wright said. "When it comes to students struggling, we don't want that to occur at home because there is a correlation between the child's dislike of homework and then homework-related stress. The family stress will increase as the parents get more involved and I think we want to avoid that."
Wright added it also helps if teachers coordinate homework.
"If the student had social studies homework one night that was a lot of homework, then maybe that's not the night the English language arts teacher would be giving a project," Wright said.
An in-depth analysis from the Brookings Institution, released in March 2014, found the amount of homework has not changed much over the past few decades.