Monday, April 9, 2012

Does Homework Lower Test Scores?

I recently received this email from a reader:

"I am a 7th grade student in the east bay. I dont have one night (including weekends) without it least 5 hours of homework ... I am a ski racer, and I have to miss some fridays for races and/or training. When I go back to school on the following Monday, I feel like I am soooo behind because everyone had like 15 hours of homework I havent done yet... then the teachers expect you to turn in all of it the next day, including that nights homework!!! Its crazy! Are they trying to have us hate school? Isnt this the reason why people drop out of high school, and dont go to college? I think principals should make a limit of homework per night."

I feel badly for this 7th grader, and I don't have a great solution. I remember 7th grade was a difficult year for both of my boys and as 7th graders they didn't feel they could advocate for themselves about their feelings on homework. If they complained about it, there was backlash.

Perhaps the student or his/her parents could drop a hint to the teachers that assign the most work. They could give these teachers the gift of a book. Any of the homework books listed on my sidebar, under "Homework" would be a good place to start. (The Homework Myth, The Case Against Homework or Rethinking Homework.) Or, perhaps they could send the teacher or administrator links to articles on homework.

A recent "study of 10,000 Australian school kids found that 27% of 10 and 11-year-olds do at least three or four hours of homework per week. And as any parent who's ever put in a late night re-familiarizing himself with eighth-grade algebra or assembling a blue ribbon-worthy science fair project knows, it's not just the kids who are impacted by homework. A full 41% of parents spend at least three nights a week helping out the kids, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies. While the results are unique to Australia, they certainly paint a picture pretty familiar to parents in the U.S. and other nations."

- from the article, Is Homework a Giant Waste of Time?

Or, point them to this article: Too Much Homework Can Lower Test Scores, Researchers Say

"According to Richard Walker, an educational psychologist at Sydney University, data shows that in countries where more time is spent on homework, students score lower on a standardized test called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The same correlation is also seen when comparing homework time and test performance at schools within countries. Past studies have also demonstrated this basic trend.

Inundating children with hours of homework each night is detrimental, the research suggests, while an hour or two per week usually doesn't impact test scores one way or the other. However, homework only bolsters students' academic performance during their last three years of grade school. "There is little benefit for most students until senior high school (grades 10-12)." 

When will we finally get this?  This isn't about complaining parents who don't want to set high educational goals for their children.  This is about common sense.  Seeing a student slog through 2-4 hours of homework after school is not an effective way to learn, in fact it tends to turn students off to learning.

Let's put our heads together and think of more creative ways to inspire a love of learning.  Worksheets don't cut it anymore, and guess what, they never did.


  1. I love Aussies! And, I love your quest to find balance in the lives of our youth, the family dynamic and learning institutions! Keep the charge Kerry!

  2. My son recently broke his collarbone at WCI. He went back to school two days later so he wouldn't fall behind. He was on pain meds during this time and still completing two to three hours of homework a night. The teacers did not care! He had to use homework passes that he had collected all year so he wouldn't get a lower grade. He also managed to finish his Science Fair project. No wonder he's counting the days to Summer Break. My fifth grade daughter is already asking me to homeschool her. There has got to be a different way!!!!!

  3. that was my coment she posted!!!! i feels special