NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Students Doing Less Homework Not More

January 27, 2004

A new study on homework helps clear up a nagging incongruity about U.S. public education: American student are widely reported as being overwhelmed by homework, and yet, despite all that after-school effort, they still perform poorly in ongoing national assessments and in international studies.

The study conducted by Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center of Education Policy, finds:

  • The typical student, even in high school, does not spend more than an hour per day on homework; 83 percent of 9 year olds, 65 percent 13 year olds, and 65 percent of 17 years report spending less than an hour daily on homework.
  • The homework load has not changed much since the 1980s; only 62 percent of children between 9 -12 spent time studying at home in 1997, down from 82 percent in 1981.
  • The students whose homework has increased in the past decade are those who previously had no homework and now have a small amount; two-thirds of children age 6-8 did no homework in 1981, by 1997 those that did no homework had dropped to less than half.
  • Most parents feel the homework load is about right (64 percent) and, of those who would likely to change it, more parents would rather see homework increased (25 percent) than decreased (10 percent).

Compared to students in other countries, U.S. students have an extraordinarily light load, says the author. Compared to France, Italy, Russia and South Africa, the United States tied for next-to-last position in the number of hours per day spent studying or doing homework.

Source: George A. Clowes, "Homework Burden Not So Crushing After All," School Reform News, December 2003; based upon Tom Loveless, "Part II: Do Student Have Too Much Homework?" The Brown Center Report on American Education, October 2003.


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