Homework Controversy

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A decade has passed since the last Brown Center Report study of homework, and it’s time for an update. Has the homework burden increased, gone down, or remained about the same? The press accounts are built on the testimony of real students and real parents, people who are very unhappy with the amount of homework coming home from school.

These unhappy people are real—but they also may be atypical.

(WPVI) -- In Panama City, Florida a student's homework came back from the teacher with a note that had mom concerned."W T 'blank' is this" was written across a high school student's assignment.

, published an impassioned article, “A National Crime at the Feet of Parents,” accusing homework of destroying American youth.

Their experiences, as dramatic as they are, may not represent the common experience of American households with school-age children.

In the analysis below, data are analyzed from surveys that are methodologically designed to produce reliable information about the experiences of all Americans.An overwhelming majority of students, at least two-thirds, depending on age, had an hour or less of homework each night.Surprisingly, even the homework burden of college-bound high school seniors was discovered to be rather light, less than an hour per night or six hours per week.The decline of the “no homework” group is matched by growth in the percentage of students with less than an hour’s worth, from 41% in 1984 to 57% in 2012.The share of students with one to two hours of homework changed very little over the entire 28 years, comprising 12% of students in 2012.The 2003 Brown Center Report on American Education included a study investigating the homework controversy.Examining the most reliable empirical evidence at the time, the study concluded that the dramatic claims about homework were unfounded.Drawing on the theories of his fellow educational progressive, psychologist G.Stanley Hall (who has since been largely discredited), Bok argued that study at home interfered with children’s natural inclination towards play and free movement, threatened children’s physical and mental health, and usurped the right of parents to decide activities in the home.The group with the heaviest load, more than two hours of homework, registered at 5% in 2012. The amount of homework for 13-year-olds appears to have lightened slightly.Students with one to two hours of homework declined from 29% to 23%.

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