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Does Homework Improve Academic Performance ?

Does Homework Improve Academic Performance?

Most parents and teachers know the struggle is real; homework for K-12 students can be a nightly battle, with no clear winner. As teachers find themselves with more material to cover and more tests to administer, they may have less time to provide practice for new skills or review before exams. The end result can be more homework for students who are already exhausted from a long day of learning. Parents may wonder if all that homework is making a difference in their children’s performance or if it just creates tension at home. Teachers may feel they are on the other side of that fight, when the truth is, parents and educators want the same thing, for students to learn material and excel in their studies for a lifetime of learning.

What Can Be Gained?

Students may not agree, but homework does have a purpose. It is useful for practice, especially in math or grammar where repetition can help cement new methods. Reviewing is valuable for preparing for tests and exams to demonstrate what has been mastered. Another reason homework is assigned is to encourage further study of ideas or topics introduced in class, building upon lessons for more in-depth investigation. The underlying life skill is independence and responsibility, charging students with the goal of being accountable for their own academic performance and taking control of their own education. Homework is where students demonstrate their piece in the learning puzzle by working to develop study habits and work independently with material.

How Much Homework Should Students Do?

Homework for K-12 students should be assigned based on the grade level. The general rule, supported by both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA), is ten minutes of homework per grade every night. A first grader should be assigned around ten minutes of work, while a junior in high school should expect close to two hours nightly. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Now think for a moment if those time standards correspond to your child’s experience on average. Chances are good your children are receiving up to three times that amount almost every night, leaving little time for play, relaxation, or developing other interests. When homework assignments provide valuable practice or embrace student’s individuality, they can be of great value to children who may need more review time to grasp concepts or to expand their curiosity.

Is It Working?

Multiple studies have come to the same conclusion: homework may not significantly impact the performance of many students, and any benefits that are demonstrated depend on the student’s age. High school students do exhibit the most positive effects of homework when the total amount of time spent is two hours or less. Middle school students show a modest increase in performance due to homework as they transition to more independence and personal responsibility. Elementary students, however, are not showing the same kinds of gains. Younger children may feel pressured to put more effort into the work because they have not yet learned how to prioritize and pace themselves. Students at any age can feel overwhelmed by homework, which may affect their attitudes about school and their self-confidence over what they perceive as competition. Those perceptions present a challenge to educators; how can they foster a passion for learning in students that feel stressed?

Can You Do Anything?

Clearly, parents cannot decide what homework for K-12 students is appropriate, nor should they. What they can do is communicate with teachers when they see their children struggle. Parents should not do the work for their children, but they can supervise differently to ensure the homework is completed.  Asking your child if they finished their homework is less constructive than offering to quiz them on material or getting them to explain to you what they are learning or what they may not understand.

Interacting more effectively with their children is one way to take the sting out of homework, but talking with teachers may be another avenue worth exploring. Contacting teachers for conferences or touching base may be all that is needed to help students learn better study habits that can benefit them throughout their academic careers. Teachers want to help their pupils learn, and sometimes that extra communication is the key to understanding what learning styles work or what issues may need special attention. 

 Carolina Academy for Educational Excellence

Ellen Goldman