“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”
This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the homework debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value.
When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent.
For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, homework provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. “The research is very clear,” agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.”
Before going further, let’s dispel the myth that these research results are due to a handful of poorly constructed studies. In fact, it’s the opposite. Cooper compiled 120 studies in 1989 and another 60 studies in 2006. This comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit at the elementary level. It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school.
I have sat down to help children with homework more times than I can count.
Not just with my daughter, or my step kids, but with other people's children, and most often children with learning disabilities.
For that reason, though I disliked homework as a child, I hate it as an adult.
Especially when it interferes in a child's ability to learn the most important lesson they need to learn, how to be a child.
Yes children need to learn, but the best way for them to learn is to allow them to run, and jump, and play.
Allowing the release of their pent up energy is the best way to get their attention in the classroom.
And yet today we see schools cutting out recess, taking time away from lunch, and doubling down on homework assignments.
That does not create well educated, well rounded adults. That creates mindless cogs in a machine.
And mindless cogs do not write symphonies, create new technologies, or move this country forward.
Yes education is broken in this country.
But do you know who broke it?
The people who keep saying they are trying to fix it.