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As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits.
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.
Thus, a 1st grader would do 10 minutes each day and a 4th grader, 40 minutes.
The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association both endorse this guideline, but it is not clear whether the recommended allotments include time for reading, which most teachers want children to do daily.
These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope.
Within the body of correlational research, some studies report a positive homework-achievement connection, some a negative relationship, and yet others show no relationship at all. Researchers point to a number of possible factors, such as developmental issues related to how young children learn, different goals that teachers have for younger as compared to older students, and how researchers define homework.
Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.
On the contrary, developmentally appropriate homework plays a critical role in the formation of positive learning beliefs and behaviors, including a belief in one’s academic ability, a deliberative and effortful approach to mastery, and higher expectations and aspirations for one’s future.
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.