Homework: How Much is Enough?

Is it fine for your kindergartener to spend an hour after school on homework? Does your high school student never crack a book or do an assignment at home?

As parents, we would likely find both of these scenarios concerning. But do you feel confident about how much homework your student should be doing? Luckily, there is some research-based guidance available and also some suggestions from California State PTA regarding how to have that conversation with teachers, principals and school district officials about the policies in your local schools.

First, here is a bit of research information, from a recent article in EdWeek.

“Studies by researchers including Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor who wrote The Battle Over Homework, have consistently shown that homework has minimal academic benefits for children in the early-elementary years.

“Instead, both the National Education Association and the National PTA endorse Cooper’s so-called 10-minute rule, which calls for roughly 10 minutes of homework a night per grade level beginning in 1st grade. So children in 2nd grade would have 20 minutes, those in 3rd grade would have 30 minutes, and so on. In high school, students may exceed that recommendation depending on the difficulty of the courses they choose.”

In 2014, California State PTA passed a resolution titled “Homework: Quality Over Quantity.” All of our resolutions (which are posted on the California State PTA website at www.capta.org/resolutions) include a research summary and a commitment to take action. This homework resolution acknowledges that homework can be “a valuable aid” to student learning, calls for assignments to be high quality, and spotlights that too much homework, too soon, can actually hurt students’ academic progress. It also raises concerns that it can create inequities and contribute to the achievement gap if it does not account for the diversity of family situations.

So what should you do if you are uneasy about the amount and/or quality of your child’s homework? You can start by finding out what your local school and district’s homework policies are (your school principal should be able to help). Do they address quality, quantity and equity concerns based on current research? Are they being followed at your school? Is this a worry other parents share?

If you see cause for concern, you can ask to have the issue on the agenda at your next PTA meeting. Your principal should be informed and invites, and perhaps invite teachers to specifically discuss their perspectives.