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It can prepare children to confront ever-more-complex tasks, develop resilience in the face of difficulty, and learn to embrace rather than shy away from challenge.In short, homework is a key vehicle through which we can help shape children into mature learners.Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.
Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at p.m. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics.
She eats dinner at and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.
Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week.
In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).
But in families of limited means, it’s often another story.
Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework.For students enrolled in demanding Advanced Placement or honors courses, however, homework is likely to require significantly more time, leading to concerns over students’ health and well-being.Notwithstanding media reports of parents revolting against the practice of homework, the vast majority of parents say they are highly satisfied with their children’s homework loads.While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement.Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.As noted above, findings on the homework-achievement connection at the elementary level are mixed.A small number of experimental studies have demonstrated that elementary-school students who receive homework achieve at higher levels than those who do not.For middle-school students, Cooper and colleagues report that 90 minutes per day of homework is optimal for enhancing academic achievement, and for high schoolers, the ideal range is 90 minutes to two and a half hours per day.Beyond this threshold, more homework does not contribute to learning.In addition, the authors point out that parents tend to be more involved in younger children’s math homework and more skilled in elementary-level than middle-school math. Cooper of Duke University, the leading researcher on homework, has examined decades of study on what we know about the relationship between homework and scholastic achievement.In sum, the relationship between homework and academic achievement in the elementary-school years is not yet established, but eliminating homework at this level would do children and their families a huge disservice: we know that children’s learning beliefs have a powerful impact on their academic outcomes, and that through homework, parents and teachers can have a profound influence on the development of positive beliefs. He has proposed the “10-minute rule,” suggesting that daily homework be limited to 10 minutes per grade level.